JLife’s Evangeline Spachis spoke to new plant-based pudding company Freaks of Nature’s creator, Peter Ahye about his innovative culinary invention.
Ask a survey of 100 people, and inventing delicious desserts for a living would rank right up there as one of the best jobs to have. That’s exactly what Freaks of Nature founder Peter Ahye left a high-pressure job to do, leaving the fast-paced business world behind to fill a gap in the market for dairy-free, gluten-free, plant-based chilled puds. And it all happened, well, quite organically. British-born Peter Ahye grew up in Trinidad and developed a can-do spirit from a young age: “It was quite formative in forming my food passions. My dad used to have a farm and I used to go picking avocados and mangos. I was always quite industrious and probably quite entrepreneurial before I knew there was even a word for it!”
After reading Economics and Accounting at the University of Leeds, he became a chartered accountant at Price Waterhouse and worked with companies such as Next, United Biscuits and Shop Direct, formerly Littlewoods. He later noticed there was a severe lack of sweet options for pud lovers who are gluten-free, dairy-free or cannot eat prevalent ingredients such as eggs or soya. And ever the assiduous businessman, did around three months of research and then rented out cooking space in 2016 at Leeds Beckett University to experiment with flavours and alternative ingredients. He finally discovered the Freaks of Nature formula that would see his products gracing the chilled dessert shelves of Tesco and Waitrose supermarkets up and down the country this year.
Freaks of Nature then opened its own specialist 14,000 sq ft blending facility in Ossett, West Yorkshire, giving the company control and transparency about the ingredients and unique blending techniques that make each product: “Early on in the process,” Peter revealed, “I thought, good heavens, when people go dairy-free or gluten-free, they must lose their taste buds because some of these products are shocking!” Setting out to change all that, Peter’s theory was that great tasting ingredients such as cashew nuts, cacao powders, date syrups and fruit purees can make great tasting products.
But not only are the puds vegan, vegetarian and coeliac friendly, they are also certified KLBD kosher, after Peter sought advice and guidance from a rabbi in order to achieve the certification. At the moment, the range concentrates on puds – including freakily-named ‘Zingythingy’, ‘Mangofandango’ and ‘Cocoaloco’ – and a favourite, cheesecake, including new flavours ‘Choc & Awe’ and ‘Strawberry Blonde’.
The kosher seal of approval is more than just opening up a new stream of revenue though, as Peter explains: “It turns out that we were only two suppliers from being kosher and so we changed to recommended suppliers and suddenly we were making a kosher product. I knew very little about the Jewish faith and the requirements, but I sat with a rabbi and asked him to explain it to me and I began to understand that dairy-free options were limited but needed on certain occasions.”
But is Peter tempted to expand into the dairy market some day? His reply is resolute: “No, because I’ve made the promise to our customers. We will remain a free-from provider so the consumer knows what they are going to get from us.”
As well as being stocked in major supermarkets across the north, plans are in the pipeline to be stocked in further stores nationwide, JLife was keen to find out if Freaks of Nature is available now in the Manchester region: “Any Waitrose in Manchester will be selling our products now and a handful of Tesco supermarkets too. They may not have the full range, but they will definitely have a minimum of two of our products. The best way to find out where we’re stocked is to use our ‘Where to Buy’ search on our website.”
It seems things are really taking off for Peter and his fast-growing company, and there’s always room for more dessert options in the consumer market. Let’s hope Freaks of Nature takes its course…