‘My idea brings recipes to life!’

Prima (UK) - - Ladies Who Launch -

Keen home chef Pia Varma, 35, from Cheltenham, was fed up with buy­ing bot­tles of al­co­hol for her cook­ing when all she needed was a splash

‘Ihad my eu­reka mo­ment at Christ­mas two years ago. I was buy­ing in­gre­di­ents to make cran­berry sauce, which re­quired a splash of port. It’s not some­thing I drink, so I scoured the shelves for a small bot­tle, aware that a large one would sit in my cup­board un­used. I couldn’t find any­thing, and thought, “If only you could buy lit­tle sa­chets of al­co­hol to use in your cook­ing.” I de­cided there and then that I would make it hap­pen.

My fam­ily have al­ways loved cook­ing. I grew up ex­per­i­ment­ing in the kitchen with my dad, Anil, and my mum, Kimmy. They loved my idea, so we de­cided to pool some sav­ings and start the busi­ness to­gether. I was work­ing for an elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing firm at the time but, af­ter a few months, I quit so I could pour all my en­ergy into the busi­ness.

IT’S IN THE BAG

I knew I wanted to name the brand Just A Splash, and I wanted the al­co­hol to come in sa­chets, so it had a ‘foodie’ feel. They would cost only £1.99 each – a big drop from the price of a bot­tle.

Start­ing the busi­ness was a steep learn­ing curve. We had trou­ble sourc­ing the prod­ucts; port needs to come from Porto and sherry from An­dalucía, and af­ter pay­ing im­port duty we couldn’t have such a low price point. We con­sid­ered mak­ing flavour­ings, but when I tried cook­ing with a “brandy” flavour­ing, it tasted like medicine...

Even­tu­ally, we found a com­pany that spe­cialises in cook­ing al­co­hol. They al­ready sold to restau­rants, so we worked with them to make the liquor suit­able for home cooks, us­ing the ex­act al­co­hol per­cent­age to add a de­li­cious flavour but not over­power the dish.

We launched at the In­ter­na­tional Food and Drink Ex­hi­bi­tion last year. Our stand was ex­cit­ing; we had chefs cook­ing with the prod­ucts and at­tracted lots of at­ten­tion. Mum started chat­ting to a man who, we later dis­cov­ered, was an Ocado rep­re­sen­ta­tive. We booked a meet­ing with Ocado for a few months later. Mum sadly passed away that sum­mer, and the meet­ing was booked the day be­fore her funeral. Dad and I nearly didn’t go, but be­cause Mum was so pas­sion­ate about the busi­ness we de­cided to do it for her. Ocado now stocks our prod­ucts, and I know she would’ve been thrilled.

An­other amaz­ing achieve­ment was win­ning the Food­bev Award for the best in­gre­di­ent in­no­va­tion. Some of our cook­ing al­co­hols, which in­clude sherry, marsala and rum, are sold in the London branches of health food chain Whole Foods, and we hope to get them stocked in su­per­mar­kets. We’re grow­ing rapidly; I’m so ex­cited to see where it will go.’ • Find Just A Splash on Ocado.com

For Pia, good things come in small pack­ages

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