Inspiring Women in Food & Beverage: Meet Cait Duggan, Founder of Skip & Chick

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March 3, 2021

Flexitarianism, a lifestyle that focuses on swapping meat for plant-based products (whilst still allowing the occasional meal with meat) is one of the most popular dietary styles chosen by the British public. In the past five years, the UK has seen veganism quadruble in numbers, with more than 600,000 Brits now actively rejecting meat and dairy products in favour of plant-based alternatives. But over 30% of the UK now identify as 'flexitarian'.

But there's often debate about where fish lands on this scale - a healthy choice (when not deep fried in batter) that can provide some of the vitamins often lost when adopting a plant-based diet without the aids of supplements, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, and omega 3 fatty acides. But there's a lot of debate over the sustainability of the fish industry.

Terrestrial food production, including agriculture, is the largest cause of habitat loss on the planet. It provides greater contributions to climate change than the global production of heat and electricity.

Much of this green house gas (GHG) emissions come from the production of feed for farmed animals as much as from the animals themselves. This feed must be grown, fertilised, harvested, packaged and shipped, with each step adding more and more GHG and requiring more land. The issues with deforestation for agricultural purposes is well documented. In 2018, it was calculated that forest areas of an equivalent size to Costa Rica - 5 million hectars - are lost every year around the world.

Wild-caught fish, which produce their own feed, do not contribute to this cycle of destruction. This means that they have the lowest emissions amongst animal proteins. These options could end up being more sustainable than vegan products, which still need land, fertiliser use, packaging and shipping. The products require huge amounts of processing, and are harder on the digestive system because of it - meaning we have to eat more to get the same protein intake.

About Skip & Chip

Skip & Chip is a healthy 'flexitarian' brand that's positioning itself as the sustainable and healthier alternative to meat products - without the loss of texture or flavour. Their sausages are specially formulated to emulate the texture and bite of pure-meat sausages.

The sausages are made from a blend of seafood and chickpeas. This blend helps the sausages be high-protein and high-fibre, without the carbon footprint of pork.

Skip & Chick's sausages being cooked in a frying pan

Skip & Chip was founded by Cait Duggan, a TV commercial producer with a passion for health and fitness. For International Women's Month, we spoke to Cait about her food innovation journey and her experience as a woman in the Foodtech industry.

Cait is a member of South Bank Innovation's foodtech programme, LAFIC.

Tell us a little about yourself?

I have a curious mind and have always loved being creative and problem solving. I grew up in a small village in Worcestershire, but moved to London to pursue a career in TV Commercial Production. Now being an established freelancer within that industry, I’m using all of my free time to develop my healthy flexitarian sausage brand – Skip & Chick.

I’ve been passionate about fitness and nutrition for as long as I can remember, constantly experimenting with new, healthy recipes and always making time for exercise. I’m really excited to now be bringing all of my passions and experience together to create Skip & Chick sausages.

Describe your innovation in a sentence?

High protein, high-fibre, meat-alternative sausages made simply from seafood and chickpeas.

Skip & Chick's sausages in a breakfast muffin

How did you discover the issue that your innovation addresses?

As someone who is trying to cut down on meat, I noticed there is a lack of natural, non-soy based meat-alternatives out there, which actually taste good and contain simple ingredients. Research shows a majority of people are now choosing fish over meat as their protein source, but of course still miss meat products such as sausages! I realised a sustainable seafood and chickpea sausage could tick all those boxes, have additional health benefits and taste great.

When did you start working with the SBI team, and what have you achieved so far?

I started my journey with the SBI teamback in March 2020 when I attended their two-day LAFIC Bootcamp Preparing for Production and Growth. At this stage my product innovation was simply a concept and I needed support to bring the idea to fruition. It’s hard to know where to start and what to consider.

Lead by industry experts, the bootcamp gave me an understanding of how to structure my development, covering areas such a benchmarking, logistics, sales, distribution, financial planning and health and safety. It was also a great opportunity to share ideas and network with others at a similar stage.  

What has been a challenge or an obstacle in your product development?

One of my main challenges has been creating a brand-new product concept with lack of technical expertise and funding. Making a sausage is more complex than you would initially assume, so getting the texture and bite perfect was challenging. Usually, bigger companies would spend thousands on developing a meat-alternative, however I’ve relied upon accumulating knowledge from a wide array of experts I’ve connected with, then applying this through arduous trial and error.

What are the benefits of working with SBI/LSBU for you?

SBI has given me the opportunity to work with and receive consulting from first-rate industry experts.  Opportunities like this would otherwise be out of reach for me as someone wanting to start a business with little funding. The support is invaluable and has provided actionable steps to turn my idea into a product, acting as a springboard into an industry otherwise difficult to navigate.

 What were you doing before you founded your company?

I’m still working as a freelancer in TV Commercial Production. Far from the world of food, but it has given me transferable skills I can use for developing my business idea, such as problem solving, negotiating, planning and executing, managing costs and lots more. Generally taking something from concept to creation! I’m lucky I can continue to work and have an income whilst having time to develop my product.

What’s next for you and your business?

In the next couple of months it’s really about getting the product finalised, tested and into people’s hands. Initially it will be on a small scale selling, direct to customers online, through local independent shops and at food markets, when they open up. To get to that point will be a feat in itself but I’ve always got my mind focused on the bigger picture too. I would love to get into larger retail stores.

Skip & Chick's sausages on a quinoa salad

What is your top tip for women developing new products? 

Speak to people, be curious, use whatever you have to your advantage and be persistent. Often it can feel like you’re not moving forward but then suddenly something clicks into place and you progress. Keep on keeping on.

Which woman, living or dead, would you invite to dinner and why?

So difficult to choose, but I think one person you could have endless fascinating conversations with is Brené Brown. She’s one of the many brilliant minds who has helped me consider my perception of the world around me, my perception of myself and how those two intertwine. If you reflect on your beliefs, you can then unpick and remove boundaries you have unwittingly created and open yourself up to new opportunities. It’s important food for thought!

Follow Skip & Chick's journey on Instagram and through their website. Find out more about the LAFIC programme, which provides free support to food & beverage entrepreneurs, here.