“We believe the more you put in, the more you get out. We make everything by hand, we’re generous with ingredients, and we are committed to our community. Go on, have a dollop.”

Each year in the UK approximately 18 million tonnes of food goes to waste at an annual cost of £23 billion. For most, this fact would elicit a shrug of the shoulders or a “what can be done?” For 27-year-old Jenny Dawson it was enough to make her quit her job in the city and set up Rubies In The Rubble – a socially responsible, sustainable business that uses surplus fruit and vegetables to make delicious, hand-made chutney.

Having started on a shoestring budget in a borrowed kitchen in London’s Borough Market, Rubies In The Rubble now produces 1,000 jars of chutney a week for retailers including Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, Partridges and Waitrose. Along with her business partner – likeminded Oxford grad Alicia Lawson – Jenny employs a handful of women from disadvantaged backgrounds to assist with production and the day-to-day running of the company, with a view to helping them achieve financial and social independence. With fans ranging from Jamie Oliver to the Queen, Rubies In The Rubble is quickly making a name for itself in the foodie world. Environmental sustainability and social responsibility have never tasted so good…

Suitcase caught up with the gourmet do-gooders to find out their recipe for success.


When and how did the idea for Rubies In The Rubble come about? 

Jenny: I’d always wanted to start something I was passionate about. Food waste and unemployment were two issues close to my heart – Rubies In The Rubble seemed to provide a solution that tackled both. I first had the idea on an early morning visit to New Covent Garden market in November 2010. It was seeing so many good things going to waste before my eyes that really made me want to act.

What is a typical working day like for the women of RITB?

Alicia: Our kitchen is based on a wholesale night market, so we have to get up early to catch the traders and get whatever fruit is needed for the day’s cooking. Then our lovely kitchen team arrives and it’s all hands on deck to get to turn the perishable produce into chutneys that will last for months.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a business?

Alicia: Sticking to our core ethos whilst being a commercial business. It’s been a great learning curve sitting alongside established brands within a competitive retail market.

And on a more positive note, what have been the highlights since starting the company?

Jenny: Working with the women in the kitchen, and really getting to know them, has been wonderful. Other highlights would be meeting farmers from all over the UK, and getting positive customer feedback. That really encourages us that the products can stand up for themselves.

Which people/brands inspire you?

Jenny: Green & Blacks – for creating a standard that is now a norm. The charity, Water (http://www.charitywater.org) for making charity cool. Lastly Higgidy Pies (http://www.higgidy.co.uk) – for great pies, integrity and the way they run their business.

What advice would you give to young, aspiring entrepreneurs?

Jenny: That if you have an idea, go for it wholeheartedly (but be prepared for quite a lot of hard graft!). Even if it doesn’t work you’ll learn tons along the way and have a story to tell.


Out of all the delicious flavours, what’s your chutney of choice?

Alicia: We’re always going through phases. Jenny’s currently obsessed with our Spicy Tomato; I’m into our new Piccalilli.

What’s next for RITR?

Jenny: We’ve got lots of new product ideas up our sleeves which we’re excited to start developing.

Alicia: But primarily we want to keep working on increasing demand for our chutneys- so we can save more fruit, and employ more women.

What three words would you use to describe the company:

Alicia: Preserve, Serve, Save

For more info on the tastiest chutneys made in the nicest possible way head to rubiesintherubble.com or follow them on twitter: @rubiesintherubble

Interview by Lindsay Carlson, @princesslindsay

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