We’re tired of social media promoting this idea that, if you don’t eat well all the time, wake up early, do yoga, meditate every day, then you’re failing. We want to take that sense of shame away and recognize that what works for some people might not work for others. Maybe you like being active to de-stress. Maybe you prefer to read a book or cook your granny’s recipes to share with your family—whatever works for you! We stand for sustainability and also for community and real life. What is wellbeing? Is it sacrificing your mental health? Or is it you accepting who you are and trying to be better each day?
One of the reasons I chose Hult was because of the doors it could open for me.
It’s so international. And when I was looking at master’s degrees in London, all the others just seemed very “by the book.” I’ve always thought I was different. I am all about experiences, and I felt that with Hult. Hult also embraces diversity, it embraces different cultural backgrounds, it embraces traveling. And then I really liked the exposure that it gave. And of course, there’s the Hult Prize too.
The interview for my first consulting job after graduation came through a Hult contact, and that’s what allowed me to stay in London.
So yeah, I built a really good network of people, which I really appreciate. I got to work with people from all over the world and that really made a difference. What I learned in terms of social skills, it gave me a lot—it was a really, really positive experience.
After a couple of years in consulting, I applied for Bloomberg and I loved the company, the vibrant opportunities, and ambitious people there.
But I realized there was something missing for me in that industry. Like, I don’t connect. I don’t care about the performance of financial markets. I’ve always been very passionate about health and wellbeing. I love exercising, I studied so much about nutrition that I might as well have taken a nutrition degree! So, I was thinking about maybe starting some wellness retreats in Portugal as a side project.
It was in the summer of 2019, and I was talking to my friend (and, later, co-founder), Alice. She mentioned that she would like to have her own product and maybe relate it to food and something healthy. And I was like, if you’re going to do something, I’ll join you straight away. And then things just started unfolding, as always! So, basically, we had this small idea. And then I came back to London and I started talking to people to try and actually think, what could we do?
And that’s how I also connected with Pedro.
He’s our other co-founder and he’s a good friend. He always worked in private equity, and he focused a lot in the consumer industry, mainly in Iberia, so he had a lot of understanding of the industry. And he gave me really good insights. And it was something he said that really stuck. He said: “Every time we invest in a company, there are two things that we always ask: Why are you better? And why are you different?”
Okay. After that, I actually left that conversation feeling really unmotivated. I was like, I have no idea why I’m better and why I’m different. At this time, the idea was like, oh, maybe we can make energy balls. But then I came across lupin beans. Lupins are something that in Portugal we’ve been eating for ages.
So anyway I got sent a photo of the nutritional profile of the lupin bean.
It’s like 40 grams of protein, 30 grams of fiber, virtually no carbohydrates, no sugar. And I was like, the world is going through the most insane technology to build plant protein but this is completely natural, it’s literally just protein and fiber. And how is it that I live in London, which is so far ahead in this plant protein diet, and the consumer is really involved here—how is it possible that no one knows that lupins exist?!
It’s an amazing crop because it produces nitrogen, which stays in the soil. So, what it means is that, let’s say if you’re an oat farmer, that plants out in between crops, like, usually you need to leave the soil to rest so that you get the nutrients back. But what you can do is that in between crops, if you plant lupins, it gives nutrients back to the soil AND you can then sell the lupins. Research shows is that if you do that, then your next crop of oats is going to better because of the nutrients that stayed behind in the soil from the lupins.
And then the fact that it grows naturally in Europe makes it more sustainable. I kept seeing that 90% of the lupin bean production goes to animal feed just because it’s cheaper than soya. And one of the biggest struggles, and the reason why there is no more farming of lupin is because there is not enough consumer demand. And there is not enough consumer demand because no one knows that it exists!
So, I immediately said to myself: I’m going to quit my job and do this.
It took me literally one minute to make the decision. And I went to my husband and I said, I’m going to quit my job. We did the math, and financially we could make it work, and it’s good and bad, but I’m someone that is very impulsive. And it was literally like that. I made up my mind, I flew back to Portugal and I told Alice, “I’m going to quit my job and we’re going to do something with lupin beans.”
I remember her looking at me … like … lupins?!
One of my biggest fears was when we decided we’re going to launch in Portugal first.
Because in the UK, no-one knows about lupins, plus plant protein is so far ahead in London. So, you can create an image in the consumer’s mind of what lupins are. But in Portugal, customer perception was already very much set. The way they were sold—it’s not sexy. So that was a big challenge. I remember talking to my sister one day, and I was having this existential crisis, and I was like, I quit my job to make lupin beans cool. Why did I do this?! Why did I leave my stable job trying to do this!?
But Portugal made sense because all our operations are in Portugal. So, we supply lupins from Portugal. The factories that we work with are in Portugal and we are Portuguese, so we have much easier access to the market and there is also less competition. But the UK is just a monster! So, we thought, we’re going to start in Portugal.
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. This was October 2019. I strategically planned my way out of my job for January 2020 and then, of course, Covid hit in March. But luckily, we were able to find our production partners before the world shut down. At the same time, it of course slowed us down. But it gave us a lot of time to really think about the brand and plan our launch.
We want to build foods that are good for you, but at the same time as they are nutritious, they taste good, they have a positive impact on the planet.
And when I say that, it’s not just the food itself, but it’s actually the whole production process. The focus at the moment is really to grow the UK. So, we started with two products. We have the beans in the pouches and now also the “Lummus”—our own version of hummus, using lupins. The focus at the moment is really to push the products here and build brand awareness and get into the big shops. We are also working on new products.
If you want to follow our journey, make sure to find us on social media.
We are @TarwiFoods. You can also see our range on our website. It’s Tarwi.co.uk or Tarwi.pt in Portugal. And you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love getting in touch with people, so you can find us on LinkedIn and reach out or email me directly and I’ll be super open for a chat.