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Introducing, project SUSTAIN

NCASS is part of the Erasmus+ project, Stimulating Healthy Food Service Innovation (SUSTAIN), working with organisations from across the EU, the project seeks to  empower food service SMEs with the innovation knowledge and  skills to introduce healthy, affordable products to market, thus boosting their competitiveness and contribution to a healthier society.

SUSTAIN has been designed to impact positively in the long term to build the capacity of food service SMEs to introduce healthier options leading to more growth in the SME sector, greater choices of healthier food service offerings for the consumer and ultimately, improved health in communities and reduced health care costs.

As part of the project, we have spoken to members who have innovation in healthy food at the heart of what they do, we’ll be sharing their stories with you in a series of articles in the coming months the first of which focuses on NCASS member Morridge.

Naomi Morris founded her business, Morridge in 2017 whilst studying for a degree in Culinary Arts. After delighting Birmingham commuters with her healthy breakfasts – all served from a renovated trike bike – the budding entrepreneur is making her mark on the street food scene and has gone from pop up to permanent residence.

It all started when she was studying for a degree in Culinary Arts at University College Birmingham. She did a module on innovation management whereby they were challenged with delivering a pitch for a business idea.

On her walk to lectures each morning she always saw scores of businessmen queuing up outside Yorks Café (an independent café in central Birmingham) to get their almond porridge hit and she could never believe how quickly it sold out.  She was already really into porridge at the time and was always experimenting with flavours and and so thought it would be a great idea to propose pitching up as a street food stand near a train station with high footfall so that commuters could grab a healthy breakfast on the way to work.

Naomi presented the idea to lecturers and had a really good response, but at the time she was busy with university work and so put a hold on the idea. That was until Mark Laurie (NCASS director) and Lee Desagnes (Baked in Brick) were guest speakers in one of her university classes, talking about the street food scene and Lee explained that he was on the hunt for a new staff member. Naomi’s lecturers pushed her forward to reveal her porridge idea and Mark jumped on the idea straight away. She then went on to work for Lee for eight months where I gained some great experience and made new contacts, before she bought a trike and set up Morridge. It wasn’t long before Birmingham’s Digbeth Dining Club (a Birmingham Street Food Market) got word of her new business venture and were keen for her to deliver my savoury risotto porridges at their veggie market. 

Naomi was apprehensive about getting the trike up and running back in February ’19 as she had had the idea in the pipeline for ages. However, she was able to set up in a fantastic location next to Snowhill train station. Her first week was very busy, she adapted the menu for summer and started doing overnight oats and seasonal fruits which went down a storm however, she knew that she couldn’t sustain the trike for a long time as it was so exhausting. The queues were very long and their primary customers were busy commuters who needed a fast paced grab and go service so she knew she had to make operational changes.

As her business developed, Naomi had started getting asked about drinks offerings and this is when James came on board as her business partner. They had floated the idea of running a shop together as they had both been lucky enough to fall into an industry that they loved and their skills complimented each other perfectly. James wanted to take on a new challenge and at the same time, Morridge needed to change its structure and grow so it was a perfect partnership.

Results:

Morridge is moving in to its first premises this year, their customer base is already strong and their shop is in a prominent business district in Birmingham city center. They feel that growing their business is about understanding the market. The big chains use a lot of plastic and don’t recycle coffee grinds for example, so people visiting specialist coffee houses want a lot more information about where the ingredients are sourced and are not so worried about costs.

As well as this, they source their organic oats from a local family in Shropshire. They have been to the farm to meet them, seen the field in which the oats grow and visit on a regular basis to pick up 25kilos at a time. They source milk from Mawley Town Farm which is run off 100% renewable energy and they can guarantee that their coffee is ethically sourced and free from pesticides. They also use compostable spoons, takeaway cups and packaging.

From the beginning, Morridge has had quality at its heart and have tried to be reasonable with how they have costed their products. Morridge want to run a shop that they’re really proud of and that requires them to serve ethically sourced, delicious food and drink that’s made with love.  

Key Learnings (Healthy food innovative approaches in food service)

  • Accessible breakfast product with a street food twist 
  • Raising the humble bowl of porridge to a trendy breakfast option
  • Low cost start-up that has grown into a fixed site location
  • Healthy eating messaging – ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’
  • NCASS support the development of innovative food service with its knowledge and understanding of street trading.

Follow Morridge’s story

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/morridgeuk/?hl=en

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/morridgeuk/

Facebook – https://twitter.com/Morridgeuk