Navina Bartlett – Coconut Chilli
As part of its food and drink season, BLM met with Coconut Chilli founder Navina Bartlett.
Can you tell readers about your business and its history?
“Coconut Chilli is an innovative start up which manufactures branded, chilled South Indian meal pots.
“I started selling dishes at street food stall across the South West, but quickly realised the business model wasn’t scalable.
“So I enrolled on a growth accelerator programme in order to develop an ambitious, fast growth company.”
How important is brand for you and how do you communicate it and your company values?
“Coconut Chilli is a sophisticated British food brand that draws on the heritage of the Hill Station region of Coorg, above silicon-city Bangalore, where my aunt owns a coffee estate.
“It was important to create a brand that balanced contemporary and traditional; and our thoroughly modern Indian recipes.”
How do you also market what you produce?
“Food events and markets are key for sampling and we encourage reviews on Twitter and Facebook.
“Our social media drives traffic to our site and customers are actively purchasing based on reviews they’ve read.”
What would you say are the biggest challenges facing your sector and your business?
“Even at this early stage, we have been challenged by retailers who require a premium product for their customers but who are unwilling to budge on retailer margin.”
And the opportunities?
“The British palate is evolving and embracing spiced foods for lunch and snacks. This coupled with frequent food shopping and consumers desire for their hunger to be satisfied immediately.”
Do you believe the South West and England is on a par with European food and drink producers?
“Absolutely, and we should be shouting about it! Indian food is synonymous with Great Britain – as much as cheddar cheese, Welsh lamb and tea. Food doesn’t have to be local to be British.”
And what sets you apart from the competition?
“Our fresh herb garnish and good quality ingredients ensure our products are superior to the mass produced ready meals which often lack taste because manufacturers place shelf life over flavour.”
Regarding employment, do you find it easy to access the skills you need?
“Absolutely, I use highly-skilled temporary freelancers and run a virtual office so geographical restrictions don’t apply. Also we have a desirable brand and this helped to recruit a couple of talented students using the UWE graduate scheme.”
Do you have interesting or unusual stories you can share with readers?
“I would never have had the courage to set up Coconut Chilli if I hadn’t first worked on my confidence by using daily meditation practices.
“I want to be able to inspire and nurture my employees so I’ll be bringing these practices into the work environment.”