From one girl boss to another meet Jenny Costa, founder of the sustainable food brand Rubies In The Rubble. If you’ve had a wander round the supermarket recently, you’ll likely recognise Rubies In The Rubble’s bold and playful condiments – all made using fruit and vegetables destined for landfill. Jenny is a food waste pioneer and has given the industry a much needed shake-up; Rubies In The Rubble champions seasonal eating in a sustainable and thoroughly accessible way. I first discovered Rubies In The Rubble relish on the shelf at my local Waitrose and have been a fan of the brand, and the ethos behind it, ever since. I couldn’t wait to get some time in with Jenny to hear more about her story and what’s next for the brand…
Rubies In The Rubble was born out of a frustration at the amount of food waste in London and has since grown to be a nationwide brand, stocked at Ocado, Whole Foods Selfridges – how did you go about making the concept a reality and why sauces?!
I was brought up on a small farm on the west coast of Scotland and my mother being an avid gardener who often grew too much for us to eat in the summer months, would then make sauces, jams, cordials and chutneys with anything we couldnt eat to preserve it so we could enjoy it in the winter months as well.
So, seeing condiments as the natural way of extending the shelf life of fresh fruit and veg, I simply followed suit – but addressed the excess fruit and veg from farmers across the country. I started in a tiny kitchen in East London and sold the range at Borough market and small delis.. and the concept grew from there
Everything is made using ingredients that would otherwise be destined for landfill, how does this impact what flavours you produce?
It makes us work closely with the seasons. We make a lot when produce is plentiful and naturally in abundance ie the majority of our Spicy Tomato Relish is made in summer and then, once it is jarred with all the spices and vinegar, it is naturally preserved for years.
Eating with the seasons means food is naturally at its best – it tastes and is much better for us. It also reduces waste as we eat food when it is naturally in abundance rather letting fresh produce go to waste, ie enjoying fresh tomatoes, berries. leeks or asparagus when they are naturally in season and taste their best.
Where do you find inspiration for new flavours and products?
I love playing with new flavours – I’m slap dash and experimental in nature so its often just a lot of trial and error.
Rubies In The Rubble is a pioneering concept for raising awareness of and reducing food waste, what are the core values at the heart of the business?
We make condiments with a conscience. Our aim is to make the tastiest condiments in the best possible way for the planet and you. We are 100% natural, recyclable and work direct with fresh ingredients – sourcing from surplus and reducing any uneccessary waste in the food supply chain.
We believe all good food should be cherish – there is a lot of hard work, energy and time that goes into creating food, therefore, lets get creative and ensure nothing is wasted.
You’ve got some brilliant stockists but there must have been challenges along the way, how did you overcome and learn from them?
I believe that doing something to the highest standard and holding true to what you believe is key – and then you can only hope others buy into what you are doing too! We have been really fortunate that food waste has become a topical concern and there is a greater understanding of its environmental impact. Consumers relate well to our concept and we have always prided ourselves in trying to make the best possible condiments out there.
What’s been the most rewarding thing about starting your own business?
I love the variety – every day is different when you are in a small team and needing to wear many hats and you get to meet so many great people – from farmers to buyers. I love coming into work everyday – its like hanging out with friends all day but all working towards the same goal!
From one girl boss to another, what advice would you give you other women wanting to start their own business?
Keep it simple, get great people around you and be clear of what you stand for and apply it to every business decision you make.
Besides being your own boss, what’s your favourite thing about running Rubies In The Rubble?
Getting to choose who you work with – I love our team. We are all have different strengths and skills but get on really well – it makes going to work a joy!
With so many stockists across the country, you must have to travel a lot – how do you balance work/home life?
I know I don’t work well without good down time so we try to be as strict as possible with work/home life. We leave the office by 6pm every day – unless there is a deadline of some sort… and when its the weekend – its the weekend! Everyone needs to feel revived and fulfilled to be able to give their all at work so its super important to get the balance right.
Can you tell me about your future plans for Rubies In The Rubble?
We are developing a new product at the moment which we are super excited about but you will have to wait till Autumn to hear more.
Now for some down time… What do you enjoy doing to relax after a stressful day in the office?
I cycle everywhere which makes commuting a joy and a great way to unwind each day. My perfect evening is a giggly drink with great friends in the pub, or in summer just grabbing some picnic bits and a bottle and lying in the park together!
Talk me through your day in food: What is your favourite meal? Do you have some form of relish/condiment every day?
I cant get by without Spicy Tom! Im obsessed with it – perfect with eggs, avo on toast, salad or hummus! Its my go to for lunch or with an egg at breakfast.
Where are your favourite places to eat out and why?
I love going to a good food market and coming home with a spread and the papers for brunch – the perfect Saturday morning! Or if we are feeling lazy, my fav brunch in London is Peartree in Battersea park.
If I came over for dinner, what sort of food would you serve?
I’d like to say it would be like dining with Ottolenghi but that would be a lie! Though I love his style of cooking so there would be lots of sharing plates, big salads, roast veg with different marinades and spices… and obviously lots of dressings and condiments to go along side!
Lastly, besides condiments, are there any particular foods or ingredients you couldn’t live without?
Mint, chillies and butter