starkVictoria Starke formed Suffolk-based Stark Naked Foods, one of the exhibitors at last month’s Real Food Festival, in response to growing demand for fresh pesto that is 100% natural, pure and yummy and made from locally grown produce from their farm. Stark Naked started creating its pure pesto in 2000, and business has grown considerably since as word got round. “We may have had to stay small for a while doing this,” says Victoria, “but we knew consumers would demand it.”

After the Real Food Festival, The Grocery Trader caught up with Victoria at Chestnuts Farm, where the Starke family have grown herbs for over 100 years. She told us: “Harvest has started for Stark Naked Foods, with the arrival of coriander last week. It was so fresh it was back to our farm in twenty minutes from the field, and we washed and chopped it as quickly as possible to make our luscious fresh green pesto. Moving to our English herbs, we can definitely taste a big difference.

“The harvesting goes on from now until late October, and we aim to get the most out of the 10,000 tons of herbs we grow each year, supported by the other farmers contracted to us. It’s amazing to think that as a family we started growing herbs in the mid eighteen century for perfumes, and this is still going today, and how much use we are now getting from our herbs. We dry herbs and freeze them, and now four generations later we have our first brand name in the family with our fresh English pesto. We have even got Michelin star chefs that have written about our pesto, we have won “Best Pesto” awards, and best of all Market Kitchen on the top five pesto, putting us as the real winner, beating M&S who came third.”

Victoria was very pleased with Stark Naked’s participation in the Real Food Festival: “The Festival for us was about promoting the brand to customers, and meeting real chefs, who don’t have the luxury of kitchen gardens in the middle of London and rely on herbs delivered to their kitchens that aren’t always as fresh as they could be. Our aim is to make the best and freshest pesto possible with the finest ingredients we found, which took a long time to get right but we’re there.

“The Festival was everything we could want, with customers going mad for our new portion controlled packaging USE ONE FREEZE ONE, which means no more food waste for our customers. This is a big investment for us, but it’s the right move. At the Festival the message also got through widely and clearly to the general public that concentrated products are best, reducing storage and running fewer lorries on the roads. We’ve done this by not diluting our pesto with excessive amounts of oils and bulking out agents to increase profits. Our pesto serves four people for 150gms, because of its concentrated flavours.”

2009 looks like being a very exciting year indeed for Victoria Starke. Stark Naked currently supplies Sainsbury’s nationally and has recently launched with Waitrose in selected stores. It also provides pesto to farm shops, restaurants and deli’s. The company has just been shortlisted for the Country Living and Waitrose Made In Britain Awards 2009.

Stark Naked Foods
Tel: 01379 870010

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