Balancing Profit and Purpose – feat. BŌL Foods

We got to chat with Paul Brown, CEO of BŌL Foods as part of our series ‘Balancing Profit and Purpose”, BŌL Foods are on a mission to inspire the world to eat more plants.

The purpose of our series “Balancing Profit and Purpose” is to feature fellow businesses on that mission, to hopefully inspire many more to join the movement. We showcase those companies that intend to use business as a force for good.

Charlotte @ ADLIB: For some background information, who are you as a business and what makes your business offering unique?

Paul: BŌL Foods are proudly 100% plant-powered, and since 2015 we’ve been on a mission to help busy people eat well. From breakfast through to dinner, we create recipes inspired by global greatness; rich with punchy taste, and packed full of nourishing plant variety. This is a huge point of difference for us in a heavily saturated market full of meat alternatives and ultra-processed products. Instead, we hold ourselves to very high standards when it comes to nutrition: no red traffic lights, and always HFSS compliant. Our latest Tikka Masala Fresh Veg Pot has half the saturated fat of your traditional recipe and a fraction of the environmental impact. We keep things simple, with plants, made delicious.  

BŌL didn’t start out as a vegan business. But from day one we’ve designed our recipes to be deliciously nutritious, with at least half of our original recipes were vegan or vegetarian. With health and nature at the heart, plant-based has always been front of mind. And with an increased knowledge of our industrialised food system, my eyes were soon opened. The power of good food became a laser focus, and redefined our North Star – as did the endless benefits of a plant-powered diet. Almost overnight, we chose to stop contributing to the problem, cutting meat, fish, and dairy from all our dishes. Instead, we wanted to offer people an easy route to a positive choice, even if it meant swimming against the tide. Now in our eight year of trading we are the fastest growing brand within the meat-free category. But everyone here has a ‘sky’s the limit’ mentality, so we like to say we’re only just getting started.

Something hugely important to us and the way we do business, is our B Corp certification. Being a force for good is in our DNA, with a triple line approach to business and a constant eye on finding the ‘better’ way to do things. 100% of our first-year profits went to Action Against Hunger, and every year since, we have committed a minimum of £50k of investment to charity, irrespective of performance. We also continue to work alongside incredible local food charities, including The Felix Project, donating thousands of meals every year and spending time helping in their kitchens.

This also shapes the way we design our packaging – opting for 40% recycled glass for our Power Shakes, with fully reusable containers across our portfolio, and an ongoing campaign encouraging a #DontWasteCreate attitude. Every piece of packaging champions a ‘resource not rubbish’ mindset. Planet will always surpass profit, and scalability for long term sustainable business growth will remain integral to everything we do.

Charlotte @ ADLIB : What got you interested in joining the movement to balance Profit and Purpose and what has been your journey so far?

Paul: Purpose has been the driver behind every decision we’ve made here at BŌL: it’s intrinsic to our brand identity. We started with a hunger to help improve the nutrition of busy people and ultimately do good, and this has only continued to flower. The way we operate and navigate the industry is fuelled by our desire to create with positivity and integrity, from our culture to our packaging.

As I like to call it, my ‘Cowspiracy epiphany’ was a wakeup call and an unignorable opportunity to lead by example. What we eat is our single biggest environmental impact, and putting more plants on people’s plates is a great place to start. So that’s what we did with BŌL. We often shout about the positives, but this halved our portfolio, and subsequently our turnover, overnight. The team navigated some seriously choppy waters, but I’d do it all again in a second. Having this north star made life so much easier. We had something to stand for and have shaped every strategic decision around it. For us, swerving processed meat alternatives and hero-ing Mother Nature was a game changer. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by up to 73 per cent. Having these guard rails have meant we’ve grown at a more steady but sustainable rate, and stayed true to our core values of helping busy people eat well.

At a foundational level are values that guide and nourish everything we do at BŌL, all laddering up to who we want to be as a business. Growth, ownership, legacy, family, and excellence – five things we constantly aspire, and hold ourselves to. I count myself lucky to watch my team strive for these things every day. We exist in a space with huge potential for positive impact, and growth is an enormous part of our collective team mindset.

Charlotte @ ADLIB: In your case, what does it mean for your workers, customers, community and environmental considerations?

Paul: When it comes to purpose, our products are just the start. Championing our team and nurturing a culture of empowerment is a huge priority for me. I am so proud to have a team that is made up of over 75% women, and incredible talent from so many different backgrounds – from hiring our first intern, to some serious industry experts, everyone brings a wealth of diverse experience to the table, and everyone has a role to play in shaping our brand. Above a guaranteed good time, BŌL offer our team a plethora of business perks from wellbeing initiatives, flexible working, training tools and our infamous annual BŌLiday, most recently surfing in Lisbon.

The people who try our products mean everything. We created BŌL to help people, so hearing the ways we can do that is intuitive for us. Consumers or customers are terms we never use at BŌL, instead, the win hearts and minds we want to win. We place such a value on the insights and opinions of the individual people who try our products. From constant conversations with our BŌLievers over social media, quarterly surveys, and in person events, we want to hear exactly what people think so we can make BŌL the absolute best it can be. One of my absolute favourite things is the UGC we are inundated with each day. Seeing people interact and enjoying our recipes is why we started BŌL. From genius #DontWasteCreate upcycling, gorgeous food styling to post-workout ‘Power Shaking’. And we’re not just here for vegans. Most of the people who love our products are flexitarians, so it all circles back to helping busy people eat well and get more plants into their daily diet. We don’t do labels.

Giving back to community has always been non-negotiable. Above donations, our team will regularly get stuck in with charities right here in our city, with a minimum of two days each year allocated for volunteering. From ‘beach cleans’ across the Thames to cooking in The Felix Project’s kitchen, we’re always looking to connect with new charities and hearing how we can support.

Going plant-based was just the start of an ongoing environmental strategy. We are passionate about the role of packaging and the innovation opportunities continuing to surface, including begasse packaging for our previous Dinner Box range. In launching our Power Shakes, we committed to using recycled glass despite the cost, and unlike every other product in this market. And most recently with our new Pots ranges, we’ve opted for a lighter plastic to save 3.5 grams of packaging per pot. On a total portfolio level, all our packaging is recyclable and kerb side. We continue to over invest in our planning and forecasting to ensure product doesn’t get wasted, and are forever targeting our own suppliers to reduce waste in their production processes.

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Charlotte Farnworth