SOWING SEEDS FOR BUSINESS

WITH SO much in the media about diet and food, starting a business supplying health foods seemed a good idea to Edward Sweeting.

Edward, whose family are arable farmers specialising in unusual oilseed crops, began by selling flax oil and borage oil as health supplements, later experimenting with the seeds – baking and flavouring them.

Seeds may be relatively new here but elsewhere in the world – such as China, the Middle East and North America – people have been eating them for years, he points out.

He launched his business, Fruitface, last year, with help from Growing Routes, the small business start-up arm of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

 “After working in London in Financial IT for five years, I really wanted to return to my home area and start my own business,” says Edward (pictured) of Faxfleet, East Yorks.

Fruitface currently produces two ranges: Energy Seeds and Fruity Seeds. The Energy variety use a mixture of pumpkin seeds from China, sunflower seeds from Lincs supplied by his brother-in-law and flax seeds from the family farm. They are available in three flavours: Soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and rosemary and thyme.

 The Fruity Seeds range are sundried fruits – including apricots, cranberries, mango and raisins – again mixed with seeds.

Apart from supplying delicatessen and health food shops in Yorks, Edward has secured orders from the office canteens of the US investment bank Goldman Sachs and recruitment company Badenoch and Clark based in London. He also intends to sell more through the internet and broaden the product range to include seedy bars.

Reaction to the seed snacks has been positive. “Although people were slightly sceptical at first, once they tried them they found them tasty and bought more.”

Edward originally thought his market would be young, trendy, health-conscious types or parents looking for something different as a snack for the children. But, it soon became evident that these assumptions were wrong.

“I had a stall at the Great Yorkshire Show,” he recalls, “and at the time there had been a programme on TV about healthy eating which led people to believe that seeds are beneficial to your libido.

“During the day I noticed that a lot of older people were buying the seeds, which was a surprise to me! It was only later when someone mentioned the programme that I realised the cause of the unexpected demand.

“It proved to me that although I expected the seeds to be bought by younger, more adventurous people, in fact, they have a much broader appeal, which is great.

“At the moment there seems to be a general trend towards healthier lifestyles, of which food is a large part. Hopefully I should see sales grow in line with this.”