BeeBee & Leaf meets Jenny Costa, Founder and CEO at Rubies in the Rubble
This month in our eco hero interview series, we’re talking to Jenny Costa, Rubies in the Rubble Founder and CEO. Jenny set up the business in 2012 after learning more about how much food we waste and turned her shock into action. Rubies in the Rubble uses fruit and veg that would have otherwise been discarded and turns it into delicious tasting (and award-winning) condiments.
Jenny, thank you for joining us.
Would you tell us about your work?
I was brought up on a small farm on the West Coast of Scotland and food sustainability and food production was always something I was passionate about. I ended up doing a master’s in mathematics and working at a hedge fund, while I was there, I kept thinking ‘there must be something that I’d be more passionate about’.
One evening I was reading an article that got me thinking about the food supply chain globally and thinking as food is perishable – what happens to perfectly good food that if there isn’t the demand for it? When supply and demand doesn’t add up.
I started looking into food waste and just couldn’t believe the scale of it. I was researching in 2010/11 time. It was such a hippy notion back then. There was no awareness around sustainability or from an environmental impact that agriculture is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gases globally and yet we’re wasting a third of all food produced. We’re planning to double our food supply by 2050 to feed the expected nine billion on the planet, yet no one was talking about the fact that we’re wasting so much of it.
The more I read about it, I realised the one single thing that we as a nation can do for the future of our planet is to value our food and not waste it. There is so much energy resource, deforestation, species extinction, water usage to grow food and yet we’re wasting a third.
Rubies in the Rubble is a fun joyful product that people can engage in, but more than that, it carries a message of the need for change in the way people see food and the need to see it as a precious resource that we can’t afford to waste.
"The heart of Rubies is about creating food made in the most resourceful way."
Can you talk us through your values and how they have influenced your business?
The heart of Rubies is about creating food made in the most resourceful way. The reason I’m passionate about food waste is because we’re wasting it at such a scale. Our planet has the resources to feed our people – we just have to manage it better.
As a company the three areas that define us are:
- Daring to be different, so going against the grain
- Being 100% resourceful – making sure that’s carried through our supply chain, the way we get the product to consumers, the packaging, and what goes into what we make
- Bringing out the rubies.
We’ve also just become the first condiments company in the UK to be certified as a B-Corp, which has not only validated our sustainable mission but has given us a framework to look at every aspect of our business, beyond just the environment– fromemployees to suppliers to the community.
What do you enjoy about your work?
I love my every day; I get excited to go into work. I think working towards something that I’m so passionate about is a real privilege. I also like variety – one day I’m packing boxes, one day talking to farmers, and the next day looking at packaging. We’re also a tiny team with a common aim, everyone brings different skills to the table.
And your proudest moment?
Recruiting my first team member. I was amazed that someone believed in what I was doing and wanted to join. Joanna joined in 2015 and is still part of the business. She has been such a core member. Then others joining, and seeing them impact the business, and being delighted with how things are changing. I also really get a buzz when I see our products on the shelves. Most people, when they’ve heard about Rubies in the Rubble, understand what we stand for and what we do - which feels like we’re getting our mission out there.
Who inspires you?
I am inspired by people who go out of their way to do selfless acts that go against the grain. It has been amazing to see how people have pivoted and look after their community during the lockdown period. Also inspiring me is Celia Pool Founder of DAME, and I’ve always been a huge fan of the Queen – someone who works so tirelessly and has strong morals that she sticks too.
What does the future hold?
We’re incredibly excited about 2021. We had such a big year in 2020, at the start we were 80% focused on restaurants so have had to pivot a lot. We have now launched in Waitrose, the Co-Op and Sainsbury’s too. We’ve just launched a brand new Plant-based Garlic Mayo, and have other flavours of mayonnaises and hot sauces coming out. We’re also hoping that when the restaurants open, we can re-engage and discuss our refillable options. I’m really excited for 2021, I feel like in this time we’ve really grown up and are getting out there.
"Our planet has the resources to feed our people – we just have to manage it better."
Where do we go from here?
Echoing David Attenborough, he was asked what the one thing is we can all do today to make the biggest impact on the future, and simply – don’t waste. It should be an embarrassment to waste good food when we know how much resource goes into it. There is never a reason to waste food, it’s just managing it better and viewing it as something precious and worth preserving.
So, knowing what’s in your fridge, when you should be freezing something, what you can turn it into and seeing that value. Not as a monetary value or something you can afford to waste or will decompose, its thinking of how much resource is going in to grow the wheat, package it, ship it, and get it to the supermarket shelf.
Our biggest message is for people to think about what they consume and what resource has gone into it.
A special treat just for you
Rubies in the Rubble has given BeeBee & Leaf customers a unique discount code to use on Rubies products. Get 20% off your first order by using the code BEEBEE20 at the checkout. Click here to browse the range.