Steph Croft-Simon founded Nom in 2013, after developing food allergies and researching into the link between health and the food we eat. Finding a lack of products that were suitable for allergy sufferers, she created energy bars and popcorn that are free from 14 major food allergens, including dairy, gluten and nuts. Not only are they great for allergies, Nom products contain superfoods that are actively good for you, and are organic, vegan and ethically sourced. Steph has experimented with different natural ingredients, working on the best flavours for her bars and popcorn. Through her award-winning snacks, she has successfully shown that dietary restrictions don’t have to compromise taste or convenience. Nom foods are now widely available and have hundreds of stockists, both in the UK and overseas. Their presence in specialist health food stores and supermarkets, as well as bars and fitness clubs, puts into practice the idea that healthy foods should be convenient and accessible to everyone.
- Your allergies led you to explore the link between nutrition and wellbeing- how did you decide to expand from making allergen-free food for yourself to creating a whole food company?
I have always been fascinated with how diet and nutrition can positively impact people’s lives. I realised that it is very easy to eat healthily at home when you’ve got access to ingredients and cooking facilities – but eating on-the-go is much harder, e.g. a long journey or when you’re busy and rushing around. I started asking for feedback from friends and family, regardless of whether they had an allergy or intolerance, I wanted to see what the reaction was like outside of my kitchen – and the feedback was good!
- Nom foods have won a number of awards, as well as being Soil Association (which we love) and Vegan certified (like us!). What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in getting to this point?
Finding factories to produce the products to look and taste as they did when I made them in the kitchen was hard. On top of that, I had to factor in that they had to have the right licenses to make organic and gluten free foods. It takes months of development to get products tasting, looking and technically where they need to be!
Seeking and securing investment is also a challenge faced by many small / fast growing businesses. I decided to go down the crowd funding route for Nom. I think this was a great option and love the fact that Nom now was investors who are championing the brand. It’s like having lots of brand ambassadors, who are also loyal customers!
- With food like yours, and cosmetic resources like Content Beauty, being aware of the ingredients we are using has become much easier in the past few years. What do you think 2017 holds for natural foods and cosmetics? And, more specifically, what’s in the future for Nom?
Consumers are becoming more and more aware of what’s in food, cosmetics, cleaning products and more – it’s not just about what we put in our bodies, but also what we put on them – and what’s in the environment. I think that in 2017, consumers will be even more focussed on ethical, natural and convenient products. Nom has big plans for the future! We are working really hard on a new range of delicious products – and speaking to some of the larger retailers, to make our products available to as many people as possible.
- The skin is the body’s largest organ, and the face and scalp absorbs chemicals at 5-10 times the rate of the rest of the body, giving cosmetics and hair products almost as large an impact on health as the food you eat. Has your research extended into cosmetics and, if so, what are some of your favourite products?
Definitely – I’m super conscious of what I put on my skin. Some of my favourite products aside from Alchemy Oils (I am obsessed with essential oils, especially rose, lavender and eucalyptus) are; Bare Minerals for make up, Neil’s Yard ‘Remedies to Roll’ stress, which I roll on my wrists before bed, Aésop hand wash, and Aurelia pro biotic cleansers.
- Cosmetic companies often pack their products with allergens, and soy is used frequently throughout even the natural beauty industry. Have you struggled to find cosmetics you can use, and what are your recommendations for anyone in a similar position?
I don’t really struggle, because there are so many great options out there now. I just try to keep it as natural as possible. I avoid anything with parabens – and with harsh chemical ingredients. Especially if I’ve never heard of them!
- We think that looking good can have a huge effect on how you feel, and for us, having healthy hair is a vital part of that. What do you think is the most important step in your beauty routine?
I agree that self-care has a lot to do with confidence. I think the most important step in my beauty routine is moisturising my face – I use the Queen of Hungary Mist by Omorovicza before bed, in the morning and before I put make up on.
- People are busy, and it can sometimes be difficult to keep healthy while on the move. It’s why we’ve created travel bottles of our hair oils, and why we love that your bars are so convenient. Do you have any tips for on the go health and beauty?
Luckily, brands are more and more aware of the fact that lots of consumers are short on time and interested in healthier options – so the availability of nutritious and convenient products is a lot better now than it was. 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! In terms of beauty – I love anything little, so travel bottles are great – and mini compacts work well for make-up too.
- You use only organic ingredients in your products- are there any common misconceptions about natural ingredients that you have come across in your research?
Lots of people assume that ‘natural’ means healthy by default – and I think that’s partly to do with some brands using the word ‘natural’ in a misleading way. A product can be natural, organic – and still full of processed sugar, for example. At Nom, we have an open and honest policy – which means we’re completely transparent about the ingredients we use. The fact that most of our products only have 4/5 simple, organic and non-artificial ingredients makes it easier for customers to see that we try to stay as close to nature as possible!
- We believe that rituals (like our hair oiling) are important parts of self-care and relaxation, and that sometimes treats are as important as healthy practices. What rituals do you have for relaxation?
I 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! I also try to get Reflexology once a month – it’s incredibly calming, and always makes me feel floaty and relaxed afterwards!