Fresh + Preservative Free: But How?
Do you have any ‘food quirks’? We’re not necessarily talking about not wanting to eat gluten or soy or palm oil or any other ingredient that you prefer to keep from your diet, but more so those slightly weird food ‘refusals’ that you can’t quite explain. To name a few, in the office alone we have a fear of eating sandwiches that haven’t been self-prepared, a serious objection to cold buffet spreads and a down-right fear of eating eggs (unless they’re in cakes of course). Amongst our lunchtime musing, another familiar theme that kept getting brought up was the slight uncertainty towards a lot of prepared food, from supermarket own-brand to those particularly weird sandwiches and pasta ‘salads’ you find lurking in corner shops (you know the ones). Yet none of us have any issue at all with picking up one of our Pollen + Grace products from a shelf. So what’s the difference? Theoretically we fit into the same category as these other products, but whilst we find ours more than enjoyable, other pre-prepared options still slightly give us the creeps (particularly anything that involves mayonnaise…).
I guess one of the major factors is no doubt the fact that we’re friends with the team of chefs preparing our products, spend at least 40 hours a week working right next to the kitchen where they’re made and file every single hygiene form that they give us (about 20 a day is the required amount - we have more filing cabinets than we do people). But what that actually comes down to, because it’s probably not the most relatable of scenarios, is that we know our products are always FRESH and are made from real ingredients. The largest piece of machinery we own is a 2ft tall kitchenaid (our banana breads best friend) and tbh, we don’t even know what additives and flavour enhancers look like - the only powders in our kitchen are the superfood kind.
Our ambition has always been to create REAL food, as similar as possible to what you make in your home, and that will never change. Yet as this wellness bubble evolves, we find ourselves heading more and more towards supermarkets (oh hey, Ocado) as opposed to just deli’s and speciality stores and with it comes an increased pressure to extend our shelf life and make ourselves more ‘shelf-ready’. Yet as much as we want to look great on a shelf, and please stockists with a good shelf-life, our priority is to be ‘body-ready’. Being valuable to your health and wellbeing is our no.1, so how do we do please both sides? Luckily we have an incredibly savvy naturopath in our team who loves nothing more than to defy the ‘rules’ set by the mass food market, and through natural science we’ve been able to work on our shelf life in a way that doesn’t compromise our principles. And we think it’s important for you to understand how we do this too:
1. We use frozen fruit to get it as fresh as possible
When fruit is flash-frozen as soon as it’s picked, it’s at peak ripeness, so it has the highest nutrient density. We then blitz, blend and slow cook it into our breakfast pots on the same day that they’re delivered to stores, so that you’re eating it when it’s still at its best. It also means that everything is picked and frozen when it’s in season so we get to work with more local produce and extend the availability of some of our favourite fruits year-long without worrying about the damage of how far our food has travelled.
2. We use lemon or rosemary extract (not essence) to naturally preserve
Lemon extract contains plenty of vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, which is a powerful antioxidant that prevents spoilage and rotting. It helps to draws out water content, balancing the pH factor and natural acids in food. Likewise, rosemary extract is a powerful preservative as it is anti-microbial and contains over 24 antioxidants, which helps to stop food from decaying (as well we doing good for you!). We find this all pretty fascinating, and got so excited the first time we managed to extend from 3 days to 5 by simply using lemon extract. Chemical preservatives, eat your heart out.
3. We use superfoods to maintain a beautiful (natural) colour
We love superfoods for two reasons:
1. They add an amazing amount of vitamins and minerals to our meals.
2. They keep it looking lovely too. When you use real, unprocessed fruit and veg, it’s only natural that the colour starts to fade about a day after being cooked - it’s normal, but it’s not too visually appealing. We use superfood powders for their high density colour profile in elements such as our beetroot quinoa and pea mash to keep it looking exciting. It took us a while to perfect this though - we once ended up with blue pea mash as we hadn’t quite perfected the balance of spirulina and lemon juice… still tasty, but interesting to eat (and a slight throwback to a time when we put pink food colouring in our mashed potato as a child… creative cooking was always a strong point).
4. We have our veg delivered every day
Similar to restaurant rather than a ‘food production facility’, we have our veg delivered every single morning to go into the products that we’ll be making the same day. This way you get the best of the freshness rather than our fridge, and because we already know the next days orders by the night before, we can order the exact amount of produce we need - food waste? Not in the Pollen kitchen!
5. Apple cider vinegar is our best friend
It’s an essential for our dressings not only for the taste and health benefits but also because it helps to naturally preserve. Vinegar is an essential element for pickling food (the oldest method of preserving in the books) and it lends the exact same favours to our dressings, keeping them fresh and delicious as long as possible.
6. We deliver everyday to keep our shelf life at a place we’re happy with
Running a fresh food company is probably the definition of ‘a labour of love’. In order for our food to always be fresh and as wonderful as we want it to be, it means producing and delivering to stores across the UK every single day. It also means keeping production in-house as we are ever so obsessive about quality control and ensuring everything has that homemade element that makes it so much better (we swear love and care really are the best ingredients). So when you pick up a product, it was all very much fresh, uncooked and as natural as your pantry at home no more than 5 days ago (usually less as we tend to sell out and restock ever 2 days).