StyleNest chat to founder of nom foods, Steph Croft-Simon and find out all about the organic food brand and healthy snacking.
What was the inspiration behind nom?
Nom was born out of my own health issues. I was studying for my BSc in Sociology at Bristol University when I suddenly developed severe food allergies. It took doctors a couple of years to figure out exactly what I was allergic to – which turned out to be a spice, but I also have intolerances to dairy and sugar.
The reasons why I developed allergies suddenly like I did are unknown, but I’m convinced that stress and pressure on my immune system were a trigger. By eating sugary and processed foods, I was neglecting my general health and nutrition and had no idea of the problems I was causing myself, until my body told me!
After my allergy diagnosis, I was spending more time looking at what was available on the free from market. Snacks seemed to be a particularly weak point. I was teaching in Oxford at the time, and found it annoying that I had to bake snacks from scratch to be able to take to work for my lunch break.
I was lucky that I was living at home at the time, and my Mum was completely on board with eating healthy and organic, so the cupboards were always full of amazing ingredients for me to experiment with. That’s when I started making nom bars in my kitchen at home.
How did you educate yourself in nutrition and the food industry?
I have always loved cooking. My family are Greek Cypriot, so homemade food has always been a major part of life and socialising for us! I learned to cook from my Mum and Grandma – who are both incredible in the kitchen. So, the base for my love of cooking was there before, but it was elevated to a new level when I had to start thinking about what I was eating in such detail.
Analysing ingredients and nutritionals was definitely the catalyst for becoming more interested and engaged with what I was eating and ultimately, what others were eating too. I went to trade shows, researched ranges and ingredients used within products at independent health stores and spoke to the owners.
Where can you buy nom products?
Our products can be found in many local and independent stores (postcode search on our website for nearest stockists!) and also some of the larger and online retailers; Ocado, Whole Foods, Holland & Barrett, Abel & Cole, and more.
What products can our readers find in the nom range?
We currently have a range of oat bars in flavours; Original, Banana, Cacao & Raspberry and Protein – and popcorn too; Simply Salted, Salted Maple, Cinnamon Maple, Tomato Pesto.
What can our readers expect to find & not find in nom?
They can expect to find products which fit our core values; 1) Convenient – eating healthily can be really hard on the go, so we try and make it as easy as possible. 2) Health – we believe in ‘added value’ so adding in nutritious products with high nutritional value, rather than just cutting out bad stuff like sugar. 3) Taste – there are too many healthy products that aren’t meeting customer’s needs in terms of taste and texture. Healthy doesn’t have to mean tasteless! All of nom products are also gluten free, vegan, organic and refined sugar free… we’re ticking as many boxes as possible to make them available to everyone.
What is the inspiration when creating new flavours and foods?
It comes from a range of places, from magazines, Instagram, restaurants, delis and feedback from our customers when we are out and about at trade shows and sampling events. I’m always in the kitchen experimenting with new ideas for products. It’s my favourite part of the job.
Are you working on any exciting projects you can share with our readers?
At the moment, I’m in the process of working on my own healthy recipes. I want to share them with as many people as possible. We are also working on new product development, which is too early to share information on at the moment but we are very excited about.
Do you have any top tips for our readers who want to start their own business?
My advice would be; if you think you have a good idea, you’ve done proper market research; you have a solid business plan and you really believe in it, go for it. It’s not easy – so make sure you have a good support network around you. Having your own business can be exhausting, thankless and isolating, so it’s really important that you have people around you who believe in what you’re doing and if they can offer some value to the business, that’s great. Don’t be afraid to ask your network for help.
What are your top tips for healthy living?
My advice would be to try to be as prepared as possible. If you know you’re unlikely to have time during the week to prepare packed lunches, healthy snacks or dinners – then batch make a load on a rainy day when you have time, and freeze them! I often make a batch of healthy cookies on a Sunday and it lasts me all week. It helps resist the temptation to grab something full of nasties on-the-go when you’re starving and blood sugar levels are low. Either that, or order some of your favourite healthy snacks online – and keep them in your cupboard / draw / car / gym bag for when you need them.
Taking time out to breathe and pamper is also really important, I love the calming scents of NEOM candles and diffusers and love to have a long bath with essential oils and Epsom salts – and I usually read a book or watch Netflix while I’m in there!
Apart from nom, what are your favourite healthy eating snacks?
I probably bake most from Madeleine Shaw’s recipes – she’s got a recipe for blondie brownies, which is gluten, dairy and refined sugar free. Sometimes I make a batch on a Sunday evening and then snack on those during the week (they don’t last long!) I tend to make my own snacks rather than buy them, like houmous and veg, roasted chick peas, raw chocolate and nut butter slathered on any fruit!
LifeBox is also great for healthy snacks, lovingly picked and delivered in a subscription box each month!
What is your guilty pleasure?
I love a day spent in the kitchen baking but curling up with a good boxset and a pizza is my go to guilty pleasure. It happens to help that my brother Nick set up an organic gluten-free pizza brand last year, The White Rabbit Pizza Company. Founded by him and his friends, Josh and Matteo (we’re from a foodie family!) they make the most authentic artisan pizza which is totally delicious.
Do you have any stress-busting tips?
I think anything that allows you to switch off and distract your brain helps. Any kind of exercise – yoga in particular, as it helps to focus on breathing. I find that Reflexology is a great way to release some tension and unwind. I also use aromatherapy oils to roll on pulse points, or burn in a diffuser. Lavender works a treat for helping de-stress.
When you are not busy working, what do you like to do to unwind?
There are lots of things I like to do to unwind. Walking, swimming, seeing friends, watching films; I am learning to ski at the moment, which is actually not so relaxing, but a good distraction from work! But my favourite thing to do is be by the sea on a sunny day. I spend a lot of time in Devon, it’s my happy place!
Describe in a few sentences your average day?
I wear quite a few different hats at nom, so my average working day involves elements of; accounting, marketing, operations, sales, and more! Outside of work, I try and cook / bake whenever I get any spare time, I walk my little pug, and see friends.