Welcome to our exclusive Q&A Interview series in the run-up to Eco Life Scandinavia and the Nordic Organic Food Fair, which return on 17-18 November 2021. We’ll be speaking to some of the biggest names in the natural health, beauty, sustainable living and the organic food and drink world. You’ll find out how they adapt to the current climate, their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities ahead. Plus, what they are doing to support their teams and local communities.
We caught up with Floor van der Steen, Founder of Brix Food / Max’s Organic Mints
Floor is Co-Founder of Max’s Organic Mints, part of Brix Food, a social enterprise with the mission to help as many people as possible to eat healthier. In the long term, it is the intention that Brix Food will also start up and support other projects with its income and make healthier food easier for more people.
How did you get into organic?
For me personally, I have been into food for as long as I can remember – especially ‘good food’. But it wasn’t until I studied for my master’s degree in Italy that I really got to appreciate the way our food is being produced. In Italy all the people around me were very conscious about what they ate and how that had been made, something that back then I didn’t really know from growing up in The Netherlands, where food is much more functional.
After finishing my degree, I went on working at Marqt, one of Hollands first organic supermarket chains, where my interest in organic food only developed further. This was the path I wanted to follow! As means of making more impact and changing more peoples dietary (snacking) habits into making more sustainable food choices, I started Max’s Mints!
Can you tell us a little about the history of your company?
Max’s Organic Mints has been founded by my father Pieter and myself, back in 2017. My father Pieter had a really strong background in confectionary and, as I just said, I was out to make a change. We decided to join forces. With Pieter’s confectionary background in our pocket, we headed over to some of our local supermarkets and dove into the confectionary shelves.
What we noticed was that there were quite some brands already stepping up in the chocolate section; whether organic, raw or Fairtrade, a difference was being made. The same could be said about cookies. However, in the mint segment there were few big brands that had been ruling the shelves for a long, long time. This was going to be the product with which we were going to help as many consumers as possible to go green! Because even though mints are just a small product, we truly believe that many good, small choices together will make a big difference, like many drops making up an ocean.
Max’s Mints are such a good, small choice because they are not only organic, but also 100% natural, gelatine-free (so vegan), and have been packaged in a sheltered employment setting in the fun and infinitely recyclable cans.
What do you think are the biggest opportunities facing the organic sector?
We see the interest in organic food rising rapidly. Especially with a pandemic happening, caused by the food we eat, consumers are becoming more and more aware of their impact on the world. This of course goes for ‘the big things’ such as flying (less), eating (less) meat, and using green energy, but also for the smaller, day to day, choices. Also interesting is that this growing consciousness is ever more pronounced amongst youngsters, the people who will make up the future!
And what do you think are the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenges, in my opinion, are two sided. First of all, although consumers are becoming more aware of their own impact, once they are in-store their wallet too often decides what it is they’ll buy; the ‘citizen-consumer paradox’. Secondly, as in many product categories organic is still developing and therefore niche, we as a producer encounter that it is sometimes quite hard as a small, starting, socially-driven company to get your products in stores. Not because buyers don’t want to, but because turnover/profit still is the most important KPI in many companies. And as the turnover realised with well-established big brands is known, as opposed to the turnover of small new organic products, it is very easy to stick with what you know instead of diving into the unknown with new challenger brands.
What do you think can be done to educate consumers about the importance of moving to organic?
Most importantly: start at a young age! We are convinced that education about organic, but also about nature and our role in it as humans as a whole, should be an integral part of education at all levels and ages. Most (Dutch) young kids have no idea where chicken breasts come from and how Brussels sprouts grow, let alone that they know about the differences between conventional and organic practices. Also, we believe that teaching about our impact as humans is something that fits into any type of educational program, whether it be economy, philosophy or anthropology, one doesn’t live without the other.
What role should small and medium-sized businesses play in developing organic?
The pioneering one! Surely we understand that it is much more difficult for big, established (rusty?) organisations to make big changes. Definitely not impossible, but at least much more difficult than it is for small and medium sized business. Therefore, these small businesses have the unique opportunity to show that producing organically (or at least responsibly) is not only possible and desirable, but good business too!
What do you think the impact of the COVID pandemic will be on the future of organic consumption?
Hmm, I kind of hit the subject already earlier. But I can elaborate a little bit further. We believe that COVID drives consumer behaviour in two directions:
Into eating more responsibly, to limit our impact on the earth. For those people that still can afford it.
(unfortunately) Into eating more cheaply / less responsible. As there also is a group for whom money becomes more and more important, being hit hard by COVID.
How do you see the evolution of your business channel (Horeca, retail, online, B2C etc) after COVID?
With Max’s Mints we believe that we have a unique product in the sense that it is not only organic/responsibly made, but also attractive and tasty enough that we are able to nudge consumers, who don’t necessarily usually buy good food, into making a better choice. This makes Max’s Mints a good fit for any mint location, be it a translation, petrol station, cafe or retailer. COVID luckily didn’t change that!
Do you have any plans or news that you can tell us about?
Absolutely! Because we are here for a reason. Which is that we are planning to introduce our mints on a mission to Scandinavia and are here to find the perfect partner. Possibly you?
Nordic Organic Food Fair