Interview with Behnam Heydaripour, co-founder of Borna Foods

Borna Foods are a young British company based in the UK, and they know their nuts! They serve both local and international markets and have become leaders in innovative pistachio, almond and cashew products.

Co-founder Behnam Heydaripour explains why they’re on a mission to open your mind to the wonderful world of nut products.

What’s your career background?

I studied Bachelor’s and Master’s business at a London-based university (Greenwich) before transferring to Oxford University’s Executive Leadership programme.

You could say that Bahram and I earned our ‘nut stripes’ from the ground up having both grown up picking pistachios on farms earned by a family friend. We honestly love each and every aspect of the business, from scouring the world for best-in-class ingredients to seeing finished product on shelf. It was only once we’d learnt the wholesale and export ropes that we turned our attention.

What makes Borna Foods stand out from the crowd?

We come at nuts products from a unique perspective as we’re a business that made its name in fine nut procurement, wholesale and export. Our starting point is never settling for second best ingredients  

What are the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome?

Needless nut apathy. Amazing nuts like pistachios have historically been horribly under-used in UK food whilst elsewhere too many nut-themed products have been compromised by settling for  lower-grade ingredients, cheap ‘padding out’ fillers and a lack of truly galvanising aromatic flavour blends. 

And your proudest moment?

Hard to choose a single highlight as there have been a fair few in our business’s short life, but if you’re putting me on the spot I’d say:

  • Our Whole Foods listing (Feb 2019) which was without question a step-change moment that put us on the UK’s highly prized health-conscious retailer map.
  • The launch of our pistachio milks which have created a NEW genuinely innovative caveat in a product category (nut milks) where authentic discernment was thin on the ground.
  • Our Ocado shop which not only gives us scope to showcase our rapidly expanding range but puts our business on a nationwide retail footing.
  • Underpinning our Greenwich roots by winning the 2021,  Made in Greenwich Award.  

What’s been your biggest lockdown lesson?

We certainly weren’t the only food and drink business that learnt over Lockdown that our online presence could be significantly better than it had been in the past. Our Amazon business has flourished at a staggering rate since reprioritising it as a lead retailer, whilst our NEW Ocado shop is also showing very encouraging progress despite having only been genuinely up and running for a small number of weeks.  

Lockdown was a time when health-conscious consumers were no longer prepared to settle for the tired ‘samey’ products being hawked by a majority of the major supermarkets. Consumers were inspired in greater numbers to surf the net and track down ‘intriguing’ speciality foods and tasteful alternative retailers whose focus is to unearth amazing brands of tomorrow.    

Who is your ideal customer?

Appreciative nut enthusiasts who realize that the power of best-in-class nuts has only just begun to be harnessed, pistachio lovers who wonder why this noble nut has been historically overlooked when it comes to genuine, nut-based product innovation (milks, butters, nut cups, soups….), the wider vegan fraternity, coeliacs and vocal opponents of food products that resort nasty/needless palm oil. 

What’s your vision?

As a proud London-based business we want to be part of the local community, giving back where ever feasible. In 2020 we aligned with the Felix Project, a London-focused charity that recognises that each and every day there are 400,000 children at risk of missing their next meal, while the UK food industry generates over 3 million tonnes of good, edible surplus food each and every year.

We think ‘bridging’ food distribution charities that reach out to the too often overlooked should be supported at each and every opportunity.

What’s a brand you admire, and why?

We’re massive fans of Pip and Nut, the way that Pip and Nut have repositioned a traditional staple (peanut butter) as an upmarket offering with countless ambitious flavour flourishes (coconut, maple….) and intriguing line extensions (peanut cups, hospitality-size jars). It’s too easy for a product category to be written off, so we admire any inspired business that is only too happy to nudge the goalposts.

What’s next for Borna Foods?

Anything with a nut-based leaning plays to our strengths. Trail mixes our the latest addition to the Borna Foods staple as they play to our all-natural/healthier living priorities, whilst underpinning a long-held belief of ours that trail mixes in the past have over-indexed in nutritional wealth but underwhelmed in terms of indulgence. 

Find out more about Borna Foods.