From the farms of Iran to the streets of London, the sibling duo started their premium nut foods business with a strong focus on quality and eco-friendly practises.
“We had very happy childhoods and we grew up picking pistachios on family friends’ farms,” Behnam Heydaripour, co-founder of Borna Foods, tells me. He and his brother, Behram, have an affinity for nuts. The pair grew up in rural Iran within nut farming communities. With a background and experience in nut farming over the years, the pair grew to love the entire process of harvesting quality nuts organically and sustainably. Benham moved to London for university and found a gap in the market for a premium ‘all-natural’ nut brand in the city. He asked his brother, Bahram, to join him for a very nutty business venture – and that was when Borna Foods was born.
“We sensed that the appetite for healthier living was growing in the UK, with the rise of Mediterranean and various high protein and fibre, vegan, paleo diets and felt that a premium tier nut wholesaler didn’t exist within London,” Benham tells me. “Yes, there are several quality health food wholesalers in the UK but none that are solely a nuts and dried fruit authority.”
The brothers had extensive family ties with nut farms across the globe, and Benham knew he could source the highest quality nuts to create premium food products, making them stand out in the market. “Through our family ties which extend across the globe we knew we were better placed than most to put UK businesses in touch with best-in-class almonds, cashews and especially pistachios, our specialist subject,” Beham explained.
“As the wholesale arm of our business grew, more and more people asked if we knew any top tier nut butter providers. We didn’t know anyone who would meet our exacting 100% natural standards which is the moment the penny dropped and a retail range became a serious thought.”
Launching a business is no easy feat. And starting a company with family can prove challenging at times, as it may be difficult to separate personal and business ties. However, the brothers were able to work together seamlessly. With their different career backgrounds, the pair were able to bring their different skill sets to the table. “We’ve always been close so were excited by the opportunity to work side by side,” Benham said.
“We also have very different skill sets, so there was little fear of treading on each other’s toes. The addition of a retail arm to our core business was certainly challenging and there were inevitable errors and lost batches in the early days but we’re now up and running with a diverse range and a constant source of new product development, a best-in-class chocolate spread aimed at adult taste buds, was our latest addition.”
Launched in 2018, Borna Foods is currently based in Greenwich, London. Borna produces a variety of gastronomic nut butters and trail mixes, including various flavours of Cashew, Almond, Pistachio Butters and their newly launched Chocolate Spread. They also produce their very own Pistachio Milk.
Benham spoke about the growing desire for healthier natural foods on market shelves, as more people turn to clean snacks and breakfast ingredients that are low in sugar, salt and free from palm oil. “Gastronomic butters are very big news in our homeland region and increasingly North America, Southern Europe,” Benham explained. “Jams, curds and marmalades are starting to look very tired whilst the leading chocolate spreads in the UK are very childish in their formulation.
“We wanted products that could stand stood on their own two feet under the most severe scrutiny and were neither sugar nor salt drenched or using cheap inappropriate ‘support cast’ oils (palm oil). Yet, at the same time breakfast enjoyed a massive resurgence over lockdown as growing numbers looked to find ways to make their morning snacks both more interesting and health-conscious. Breaded products have been struggling in recent years. However nutritional rich spreads have given them a new lease of life.”
There are ‘no corners cut’ when producing Borna products, with each batch of nut butters taking a team of up to three people 6 to 7 hours to make. Borna places a high emphasis on quality over quantity with a focus on sustainable practices. “Nothing is rushed and no corners are cuts,” Benham tells me. “We could very easily speed up processes, enhance sweetness or save money on core ingredients however we want to be known for best practice and a sustainable outlook, working towards finalising our B-Corp status this Spring. A single small batch of our nut butters takes 2 to 3 people 6 to 7 hours. This isn’t a sign of inefficiency but a badge of honour that only the best will do.”
Borna focuses on producing the best-in-class products, with a strong focus on simplicity and ‘clean’ ingredient checks ensuring high standards for their premium brand. “From the beginning, we wanted to stay true to our childhood memories by committing to simple production techniques and simple clean ingredient decks,” Beham explained. “There’s little point using best-in-class raw materials if you try and cut corners with cheap, ancillary ‘filler’ ingredients and excessive processing. Yes, we need to use expensive grinders but we never wanted to be an excessively mechanised, conveyor belt operation.”
Borna has achieved great success since launching three years, with its products now stocked across major retailers including Ocado, Selfridges, Holland & Barrett with a growing customer base for online orders and subscription boxes. Speaking about his mindset, Benham added: “My mindset is worryingly positive, I see the best in every situation which is fundamentally a good stance but can lead to occasional disappointment. Never short-change your dreams!”