A Harrogate entrepreneur has developed a taste for success after landing a long term contract with a leading Yorkshire farm produce retailer. Monalisa Fathima, who launched her award-winning business Saffron Tree just this year, is supplying farm shop Fodder with her range of authentic Indian curries. And her meals are currying favour with shoppers who can’t get enough of the meals.
This month, Saffron Tree has won two prestigious food industry accolades at the Deliciouslyorkshire Taste Awards 2019 in the best new business and best ready to eat categories.
The inspiration for Saffron Tree came after Monalisa had sight-saving eye surgery in her late thirties and she was forced to rely on supermarket ready meals during the recovery period.
Monalisa said: “Food has always been an integral part of my life. My dream was always to work with food and in the food industry, as I love cooking really tasty, healthy food. I was so passionate about it, I even did a PhD in Education, analysing learning within cooking practices. My surgery led me to identifying a gap in the market for authentic Indian food because it was so clear to me that Indian food as it is cooked in our homes, and in India, is so different from the Indian food available on supermarket shelves in the UK.”
This discovery led her to create an authentic range of Indian prepared chilled meals at her purpose-built kitchen and production premises at Follifoot Ridge Business Park in Pannal, where she currently produces over 1,000 main meals a week. The 40 year old entrepreneur has invested over £200k in the business which also includes her own dedicated Indian cookery school, which she plans to launch in January.
Monalisa deals exclusively with independent retailers such as Fodder and other farm shops throughout Yorkshire, a strategy which has helped her upscale the business organically as demand has grown. A keen supporter of local businesses, Monalisa uses produce that is exclusively grown or reared in Yorkshire wherever possible.
As one of the region’s leading farm shops, Fodder sells products from more than 400 local suppliers and celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. It was established by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) as a way to directly support farm incomes and is the only outlet of its kind in the UK to donate all of its profits to charity.
Taught to cook from an early age by her grandmother, Monalisa’s authentic range of Indian cuisine is inspired by her grandmother, who was also a great storyteller. Monalisa’s favourite story was The Magic Saffron Tree which grew in a shaded courtyard in her hometown of Hyderabad. and yielded the most aromatic saffron imaginable. It also proved to be the inspiration behind the brand.
Monalisa added: “Combining such a strong passion in my life with a growing business is a dream come true for me. My meals are now stocked by over a dozen independent retailers and I am delighted to be able to share them locally more widely as a supplier to Fodder. New enquiries about my meals are coming in every day and the three members of my production kitchen team and I are proud to be able to offer these tasty and authentic Indian chilled meals, prepared to a consistently high standard.”
Julie Smith, shop manager at Fodder, said: “The Saffron Tree range has been a huge success with customers and a recent tasting event created a real stir. Everything from the exquisite packaging to the lavish spices and authentic taste makes it hugely appealing. It’s the perfect fit for Fodder customers and a great collaboration between retail and local suppliers working together to deliver quality produce, which is what we are all about.”