Interviews

How Alexi von Eldik got her Paleo brand stocked in Selfridges

6 min read

25 April 2019

Features Editor, Real Business

Cru8 Foods was started by Alexi von Eldik after being diagnosed as pre-diabetic. She details her journey from hand delivering bread to running a global business.

Many ‘healthy’ food brands have less-than-noble marketing ploys behind them. Statements such as ‘a hearty breakfast is good for you’, it turns out, was pushed by big American food brands in the 1950s to peddle their products to the masses. It’s the same with the dairy industry, so modern critics say.

What brands can health-conscious consumers trust today?

Well, not many, seeing that consumers are also bombarded with so-called healthy brands that have little scientific justification behind their ‘healthy’ status. But Alexi von Eldik and her business Cru8 is here to put a stop to the consumer distrust.

Real Business (RB): Where did your love affair with Paleo foods begin?

cru8-paleo-foods

An example of the Paleo breads on offer from Cru8. Source: Littleluxuryfoods

Alexi von Eldik, (AE): Before starting Cru8 I was quite depressed and pre-diabetic. I wanted to change the way I was eating so went largely gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free. I incorporated raw vegetables, into my diet and saw great results, I felt so much more energised and mentally sound. It was a revelation and I felt people needed to know about this, namely that that food affects every aspect of your life from physical health to mental wellbeing.

RB: Why makes Paleo based products so good for bodily health?

AE: Eating Paleo means eating as our Paleolithic or hunter-gatherer ancestors would have. What that translates to is a diet of mostly greens, fruits when available, nuts, seeds, and good quality, preferably grass-fed or wild caught protein. I am a huge vegetable pusher, suggesting to my clients that their plate be 75-80% vegetable and the rest protein. By its very nature, the Paleo Diet is anti-inflammatory. Science is now beginning to understand how detrimental chronic inflammation really is.

RB: What were the results of the study you conducted into Paleo-based nutrition?

AE: The study consisted of a cohort of 17 people who were placed on a 10-day programme of high raw, gluten, dairy, and refined sugar-free diet. The results showed significant improvements in productivity, mental wellbeing, and energy. The programme also manages blood sugar levels by providing food that is slow release and low GI. The effect is a constant high level of energy throughout the day rather than the spikes and crashes so common with the typical Western diet.

RB: When did you launch the business? What was it like during the early days?

AE: I started Cru8 as a detox delivery business back in 2011. I was making an entire day’s meals, i.e. breakfast, lunch and dinner with snacks in between, and delivering these to my clients, who were mostly friends initially before 7 am with a ZipCar.

The business grew by word of mouth as clients were getting great results from the food.

I was also receiving requests to purchase snacks for continued healthy snacking after the programme. That was a lightbulb moment. I could make truly healthy snacks, retail these and potentially help a far larger group of people eat better. That was in 2013-2014 when the retail journey really began. We were picked up by Wholefoods Market in 2015 which was a great coup, and then Planet Organic in 2016.

RB: What growth statistics are you especially proud of since starting the business?

AE: I’m especially proud of the fact that turnover has increased fivefold since we launched our retail products commercially, where we now have a strong presence in top stockists such as the Wholefoods Market and Planet Organic. We’re looking to ramp up this year with additional projected sales of £1M.

RB: You say that Cru8 “is on a mission to replicate the success of the craft beer revolution”, what do you mean by this?

AE: Like the beer industry ten years ago, the bread market has had little innovation over the past 50 years. Bread since the 50s has been a filler, a convenient, cheap food.

Moreover, it has been a stagnant and even declining market with the typical mass-produced loaf of white bread falling out of favour among a certain demographic due to the perception that the white loaf was doing more harm than good.

It’s only in the last five years that we’ve seen the rise of the artisanal breads like Poilane, and Gails who are producing better quality, more digestible, and certainly more expensive bread.

The upsurge in the popularity of artisan-produced bread despite the associated price tag is driven by the more informed and knowledgable consumer, concern for health, the rise of the foodie culture and the eschewing of mass-produced, nutrient-deficient products.