The Nu Company are the new kids on the vegan block. A young team based in Dresden, Germany, they believe that healthy eating isn’t just good for you, but can make the world a better place too. For every one of their chocolate bars that they sell, The Nu Company plants a tree, working together with the Eden Projects reforestation network. Their packaging is also brilliantly plastic-free. Our kind of people. We sit down with one of their founders, Mathias (with a few chocolate bars, naturally) for a chat.
World Chocolate Day + Nu Cao
Please start at the very beginning (a very good place to start)
My name is Mathias, I am 29 years old and my main roles in our company are to build business relationships with partners in the organic sector in the UK, France and Scandinavia and secondly to shape the way we collaborate with one another in our company. We do this by applying a new system called Holacracy; a system that profoundly changed the way we work and regularly gets us highest marks in our employee’s happiness!
What inspired you to start nucao?
The limited number of healthy and yet functional options at Birmingham University‘s library motivated me to come up with a solution. I wanted to have a healthy snack but at the same time get a little mental performance boost. I was tired of falling into “carb comas“ after snacking and simply wanted a healthy alternative I would not regret after consuming.
What would you tell people who want to found their own food business?
Don‘t believe people who say something isn‘t possible. Most of the time these people are just too lazy to think outside the box and go beyond their own limits. You need to be persistent and focus on what you are striving to achieve, especially if it is related to saving our planet or doing good to less fortunate communities around the world. I believe ecological & social objectives are very powerful drivers for change as you get a lot of unexpected support from people which always boosts your motivation.
A very important video to me is Simon Sinek‘s YouTube video on the golden circle. Define your why! This is the core of your company. Having worked closely with a lot of befriended companies, I can tell which one has answered their Why! and which ones haven‘t. Having a Why! is like using a compass to show you the right direction when you are unsure which way to choose. Without your Why! you don’t know which direction you are sailing and often can get stranded.
Are you planning on launching any new things this year?
Earlier this year we launched the first plant-based protein shake with a garden-compostable packaging which is 100% natural, and of course it's super yummy. This autumn we will be launching more things which fit our one product = one tree initiative, and we are super excited to launch them into the public. To give you a little teaser, there will be a white version of nucao and a revolutionary plant-based protein bar.
Name one thing coming up that you’re excited about?
The whole Nu Company team is excited to plant our 1.000.000th tree with Eden Projects. We are all looking forward to reaching this milestone. =) We may well fly to Madagascar to plant that millionth tree with our partners! Ofcourse we shall plant another 100 trees or so to balance our CO2 for the emissions we would cause by flying there… so we will plant 1,000,100 trees!
How did you come up with the idea of founding your own business?
Honestly speaking, if I hadn’t participated in an entrepreneurship course at uni I would probably have had a normal career as an engineer and would have never thought about founding my own business. One Professor of mine was less focused on teaching us actual knowledge, rather he was looking to really make us understand how great it feels to build your own business and how passionate you can be about it. This was a very inspiring time and really opened our mind for this topic.
Where does your passion for organic food come from?
I was quite sick as a child and in my youth. Nothing serious but constantly suffering from colds and flues which was super annoying. I have a gut feeling conventional medicine is not optimal at solving such chronic problems which is why I started to read books on nutrition and alternative medicine. This is when my passion for organic food was born and it keeps on driving me until this day. I want to share the quality of organic food with as many people as possible and show them how they can personally benefit from a healthier, more wholesome diet.
What made you look for compostable packaging?
This is something that was embedded in our values from the start. I think we share this value of not harming the world any further with most of our millennial fellows and people from all generations that want to protect our planet. We even have an internal policy that if we have an opportunity to develop a new product for a business partner, and if we can’t have it wrapped in a compostable material - we don’t do it. We are 100% strict on this criteria without any exception. It is a sign of respect for our planet and the generations to come.
What are the biggest challenges when founding a start-up company in organic food?
Growth is the biggest challenge when growing your business in the food industry. For a long time I have not understood why we would not make any money although we were selling more and more every month and growing at 500% a year. The secret is that with every pound of revenue you make, you need to hold back x% to buy even more ingredients and products than you had to the month before. And the faster you grow the higher this percentage. So we had multiple situations where we really had to hurry up and secure more capital in from financing partners. Financing your business is probably the biggest challenge of all. Another key challenge is hiring talent, however, I must say, when you have a great purpose and a great Why!, you will attract the right people for your organisation. This has certainly helped us a great deal.