Nimisha Raja is the founder of Nim’s – the UK’s only manufacturer of 100% natural air-dried fruit and vegetable crisps. Using just one ingredient and the whole fruit or vegetable (skin, core and pips in-tact), Nim’s products are healthy, sustainable, tasty and address the ongoing demand for clean snacks.

Healthy Snacking is one of the fastest-growing consumer categories around the world with consumers seeking ‘cleaner’ options, and 40% already buying healthier snacks instead of chocolate. We chatted to Nimisha about her taking the leap and setting up her own business, and how she adapted during the pandemic:

What inspired you to set up Nim’s?

I was running a coffee shop for a few years. I was a single mum to a young daughter and needed a business that fitted around school. The coffee shop happened to be opposite her school and the parents and children used to come in and there was always a battle with what to have as a snack. We used to sell sweets, chocolates and crisps; they contained a lot of sugar and it wasn’t healthy. Parents wanted to give their kids a piece of fruit or something good, and children always wanted a pack of crisps and I thought, if you could marry the two I wouldn’t have to witness all these arguments every single day.

Having a young daughter, I was aware that some of the snacks on the market purporting to be healthy were so heavily processed that they didn’t have any goodness in them.  There was nothing nasty, but actually, no goodness either – no fibre and vitamins. I wanted to develop something that parents were happy to give their children, but children wanted to eat. Children love crisps, and if you just tell them it’s a packet of crisps and not “healthy crisps” they’ll eat them and it keeps everyone happy.

What were the challenges you faced along the way?

Where to start! Creating an innovative product in your kitchen and garage is one thing but getting it to market is another.  As well as the challenges of trying to get fruit crisps made in a commercial setting when no one was actually making them, one of the biggest challenges was educating people on what a fruit crisp was.

We, as a nation of snackers, are so used to processed, artificially flavoured and extruded snacks that getting our heads around a fruit crisp was a real challenge.  The fact that our crisps are made using just one ingredient – the fruit or vegetable they are made of was something that people just couldn’t understand.  How can you make a crisp without frying in oil?

Other challenges included finding money to set up our own factory given no one else could make them, and then learning the ins and outs of supplying major retailers, distributors, exporting…

How are Nim’s crisps virtually waste-free and why is sustainability important to you?

I have used the whole fruit and vegetable right from the beginning. Long before I started making fruit crisps, I remember my daughter taking a kiwi and biting into it whole without peeling it. I almost went to stop her, but she ate it and was fine. And I looked up whether you can eat the skin of the kiwi, and actually, the skin of many fruits is where most of the goodness is. For me, first of all, it’s been about the nutrition and then the by-product of that was producing no waste. The only thing we peel is a pineapple, and that’s not for the want of trying but the skin just isn’t palatable; we are trying to find a use for it though.

Some of our customers want their apple crisps cored, so instead of wasting them, we dry them and sell them as horse treats!

We process at least 240-260 tons of fruit and vegetables a year, and we throw away about 100kg of pineapple skin every couple of weeks and that’s it. And then from the processing, that’s where our Edible Teas came from

How have you adapted the business during the pandemic?

We lost a fair bit of our crisp business as they are what the industry terms Food on the Move.  With no people on the move, our sales plummeted.  Having our own manufacturing has allowed us to be agile and move into ingredients and further expand our infusion offering. This has not only sustained us but we managed to end last year up by 28% on the previous year and this year we are looking to almost a 50% increase.

What separates Nim’s healthy crisps from other healthy crisps on the market?

Nim’s are the UK’s only air-dried fruit and vegetable crisps manufacturers in the UK.  We use fruit that’s been rejected by large retailers for being too big or small thereby reducing waste and supporting local growers.

We are also the only crisp company licensed by Public Health England as 1 of your 5 a day.  Now, with the move away from foods and snack high in fat, salt and sugar, our crisps range scores a 3 on the Nutrient Profiling (NP) scale developed by the FSA making them a go-to snack for all health-conscious snackers.

What advice would you give for busy mums looking to set up their own business?

Don’t overthink it,  don’t underestimate the cost of setting up and establishing or the time you will have to dedicate to the business but most of all, follow your gut!