Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m David Kay, aged 56 and a director of Squished. My whole career has been involved in agriculture and food production. I’m a qualified biologist, and my passions are wildlife and growing. From the moment I saw a runner bean germinating on blotting paper in primary school I have been totally captivated! For this reason, I’ve been involved in agriculture my whole life and first helped the local farmer with milking when I was seven.
What led you into a career in the food industry?
Once I gained my degree in Applied Biology, I was employed by ICI – in the Agricultural Division ‘Helping Farmers Feed the World’ – where I worked for nearly two decades.
After working for ICI and AstraZeneca, I was asked if I would be interested in helping run a family fruit business growing strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. It was my first role involved with primary production and it blew me away. We grew the business until there were five farms and two glasshouse sites in the UK.
How did you come upon the idea of Squished?
Did you know, that if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest producer of greenhouse gases after the USA and China? And because of this, it’s known that one third of all food grown globally is never eaten, including 3.6m tonnes of fruit.
Growers must produce more than is needed to ensure that they never run short for the large retailers. This means that you always have a surplus of perfect fruit which is not sold. Demand can vary significantly as well which also causes problems. On our berry farm alone, we have over 600 tonnes of surplus fruit every year.
Late one evening, I was walking through a blueberry field as the sun was going down. It was a beautiful day, but my heart was heavy; whilst the bushes were covered in berries, we had no sale for them, and they would be left to rot. Thousands of hours had been spent growing, tending, pruning, watering and fertilising, all for this moment and it was all for nothing.
I was becoming increasingly unhappy about the wastefulness and decided to try and do something about it. The next day, I took a tray of the fruit and met with a close friend of mine who had invested in a Biltong business near Chichester.
I shared my plight with them and together we decided to develop a way of preserving the surplus fruit into a form that could work for multiple purposes. We talked about ways that it could be used in fruit-based snacks, as an ingredient in baking products, infused in drinks, we had endless ideas! Because the preserved fruit has a long shelf life, we knew we could take the surplus fruit and preserve the goodness into products that could be used.
I am so proud to now be the co-creator of a business that I truly believe can make a real difference and avoid the abandonment of beautiful berries that otherwise would end their days in a hole as landfill. To date, Squished has rescued over 25,000kgs of surplus fruit – principally blueberries and strawberries – and is aiming to save 1million kgs before 2024, with a team that passionately cares about making it happen.
What’s your current product range?
We currently are selling fruit energy balls, fruit flapjacks and jams. The blueberry products are always popular, and the jams are flying off the shelves.
We also have significant interest from bakery companies who recognise that the air-dried berries can be used as an ingredient where otherwise they might use powders. By extracting the water in our process, we intensify the flavour of the blueberries and adding this to bakes, cakes, deserts, cereals give it a fabulous, strong berry flavour.
All our products are suitable for vegetarians with the energy balls and jams also being perfect for vegans. All our packaging is recyclable.
We source all our fruit in the UK, and of course, our product is made in Chichester, West Sussex. We have set up our factory on the farm in Chichester where the berries come from, to minimise transport. There is so much surplus to go at that we do not have to search it out – it tends to find us.
What new products are in the mix?
We’re really impressed with some research and work we’ve done with rescuing apples, because it has a great flavour! We’re excited to start this process next.
We will be releasing a new bite-size version of our blueberry energy balls soon, as they are ideal for lunchboxes, and an easy way to deliver the equivalent of 25 blueberries in one go.
We’re also hoping to one day use our pioneering air-drying technology to rescue tonnes of vegetables that are left to rot in fields across Sussex, utilising it in chutneys, or as crisps.
Buy online at www.wearesquished.co.uk, in select Co Op stores and in Refilled in Chichester – a leading packaging free store.