The UK eats 1.3 million kebabs everyday, and the food is reported to be worth £2.2 billion to the British economy - but it's not the most transparent of food products. Lamb kebabs usually contain additives such as soya, emulsifiers and rusk. As much as 15% of a good quality kebab can be additives. A poor quality kebab, however, could contain indeterminate meat, up to 22% fat, and even 12g of salt - double a recomonded daily intake.
Butcher & Bab, founded by Parisian Sabrina Montourcy and Bi jan, started as a street food business selling free-range and high quality kebabs at food markets and festivals around the country. Two years later, in March 2018, they opened their brick-and-mortar kebab shop in Liverpool Street. They've now expanded their range to include home-made sauces.
For International Women's Month, we spoke to Sabrina about her journey in the food industry, and her experience as a women in business.
I am Sabrina, born and raised in Paris. Growing up, my parents owned a typical French Brasserie where me and my two sisters got to help with every aspect of it.
I moved to London 11 years ago after graduating of a Bachelor in Marketing and International Business. I worked a lot in the hospitality industry here and there, as well as being an estate agent for a couple of years to finally decide to start my own business. With little investment, I started a street food business with my partner. After two years of hard labour trading at markets and Festivals, we opened our first shop in Liverpool Street called Butcher and Bab.
We developed a hot sauce that is versatile called Sab’s Saucy Scotch Bonnet. It can be used for cooking or as a condiment for pretty much everything. It doesn’t contain preservatives nor additives, is vegan friendly, has no added sugar and is made from natural ingredients. Finally it tastes awesome!
When you want to be as natural as possible, the problem is to understand the shelf life of your product and how you can give the consumers the best consumption guidelines.
I started working with the SBI team in 2019. I was offered to participate to some workshops that have been extremely useful, helping to understanding my needs and the possibilities around my product as well as meeting interesting entrepreneurs.
The biggest challenge was to find the resources and equipment needed. Thankfully the food innovation experts have helped massively.
I am learning constantly about the food industry and food innovations. I am meeting a range of very interesting individuals. I am dealing with the best experts in the industry and now feel very confident to push my product forward.
We developed a true understanding of what people want. Being able to test our products on our market stall allowed us to gain feedback quickly and we learnt how to make our product safer for our consumers.
Once everything is approved regarding shelf life and nutritional values, I will be able to push my product forward commercially and find suitable distributors.
Do not hesitate to ask for help from experts and people that have been successful in your industry. Nine times out of ten, people are willing to help and share their knowledge if you ask nicely. Also, building a network of likeminded people that you can call upon for help or share tips is essential. As women, sometimes we are not taken seriously when taking a business project on board, don’t let anyone put you down and preserver.
It took me time to build self confidence and to be taken seriously.
It is hard for a small business to get the resources, the investment and to get the right people to help develop the business. Also, consumers don’t always understand the work involved in a food product, the price of high quality and sustainable ingredients. We have to operate on low margins and it is difficult to make a living out of it. It is an incredibly competitive market.
Organisations like LSBU give a chance to anyone willing to develop their project seriously regardless of their gender, ethnicity or background. It is very refreshing and has made me feel “safe” in this environment.
It gives women the possibility to undertake their dream project.
I would like to invite Amelia Earhart as I believe she was a pioneer in gender equality. She was the first American female aviator to fly solo, and a true female trailblazer.
Her death remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the twentieth century, maybe she could tell me what really happened!
LAFIC is a free programme that supports Food & Beverage entrepreneurs to create new-to-market products. Find out more about their support here.