For this week’s taking time, we’re talking to the founders of the gut-friendly food range, Jones. Based in the rolling hills of Monmouthshire, creators Malcolm Burns and Anna Jones tell us how their dream to develop an ethical food brand came to life during the pandemic.
Please tell us about your career background and how you came to create Jones?
Anna: My passion for fermenting foods at home goes way back. I always had friends and family waiting eagerly for their next batch of home-brewed kombucha, tonics, krauts and kimchi. I loved helping them improve their gut health.
I had been running the family agriculture and food retail business for 16 years when I decided that I wanted to create my own ethical food business. Fermented foods and gut health were the obvious place to start. I knew that taking a small-scale activity to a business would require a lot of bravery, hard work and 100% determination. Jones evolved from all these experiences and the lucky coincidence of meeting Malcolm.
Malcolm: A good slug of my career was at Cadbury where your founder, Wendy, and I share many friends. I found a niche doing roles overseas, spending three years in West Africa and two in Eastern Europe. This gave us cultural experiences that you just can’t buy. After that, I was CEO of Tyrrells Crisps, which we eventually sold to a German business called Intersnack in 2019. I met Anna at a children’s party, and we have lots in common. I also wanted to start my own ethical food business and was really inspired by Anna’s passion for fermented food and gut health. So, I got on board!
What has it been like starting a business during the pandemic?
Anna: We launched at the end of February 2020, just in time for lockdown. Like most people and businesses, we dialled up the use of tech more to get things done. The business was built on Whatsapp, Google Hangouts, Drive and Docs (which makes Malcolm cross because he misses Excel). The team works so well together and feels like an extended family, but I haven’t even met our designer, Rich, in person yet. Malcolm jokes that we’ll hate each other in real life.
Malcolm: No doubt the lockdown has changed the dynamics of how quickly we get stuff done. The biggest single challenge has been home-schooling with all of the distractions (and rewards) that brings. The good news is that the business is a family affair so we can pace the launch as we wish. It shouldn’t make a difference in the long run. We love what we’re creating so I’m relaxed that we’ll get where we want to go.
The packaging for the Jones products is so beautiful, tell us how the idea for these came around?
Malcolm: Anna had a clear vision to create a product that was a piece of art. In the early stages we toyed with the idea of having no wording on the bottle. Obviously, that’s a quite bonkers idea that we rejected, but it shows where we were coming from. Simply, we wanted something that looked too good to put away in the cupboard.
Anna: Our belief is that ‘nature has the answer’ in the sense that a good, highly varied organic diet featuring fermented foods can be the basis of a good healthy lifestyle. Showing the landscape of the Welsh Marches felt like a natural reflection of that. Malcolm’s wife Alison is a talented artist with a background in surface pattern design. The moment we saw her earliest draft we all loved the designs. It almost had a dark tattoo ethos, which we loved and embraced.
Our ethos at Peter’s Yard is all about taking time for the simple pleasures in life – tell us, what is one of your favourite past times?
Anna: I think we are similar really in our love of the simple pleasures. I love nothing more than cooking for and walking with my family. During ‘me time’, I like lake swimming and doing a bit of yoga.
Malcolm: Our families live in the Welsh Marches, which has beautiful landscapes. We welcome lots of tourists to these parts, but you can always get away from the crowds if you know where to go. On our hills, there are a myriad of different walks and the kids love the tree swings that have been dotted around the place by the locals.
Lastly, if you had to pair one of your products with something from our range, what would it be?
Malcolm: Well, this is something that I have practised! There are lots of combinations that I love but a particular favourite was stacking our Turmeric ‘slaw with gooey Ragstone goat cheese on top of your Rye & Charcoal Sourdough Crackers. Pintxos from the Marches!
Anna: The French eat crisps on a warm summer’s evening with a long drink. I’m looking forward to getting out on the patio on a barmy evening and matching your Anglesey Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper Sourdough Bites with a refreshing ‘haymakers punch’ drink made with our Apple Cider Vinegar and honey.
If you’d like to shop any of the products from the JONES range, visit their website here.