Tasty Little Toasted Treats
11th June 2018 Paul Andrews
The story of Munchy Seeds dates back two generations in New Zealand to the days when a toasted two seed blend was the way for granny to get the kids nibbling on something nutritious.
Now, settled in East Anglia with her husband, Paul Andrews spoke to Lucinda and Crispin about the evolution of their family business.
As Lucinda explains, “Munchy Seeds began over 25 years ago in New Zealand actually, by my lovely mummy and sort of me! I had been demonstrating stainless steel Swiss potato peelers at exhibitions around the world for 8 years and came home when the family farm was sold. I had seen many different products being sold at various exhibitions and I knew we could come up with a product of our own that we could put our own personal, friendly, happy stamp on and bring it successfully to the market. Of all the lovely recipes we have in our family, Granny’s roasted two seed mix was to prove to be the most perfect of all."
"To begin with we roasted Granny’s seed mix in the kitchen at home and took them to the local Saturday Flea Market in Nelson NZ, encouraging folk to try the seeds sprinkled on bread & butter (because honestly who can resist white bread & butter!) And it just kind of took off! As the seeds became more and more popular, my parents started taking them off to shows and exhibitions around New Zealand. Never did it occur to us that they would become so popular and that 10 years later my husband, Crispin (boyfriend at the time) and I would have the same level of success here in England.”
Munchy Seeds is a business built around the concept of healthy snacking together with a healthy way to revitalise meal times, with a range of products to suit a variety of tastes and uses.
Lucinda has fond memories of her Granny’s concoctions and it is these mixes that fuel the essence of the business today. “Like all granny’s, my grandmother’s cooking was wholesome and honest; her fridge was laden with cold meats from the farm, salads and fresh veggies, homemade mayo, jams and sauces; the pantry was filled with cakes, slices, nuts, fruits and seeds. Granny had to learn to cook super-fast as a young wife on her husband’s family sheep farm. She cooked for the whole workforce including the Maori shearers (a ‘gang’ of 6 to 8 men and women who came in each year to shear the 2,000 odd sheep). The shearers delighted in setting nets in the lake on the farm, catching whopping great big eels for her to boil up for them (yikes)! Some of the eels they pulled from the lake were over 6ft long! In truth, they never ate the big old ‘grand-daddy’ eels (as we kids referred to them), because they were the breeding stock for the future and could live to be over 80 years old.”
“Another odd ‘delight’ Granny used to boil up for the men, was the incredibly fatty, native Mutton Bird, that nested in holes in the muddy banks of the lake. (If you want to try this rather rich, fatty delicacy today, you would have to travel to the bottom of New Zealand – jump on a little boat and brave one of the roughest stretches of waters to get to Stewart Island where the local hotel still serves them up!)”
“As small kids we spent the hot summers roaming across hills and flats (fields) in bare feet, catching insects, lizards, rabbits and little cocker-bullies (small fish) from the streams. We went everywhere with our glass jars with screw-top lids, turning and lifting stones and logs seeking out creepy-crawlies to bring home to show Mum, Dad & Granny, and any unsuspecting poor visitor who happened to pop in! Granny’s roasted seeds were just a part of our normal everyday diet, nothing very special at the time – but then again neither was smocked eel, mutton bird, homemade mayonnaise made with mint and condensed milk – it was just a part of a very happy, healthy lifestyle that my siblings and I were lucky enough to share,” continues Lucinda.
Munchy Seeds were eaten like fresh cherries, grapes or sweets – “we would just have them as a treat or ‘when Granny had remembered to roast up some more, so they were quite special I guess,” continues Lucinda. “When we were sent off to boarding school we kept them in big biscuit tins for our tuck. They were brilliant because they lasted for ages and massively filled us up, except all our friends used to nick handfuls of them!”
Both Lucinda and Crispin have embraced their business and encouraged others to try and taste their mixes. “Both our children grew up munching seeds,” adds Crispin. “In fact Claudia used to practically live in the factory when she was a baby, at 6 months old we would plonk her (position her carefully) on the work bench in her little bouncy seat beside us, as we hand-filled the tubs. She would help herself to fistfuls of seeds and loved them. I might add – she’s 16 now and won’t touch them for love nor money! Let’s wait until she’s a student with little cash!! She and her friends will be very grateful to receive her parents’ free Munchy Seeds!”
“Oscar, being a 12 year old boy, will eat almost anything (within reason – as long as it’s not broccoli!) He is forever ‘fuelling up’ – especially now he’s started playing rugby. Refreshing orange segments served at half time with Honey Seeds aren’t a bad combination for a lad burning up energy in the mud and rain!” explains Lucinda.
After the sale of the family farm in New Zealand, the business was born. “My parents have been roasting their Munchy Seeds in NZ for over 30 years now,” adds Lucinda, “and Crispin and I have been flat out roasting seeds in the UK for the last 19 years – it’s been a fun, full-on ride. One of the most exciting things for me is when young mothers come up to me at a show, with a child on their hip, and exclaim how their own mothers had given them Munchy Seeds when they were growing up. They’ll usually be grinning from ear-to-ear watching their own little ones stuffing seeds into their mouths flat-out – just as they used to! It is great to see the full circle with the next generation being introduced to seeds at a young age.”
As a business, Munchy Seeds is all about the product which as Lucinda explains is essentially “something that between us, we produce as a fun, quirky little product that was given to us when we were carefree children by our special Granny and now we have the good fortune to be able to share that little bit of fun and wholesomeness with others! Munchy Seeds are for all ages and stages and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but just enjoyed anyway, anyhow and with whomever you like!”
Both Lucinda and Crispin have a positive work ethic and continue to invest in the business, building the brand, seeking new outlets for their products and creating new flavours too. It is also a business that is balanced as much as a ‘new’ business can be. As Crispin confirms, “a lot of our friends undertake the long commute daily into London whereas we have a short commute into the office, where we are in control of our own destiny though our business.”
This business sets its sights high, having already made it on to the main in-flight service on Emirates Airlines and recently selling 1.6 million snack packs in a year but has a set of core values, many aligned to the family themselves that have evolved over time too. Values that are important to the business are Excellence, Efficiency, Team Work, Earnt not Owed, Communication and above all ensuring that Munchy Seeds is a ‘great place to work.’
With a growing team, now 18, the business continues to push the boundaries but as a family firm, personality is important, not just in the way they operate but in the brand too. “The brand really does represent our values, who we are and how we want to be seen,” continues Lucinda. “We are serious about what we do but want to make sure that we enjoy it too. Customer service is key and we are all about producing a great tasting product and making healthy eating fun!”
The toasted seed sector is growing and every seed is crammed with natural goodness such as protein, fibre, iron and zinc and they are versatile not just as snacks but in the kitchen too – sprinkled over breakfast cereal, stirred in to soups, added to home made breads to name a few.
Munchy Seeds, a family business that continues to create tasty little toasted treats!!