With a mission to reduce food waste by using perfectly edible, surplus produce, The Crafty Pickle Co. creates naturally fermented food products.
Launched in April, the business is owned by partners Arthur Serini and Madi Myers, who share an avid passion for sustainability and nutrition.
The driven pair met during their time at university, and have spent the past three years building their Aberdeen-based company in a bid to fight food waste.
The Crafty Pickle Co. creates raw, unpasteurised, vegan sauerkrauts, kimchi, piccalilli and salsa, with their product range including a Craft Kraut, Not Your Nana’s Piccalilli, Katz Kimchi and Reclaimed Red Kraut.
As well as the savvy business owners showcasing their fermented goods reguarly at local food events, the delicious range can also be found on the menus of Foodstory, 210 Bistro, Hammerton Store and Melt 2.
The business is currently based in the Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE) building on Poynernook Road, but Arthur and Madi have a number of exciting ideas on the horizon, from finding larger premises to hosting food fermentation workshops.
Tell us about what led to the pair of you establishing The Crafty Pickle Co.?
Madi: Arthur and I came to the city in 2016 to study at the University of Aberdeen for our masters in nutrition.
We met through our shared interest in fermented foods, sustainability and nutrition in general, so this was where the whole idea for The Crafty Pickle came from.
Arthur: We also saw a fantastic opportunity because Aberdeen doesn’t have a fermented food business.
And after a bit of research, we’ve found that we’re the only ones doing it with an environmental initiative to reduce food waste in the whole of the UK – and possibly even the world.
We became a limited company in April and now partner with CFINE, and we’ve always had a fantastic relationship.
We rent out a space here, share their kitchen and any food they can’t get rid of, they send it our way.
Were you guys always interested in food fermentation?
A: I’ve always been interested in its history.
At the moment, fermented foods are being marketed as foods that are good for your health, but no one is addressing the real power behind fermentation and that’s food preservation.
It’s been used for thousands of years. Before we had heat processing, refrigeration or pasteurisation, people would ferment their foods to prolong the amount they had over the winter to feed their families.
However, due to other forms of food preservation that we now have, it’s been forgotten about over the years.
But the trend of fermented foods is coming back again because of their health benefits, so the idea for The Crafty Pickle Co. was to combine the two trends of gut health and the fact that there’s a growing awareness of the amount of food that goes to waste.
What’s the process involved in food fermentation?
A: There are four components of a proper vegetable fermentation, these being salt, temperature, time and oxygen. The bacteria that are residing on the fruit and vegetables that we’re interested in function optimally at a higher salt concentration.
And we’re creating an environment for this bacteria to thrive. As a result, they consume the starches and sugars of the raw materials – the fruit and vegetables – and this then lowers the Ph of the product, which makes it more acidic and prevents the growth of any unwanted microorganisms. This includes bacteria that would spoil the food.
Certain bacteria operate at different temperatures, but for the ones that we’re interested in its 18-20 degrees celcius.
We try to maintain this temperature throughout the fermentation process for around 18-21 days.
Why should people try it out for themselves?
M: It’s not complicated and anybody can do it. You just need to have a bit of know how about the different conditions that Arthur mentioned earlier.
Part of what we want to do with our business is share our love for fermenting and encourage people that anyone can do it. Every time you ferment, you learn something different.
Tell us about your products.
A: We have four retail products, but five in total. There are two types of sauerkraut – one being Crafty Kraut – a more traditional German-style sauerkraut – while Reclaimed Red Kraut is our other. That’s more on the sweeter side.
M: Then there’s our Katz Kimchi, which is definitely our best seller. Everyone loves it because it’s a Korean-inspired ferment and it has a bit of a kick to it. This links with our Not Your Nana’s Piccalilli, and the concept for this is from traditional British piccalilli.
A: We also have a fermented salsa and no one else in the UK is doing this. It’s essentially just tomatoes, onions, garlic, coriander, black pepper and chilli, but it’s nothing close to a traditional salsa because it’s quite zingy.
M: The feedback for our products is always great. It’s important to us to constantly gauge customer reaction so we can be sure that what we’re creating is the best it can be.
That’s a really varied range. What’s the process involved in creating the flavours?
M: The ideas for flavour combinations came from spending a good year trying different ferments, looking at recipes online and tweaking them. The year before we put the business together, we wanted to dedicate our time to experimenting.
A: Essentially, we understand what works well together with regards to spices, so we’ll just put things together and see what works.
Do you take these products along to any local events?
A: Yes. We believe if we want to grow our business and have a substantial impact, getting our brand out there as much as possible and ensuring people recognise it is really important.
M: The pair of us consistently attend farmers’ markets, including the one in Banchory.
We like to keep it varied and make sure we’re going to different events across the north-east. This can range from the Huntly Hairst to the Deeside Local Food Festival which takes place this Sunday at Cults Academy.
A: We want to eventually get the range as far afield as possible throughout the UK, but this will take time.
How big is the team and what’s next for The Crafty Pickle Co.?
A: It’s just the two of us working behind the scenes at The Crafty Pickle Co. We’re in charge of production, sales, marketing and everything that goes into forming a business.
Going forward, we’re looking at larger places to begin working from, but this completely depends on how fast our business grows.
M: Something that’s incredibly important to us is scaling up in a way that works for us, as well as finding more consistent surplus food to have even more of an impact.
We also want to be able to share the latest understanding about nutrition, and linking that with fermented foods and health benefits through hands on workshops and talks.
We did a talk at Foodstory recently combining fermentation and nutrition doing just that.
A: We tried to keep it as engaging as possible and it was really well received.
Because of that, we’re hoping that future events held by us would go just as well.
Hopefully the pair of us are giving people the confidence to ferment foods themselves.