“I was always that person, the one hating food waste,” Meet Hannah McCollom of Chic P

***Rachel Khoo would like to thank all the inspiring people who helped make the Khoollect studio a hive of creativity. Although the Khoollect studio’s doors have now closed, you can keep up with Rachel’s newest adventures on RachelKhoo.com and on Rachel’s Instagram and Facebook pages – and, continue to enjoy the Khoollect website’s stories and recipes, which will remain available.***

Sustainable, ethical eating has long been something that Khoollect has stood alongside, so when we came across ChicP, a one-woman mega band making delicious hummus dips from surplus food waste, we had to find out more.

With a 1/3 of all food produced in the UK going to waste, trying to reduce food waste is a big issue for everyone – worldwide. With ChicP, founder Hannah McCollom has made five delicious flavours that can be used as sauces, dips and breakfast options all from the wonky or bruised vegetables and other waste items that would otherwise be thrown straight in another landfill. The three delicious savoury flavours including Carrot, Ginger and Tumeric, a Herby Hummus, and Beetroot, Sage and Horseradish as well as a sweet option made from Avocados Bananas and Cocoa, have seen Hannah’s brand go from strength to strength; what started operations running out her own kitchen has quickly turned into working with some of the biggest brands in the sustainablity and health industries, including Rude Health, Pip & Nut and being stocked in Fortnum and Masons and Wholefoods.

We sat down with Hannah one morning at her West London flat to find out more about how she got to where she is now, living sustainably and how to do the same.

So tell us why you started Chic P?
“I was always that person, the one hating food waste and always turning lights off and wanting everything to be as fresh and healthy as possible. When I went on to do cooking jobs I would always turn the leftovers into dips and hummus and after a year or two, I got a reputation with a few of my clients for doing so. They’d ask me ‘oh whats the dip of the day Hannah?” I think from that and always turning my leftovers into hummus and dips when I went home from work it started.

“However, it was never something that I thought I would actually do [own a hummus company] – but when I was in an office job I got bored and unsatisfied and I thought there was a gap in the makers for food waste in food products as it’s something I saw needing to be addressed.

“There’s so much waste that goes on out there in the supply chain and a massive problem in hospitality as well as retail of course but I just realised that it was too difficult to do anything in that area so I just thought OK well, if I can just make people more aware about food waste and kind of use what’s not wanted with London markets and that’s basically how I came up with ChicP.

How did you come up with the recipes?

“From seeing what was left over in London markets and coming up with different recipes on a weekly basis. I got a lot of market research from friends and tasting clubs and as that got narrowed down, I carried on with what I thought would be more available all year round. So there’s always going to be carrots with extra and they don’t go off too quickly and the same with beetroot and herbs, there’s always things which are too large, long and bruised etc. So that’s how I got my main three ones. Then the sweet one I went with bananas and avocados as there’s always too many, people throw them away when they’re still fine but they’re a bit bruised. So really it was the excess foods that decided the basic flavours and then because I am a cook I wanted to put the spices that I thought would go with each one. Now it’s been two years!”

What have been the highlights?
“Getting into Wholefoods was one of my biggest highlights and getting a distributor that I wanted. Then being able to be free and have work where every single day is different and I’m all over the city. I’ve met so many people from all different areas from the food industry as well as outside. Being able to do events and popups are just really really fun and you get to be around great food as well as great people and you get to work and make friends with really great brands, it’s a really booming industry which is always really welcoming. So those I think are the fun parts.”

What have been the challenges and how have you overcome them?
“The challenge still to this very day is having only 10-11 days shelf life. However, I don’t think I’d be where I am today without having that challenge because maybe if I didn’t, it wouldn’t be such a great product because what makes it so delicious is because it’s so fresh and so versatile. But it’s a challenge in getting new customers and getting new dealerships on board.”

Where do you source the food waste?
“I was getting it from London markets weekly, I had a delivery guy from Spitalfields who was getting the excess from there but I’ve just moved manufacturers. So now I’m in a stage where I’m getting wonky veg on a larger scale from a wholesaler that comes directly from the farmers, so it’s all rejected veg from supermarkets basically. The next step is I want to be working directly with farmers and getting everything they cannot sell.”

What would you say the future plans?
“Expansion! Also to be able to educate and make people more aware of food waste and to stop wasting as much. I think people’s mentality here is just so wrong. If you look at the outside world and you see what people are living on and eating for weeks it just needs to change because it’s a colossal problem.”

What do you think people in every day can do in their own food waste?
Firstly I would say a lot of people are buying lunch out every day and it’s all being packaged in plastic so every meal being packaged like that just seems slightly wrong. So even suggesting to your in-office catering department (if you have one) to have plates, mugs and things you can return. Then cooking more at home and buying only what you need; then when you do have leftovers don’t think ‘oh it’s going mouldy -chuck’ smell it, taste it and if it seems fine to you it probably will be, don’t just throw it away because of the date. Other than that cut down on your meat and fish intake and eat more sustainably, especially meat as animal agriculture has such a huge effect on our environment. But buying unsustainable fish is also really bad – gosh so negative isn’t it, I just want to say it while I can!

So how do you stay motivated on a day to day basis?
I think I’m actually naturally wake up early and work late type of person. It’s my job and I’m passionate about it so there’s nothing kind of stopping me. When I go away at weekends I can come back and think ‘oh my god I really don’t want to go back to work’ but then you just have to because you’ve got emails flying in and you kind of get no choice. I think because there’s always something to do then I’m motivated.

Where do you call home?
I call Gloucestershire home, this is London and I live here and I love it but I’m definitely a country girl and I will move back when I can. I’m happiest when I’m in the countryside and I know it because I literally am a different person as soon as I’m there.

Where are you travel picks in that area?
I would definitely say go and visit Cirencester as a town and depending on who the person is, go and see Daylesford Farm but also Amberley, Mitchum Hampton because there are fewer tourists. Bibury is absolutely beautiful but very touristy.

In London where do you like to eat out?
I love things like Ethos Food in Fitzrovia. I don’t get to eat out that much recently but I guess Soho is such a fun place to be, I do love the Greek Israeli restaurants and Ottolenghi is my favourite and those type of restaurants really as well as vegetarian restaurants like Mildred’s on Rupert Street.

What would be your chill day?
With friends or on my own? Well, on my own, I love to go to vintage charity locally, I’d do some sort of exercise probably maybe yoga or running. Wacth a film, cook I’d probably do some kind of baking or cooking, writing music, that kind of thing. With friends, I’d do the whole cinema, brunch, cooking just chilling at home – drinking, eating.

Favourite brunch spots in the city?

I use to go to Hally’s loads, I really want to do a bottomless brunch there’s some great places in Notting Hill that I really want to go to in Portobello. But I want to do more brunching in East London and Peckham because I haven’t brunched there. I used to do a lot back in the day but not anymore.

What do you khoollect?
It would definitely be a food product or drink product because I’m always at so many food events. I’d probably say that nut butters are probably my favourite thing. Earrings used to be the thing I collect but not anymore, now it’s nut butters!

What’s your most treasured khoollection?
I’d never be without this necklace I’m wearing but to be honest some of my clothes and shoes, I know it sounds ridiculous but I don’t buy expensive clothes but some of them – whether they’re five pounds, twenty pounds, a hundred pounds some of them I can’t buy again.

What would your advice be for people starting their own business?

I’d say that more and more people are doing it now, competition is fierce and loads of areas in every industry are becoming saturated so you need such a big USP. Then make sure it’s something that you can expand because some people have come to me saying ‘I want to use this and that to produce a product’, which yes, if you want that to be your hobby then great but if you want to make a business out of it, you just can’t, that’s not the sustainable way because its’ not going to be able to grow doing the same thing which means it’s going to be commercialised in the wrong way. And love your product because it’s going to get very tiring five months down the line repeating it to everybody and seeing it every day and if you don’t love it then you’re not going to enjoy it and you want to enjoy your job.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Do what makes you happy and it doesn’t matter what other people think. I think you need to do what’s best for your happiness.

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