We were delighted when Simon Middleton of vegan chocolate maker Booja-Booja agreed to an interview with us. We all love these scrumptious vegan chocolates and icecream!
Please tell us a bit about your company and how it was started?
Booja-Booja was the vision of our founder, Colin. He was determined to make chocolate truffles, and later ice creams, that were not just utterly scrumptious but completely organic, 100% vegan and as widely available as possible. He started with a very small team, based near his home in Norfolk, making just a few varieties of chocolate truffles. The business has grown steadily, the team in Norfolk has expanded and we’ve developed lots of new treats, most notably our luscious, award-winning vegan ice creams which launched in 2007.
We all love your delicious vegan chocolates. Can you tell us why your organic certification is also important to your brand?
We’re an organic company because we care about our planet and the people and animals on it. We ensure that all our ingredients are certified organic because organic farming and production methods are sustainable. They are designed to use resources responsibly and to look after the soil, natural ecosystems and the health of the people who work the land. We only want to use ingredients that have been produced by farmers working in harmony with nature.
Please tell us about some of the more unusual flavour combinations that you have created? What are your customers’ favourites?
At the moment we make twelve different chocolate truffle varieties and the most unusual is probably Rhubarb & Vanilla Fool. It’s a quirky take on a delicious dessert, created by blending tangy rhubarb with a creamy vanilla chocolate ganache. It’s won a lot of new fans since being featured in our popular Award-Winning Selection box. As for customer favourites, Hazelnut Crunch was one of the very first truffles Colin created; you could probably call it a Booja Classic. Its combination of smooth dark chocolate and sweet roasted Italian hazelnuts is just heavenly and it’s one of our bestselling flavours, available in a range of pack and box sizes. Almond Salted Caramel is also much loved. It launched in 2015 and was an instant hit. We make our own chewy gooey caramel here at Booja HQ and combine it with Cornish Sea Salt to create an exceptionally irresistible taste adventure.
How do you source the ingredients for your delicious range and where are your products are made?
We use only a handful of simple, natural ingredients in each of our recipes. And we really mean a handful; often just five or six. We take a lot of care establishing and maintaining excellent relationships with our suppliers and have a network of great partners around the world providing us with the finest organic produce.
We make everything here in Norfolk. We have a fantastic team dedicated to consistently producing the most exquisite chocolate truffles and sensational vegan ice creams possible.
As it’s Vegan November can you tell us about your vegan status and the advantages you offer as a free-from brand?
We’ve been pioneers of vegan deliciousness for more than twenty years. We’ve been certified by The Vegan Society since we first started and have always been proud to make only 100% vegan treats. Our approach is simple really – we know it’s possible to create the most sublime chocolatey and ice cream delights without using any animal products, so that’s what we do. It means that we have a minimal impact on our planet while giving as many people as possible the chance to enjoy scrumptious moments of Booja yumminess. Our chocolate truffles and ice creams can be enjoyed by vegans and non-vegans alike and also by anyone who wants or needs their food to be dairy free, gluten free or soya free.
We’ve won lots of awards over the years (141 at last count) but we’re particularly proud of being voted best vegan ice cream at the Vegfest UK Awards three years running and for our chocolate truffles winning the ultimate FAIR Trophy for Best Free From Food at the Free From Food Awards in 2019.
We would be interested to hear about your packaging policies and any other environmental or social initiatives you have in place.
We’ve worked hard over the past few years to get to where we are today, with almost all of our packaging being easy to recycle. Our ice cream tubs are now widely recyclable and in August 2020 we replaced the plastic spoons in our mini tubs with wooden ones. Our chocolate truffle boxes are all cardboard and the plastic trays inside them are made from recycled plastic and are easily recycled in most areas.
We’d like to pack all our chocolate truffles and ice creams in materials that are recycled and/or can be recycled easily and we’re actively moving in that direction.
Our beautiful Easter Eggs and The Artist’s Collection gift boxes are handmade and hand-painted by artists in Kashmir, India. We’ve been working with the community-based Kashmiri company Persian Dowery for about twenty years, helping them to grow their business, which now employs more than 100 people and is helping to keep some of Kashmir’s traditional artistic traditions and skills alive.
Do you believe it’s important that people try to adopt an organic and vegan lifestyle in all areas of their lives, not just food?
Booja-Booja isn’t about telling people how to live their lives. We’re about spreading joy and delight by creating delicious treats and making them as widely available as possible. We believe that if we keep spreading a little Booja love every day, we’ll make a difference to our world and help other people make choices that will make a difference too.