In today’s ever-changing food landscape of new dietary requirements and increasing allergies, it’s often hard to find a product that can be enjoyed by everyone. Step forward Real Good Ketchup, the Hampshire-based condiment brand that’s allergen-free, vegan-friendly, cruelty-free and suitable for diabetics.
Launched in 2016, the company set out to create a no added sugar ketchup that didn’t compromise on taste, and since then have racked up a host of awards and added a Smokey BBQ flavour to their line. We spoke to founder Elizabeth Jones - our fabulous guest on the Sugar Awareness episode of The Erudus Podcast - to get the sauce on Real Good Ketchup just in time for National Ketchup Day...
It’s a family affair
We’re a small, family run business, but we’re very experienced in food – we’ve all worked in the health and wellness platforms, some of us for 10 years, some of us 20 years. So collectively we bring a lot to the table, and we wanted to do something where we could make the most difference with our skills and expertise. Table sauces was one area that really stood out – the general public might not know how much sugar there is in something like a table sauce. We did our research, and worked out where we felt we could get to. So it wasn’t something we randomly came across in the kitchen, it was something we set out to achieve.
They want to help people make healthier choices
We are dedicated to health and wellness at our core. Real Good Ketchup has over 75% less sugar and salt than regular ketchup. We realise and understand that sugar reduction is really critical globally, and who are the people most at risk with sugar? Children, diabetics – diabetes is at crisis level, and there’s also those wanting to lose weight and a big group of people on the autism spectrum, as well as people with various food allergens. That’s actually a very large percentage of people. For us as a business it’s about being market ready and available to all these customers no matter where they are in the world, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The product’s USP is no added sugar, not sugar-free
Sugar as a cooking ingredient does 2 things (other than sweeten) – it’s a thickener and a natural preservative, so once you take sugar out, you lose those attributes. We wanted to deliver the full ketchup experience, not only in taste, but in appearance and consistency. It took about 18 months to develop the Real Good Ketchup recipe. The consistency was quite a challenge, but now it’s no different to regular ketchup – if you stick a chip in it you get a blob on the end and there’s a nice gloss. It is slightly grainier, because we use more natural ingredients, more tomatoes and less processing. All of those cues say ‘natural’ to our customers. We’re using real food ingredients – tomatoes, onion, garlic and no flavourings, that’s why we’re no added sugar rather than sugar-free, where to get to that claim and status you have to use ingredients such as flavourings that often have a zero calorie content. But nutritional value is more important to us – our ketchup is a source of Vitamin C and Lycopene.
Schools love Real Good Ketchup
Before we launched we did trials with different age groups, and we noticed that children under 16 were really positive about the taste – how it tasted homemade and natural. That surprised us, because our ketchup is quite adult, it’s got tang, and bite. But it’s wonderful to provide something that is healthy and enriching and enjoyable for children, so while our whole business is not focused on schools, we have found success in that environment [in a foodservice capacity] and are now in probably over 40 schools in the South, with more coming onboard weekly.
They have a personal connection to being allergen-safe
My son, who’s now in his early 20s, also inherited quite severe food allergies. He’s anaphylactic and many things – from nuts to fish to raspberries, never entered our household. So I’ve lived pretty much dairy and 14 Allergen-free for the past 20 years. There are lots of people with different food sensitivities and allergies, and if we can incorporate all of those into one recipe it means we have a wider audience for our innovation. We always make sure our ingredients are 14 allergen-free, as well as clean and plant-based.
Clean ingredients are key to their recipes
One of the pillars of our brand is that our customers can always be reassured of the quality of our ingredients. With every ingredient there is a breakdown in the specification – salt is a good example of that. Some commercial salt used in production may, in a very small quantity, have an additive or a thickener in its make-up. And it’s not uncommon to be used in large scale production. We will look into, shall we say the small print, and choose an ingredient that doesn’t have that component. So we’ve gone with a very simple, clean sea salt as opposed to a regular salt you might find in processed food.
Only natural sugar substitutes make the grade
When selecting our ingredients, we look beyond the idea of a sugar substitute – we ask, ‘what benefit does this bring to the customer enjoying our ketchup?’ We chose plant based xylitol, which takes its name from the Greek word for wood and is a completely natural sugar alternative. School children are given xylitol ‘sweets’ after they meals in Finland because of its positive dental properties reducing bacteria and increasing mineralisation. It has a natural sweetness that brings out the tomato flavour beautifully. Our xylitol comes from sustainable woodlands in Scandinavia, from the bark of beech and birch trees.There is a difference between plant-based and artificial sweeteners such as saccharine. We will only work on the natural platform. We’re very interested in all the new plant based ingredients such as monk fruit, natural stevia leaf and xylitol which are low GI and suitable for Type 2 diabetes.
Protecting the environment influences their packaging choices
It’s very difficult for recycling plants to pick coloured plastic off the belt as its going through, so we don’t use coloured plastics in any of our products. Only clear and white. And we don’t produce sachets, which sadly end their life in landfill because they’re not recyclable. Our squeezy is 100% recyclable, and it’s made from a plastic that goes back into industrial use. Our pouch is not recyclable at the moment, because of the adhesive, but we expect that to change next year for that to be fully recyclable as well.
The Times and Best of Health are Real Good Ketchup fans
We won a Best of Health award, and that was really important for us because the judges were all nutritionists and what we do is rooted in nutrition – it’s probably why we’re such a good fit for schools. Best of Health really drill down into ingredients and your nutritional deck. It was a confirmation to us that from a nutritional perspective we were on track. We were also pretty blown away by the Food and Drinks Editor at The Times giving us a 5 star review. That was blind tested, so he and his team were doing it purely on taste and quality of the product.
Erudus helps them to be efficient
It was Savona who introduced us to Erudus. On the Savona website we wanted not just an image of our product and the name, but everything about it – so that all of their customers could see exactly what our specification is. [Erudus is] a one-stop shop isn’t it, it’s got everything, it provides all the answers to all the questions anyone could ask in one destination, so it’s a really efficient way of having that information stored in a digital version online, instead of emailing, printing, and sending everything.
You can find more info on Real Good Ketchup and their products here.