Primrose Matheson launched her health food brand Primrose’s Kitchen from her small Dorset kitchen in 2012. Not yet in its 4th year, and with Primrose not yet even 30, the brand has grown rapidly to now include over 100 international stockist and become a globally successful and respected health food brand.
Primrose took time from her busy schedule to talk to StyleNest and share with us her health and wellbeing advice, business tips, and some of her natural and holistic beauty secrets.
You studied Naturopathy and Complementary Health Studies at University before launching Primrose’s Kitchen. Where did the idea and inspiration come from for starting your own range of health foods?
I began by doing farmers’ markets which I loved, I would make elderberry tonics and hedgerow jams and got a huge satisfaction from people coming back for more. It seemed that customers were really enjoying my products and appreciated the health element to them. When I finished studying I noticed there wasn’t a lot of health food out there that really inspired me or that I would be excited to eat. With a love of creating products mixed with my knowledge and own preference for colour and interesting flavours I set about making some muesli which I would enjoy eating. Breakfast is, as a nation, our favourite meal of the day and muesli due to its quick assembly was a favourite so I thought it was a good place to start…
As a health food brand, what are the principles and the ethos behind Primrose’s Kitchen?
We follow the naturopathic principles which encourages a diet of natural, unadulterated, wholesome ingredients that are organic where possible. Diet is only one part of the naturopathic way of life, it focuses on a life of balance using food, exercise, environment and an awareness of how to create it.
Alongside this my driving force has been self-empowerment, not only for myself but ultimately for everyone through the medium of diet and food. By creating nutritious and great tasting food in a beautiful packaging you get a sense when you are buying it that you are investing in something special for yourself or for others. We often forget to give ourselves a gift and nurture ourselves with the correct food or exercise and I wanted Primrose’s Kitchen to help people remember the importance of this. Not only do I want people getting excited about the product in hand but also about the ingredients that go into it and in this way trigger a journey of self-responsibility, where people are genuinely interested in what they put into their body and how to regain balance in their life on all levels.
Primrose’s Kitchen brings together some unexpected flavour combinations, such as courgette and cacao, and beetroot and ginger. Where do your flavour ideas come from and how do you choose your ingredients?
I start by using ingredients which I hold in high regard because of their nutritional and therapeutic benefit, from then its trial and error to work out how this combination can be put together in the best possible way.
As someone who loves food that is both nourishing and delicious, do you have a favourite healthy recipe that you could share with our readers?
Elderberry tonic recipe – can send with an image
As well as enjoying Primrose’s Kitchen, what else can we do daily to look after and promote our health and wellbeing?
Drink 2 litres of water a day. I think if you can only do one thing to help improve your health and wellbeing that would be it. The water helps your body to remove toxins and waste from your system, it helps ailments such as constipation, bad skin etc. Water is key for energy too, 9 times out of 10 when we feel tired it is because we are dehydrated.
Finally I recommend stretching, this is my preference over any other exercise as I feel that flexibility is key to a healthy body and keeping everything supple and moving. A flexible body leads to a flexible mind too and so many of us can be quite restrictive and controlled by our minds.
How do you like to look after your own health and wellbeing?
I run twice a week and do five minutes of yoga stretching in the morning, I have a pull up bar in my cottage which I do a few pull ups on whenever I pass it.
I drink plenty of water, eat lots of fresh vegetables and I have a dairy free diet. Being a vegetarian over the last 18 months has really helped me feel my best, I have more energy now than I have ever had, digestion of meat uses up a lot!
On top of that I try to have an appreciation for everything in life, however small, this has been key to a balanced feeling of happiness rather than always focusing on big things. I find weeding or mowing the lawn, or performing quite simple exercises are great at grounding you and giving you a fantastic visual sense of achievement!
You started the business from your home in Dorset. What were those early days like, how did you get started? Were there any unexpected challenges that you had to overcome?
The early days consisted of hard, long hours, very physical. I remember lifting 4 pallets worth of 25kg sacks from the pallets into the house and storing them in my sitting room! Issues of space, financial challenges and keeping a glass half full mentality were the hardest, especially when you are working alone in the dark winter Dorset nights.
I started off by making the muesli in my kitchen in small dehydrators so I could only make 50 bags an hour, then selling them at farmers markets and food festivals locally trying to convince people that beetroot was a worthy edition to muesli!
And how have things changed now, what is a typical day like running Primrose’s Kitchen?
Well thankfully beetroot is more readily accepted as a nutritious addition to food so I don’t have to do so much convincing!
A typical day involves me getting to my office near Sherborne at 8am – about a 20 minute commute from my cottage and talking to my office manager to check there are no issues that need addressing.
Then I deal with emails before other tasks at hand like looking at marketing, sourcing machinery, drumming up new business, managing staff issues and dreaming up new products! I usually head out into the fields that surround the office to walk my dog Isla at lunchtime.
I am spending more time at the moment working from my laptop around the country meeting suppliers or viewing new additions for our production facility. I also do much more travelling where I meet distributors – Primrose’s Kitchen is now available in Switzerland, France, Spain, UAE and Romania.
In just 4 years Primrose’s Kitchen has grown from a small Dorset based business to a global success, with over 100 international stockists that together have sold over 80 tonnes of your Raw Vegetable Muesli! What would you say is the secret to your success?
Keep on plodding! Give yourself a vision and don’t stop until you get there. If you know what you want and you have a passion for it, you will create your vision – that’s how everything we have around us came into being, first from a thought someone had one day. The problem I think a lot of people have is not slowing down to take the time to work out exactly what it is they want, and how they want their life to be. It sounds like a fairy tale but you can have what you want if you believe you can have it and you focus your intent on it. If you don’t give yourself a direction you don’t know where you are going and you won’t know what route to take to get there. If by chance you do get there you probably won’t realise your arrival and will forever be wanting more!
Don’t let anyone ever tell you something is unachievable!
And any advice for other budding entrepreneurs out there who are thinking of setting up their own business?
Make sure you have someone who you trust who can be a sounding board/ mentor for your thoughts and ideas. Sometimes your great ideas will be irrational or inefficient and you’ll need someone on the outside to tell you so. It helps to lessen the weight of responsibility that you will no doubt feel, especially when you start hiring staff.
When not busy running your own business, what do you like to do in your spare time to relax?
I have a love affair with the sea having grown up on an island (Guernsey), I love swimming and paddle boarding and surfing. I always think of the line from Wind In The Willows “there is NOTHING half so much worth doing than messing around on boats” and if I could be doing anything it would be just that with a great picnic!
Primrose’s Kitchen is based in beautiful Dorset. Are there any places of interest that you recommend to our readers, in particular to the ones with children for a fun family day out?
I live in West Dorset which is famously Thomas Hardy country and has breath-taking rolling hills. It has a beautiful Jurassic Coast which has family friendly walks, visitor centres and cafes. A great spot is the Hive at Burton Bradstock for breakfast or the Symmondsbury Kitchen in Symmondsbury that has wholesome kitchen garden food in a beautiful village setting with studios to explore.
Bridport is my favourite place – it is known as the Portobello of Dorset and has a wonderful flea market every Saturday and vintage centres surrounded by artist’s studios. There is a lot of free-thinking creativity going on there and they have a great music and theatre venue called The Electric there.
How would you describe your personal style? And does living in the Dorset countryside inspire your wardrobe? Any favourite items of clothing or country must-haves?
My personal style in Dorset is a more practical tomboy chic I think. I’m never far from a cosy cashmere jumper, love dungarees, converse, addicted to hats which definitely complete an outfit (you can buy the best ones from an old fashioned hat shop in Bridport called Snooks!) That said I love putting on a summer dress for party, and as I love colour I’m usually the brightest dressed in the room! I do not fear mixing bright greens, bright purples and yellows together! Colour is so energising and uplifting and its presence in our clothing I think very important.
As someone who takes a holistic approach to health, how would you describe your daily beauty routine? Any favourite products you recommend?
I use a natural face wash each evening and just rinse my face in warm water in the morning.
I have a tendency to get dry skin so I put Barefoot Botanicals youth serum on at night as its very light. I also start the day with this followed by an SPF and the Barefoot day cream which is the best I have found.
Once a week I do an avocado mask which is so hydrating, keeps wrinkles at bay and leaves your skin feeling so soft you want to keep stroking it!
I don’t usually wear much makeup but if I do then it’s a little Dr Hauschka mascara.
And lastly what next for Primrose’s Kitchen?
My dream is to spread the Primrose’s Kitchen word and to be sold in every country in the world so I am going to keep aiming for that for now, one country at a time and seeing how much of an adventure life can be…
For more information about Primrose’s Kitchen, delicious recipes, and to shop the range, head to www.primroseskitchen.co.uk