Me and my team

Rooted in goodness: Growing ethically and sustainably at ReRooted

By Dan Dawson

- Last updated on GMT

Dawson: “With so much attention around plant-based diets and packaging, we are in a good place”
Dawson: “With so much attention around plant-based diets and packaging, we are in a good place”

Related tags: plant-based, vegan

Milk alternatives firm ReRooted is on a mission to grow ethically and sustainably, according to co-founders Rich Eckersley and Dan Dawson (pictured, left to right).

Founded two years ago, ReRooted Organic is a milk alternatives company that delivers direct to customers in and around Totnes. The business really took off when Riverford Organic Farmers took on our plant milks and, in March, distribution was rolled out from two-thirds of the UK to cover the entire country.

My business partner Rich Eckersley and I started ReRooted as a result of a frustration with two things – the greenwashing of certain plant-based milks, and the disdain for unsustainably and unethically produced dairy.

Rich and his wife, Nicola, decided that they wanted to offer plant-based milks in their zero-waste shop, Earth Food Love, in Totnes. They looked into stocking  some of the leading brands, but soon realised none of them were able to offer their drinks without environmentally damaging packaging.

With a bit more digging they also learned how leading brands were outsourcing the production of their drinks to somewhere in Europe and putting their names on them. The quantity of the ingredients was often questionable as well.

So, they decided to get their products made locally, and they approached me, a local chef, to see if I wanted to make some at home in a blender and a nut milk bag. I said yes, and it quickly became clear that there was a lot more scope than one shop could provide. At that point ReRooted was born.

I’m more of a thinker, and Rich tends to be more of a doer. We approach the possibilities and problems of the business from different and, most of the time, complementary angles. It seems to work pretty well for us. Nicola, who manages the social media, is a constant sounding board and level-headed, refining rudder for the business, without whom we wouldn’t be in the position we are in now.

My main responsibilities are managing the milk production unit, product development and ethical sourcing. Rich manages the deliveries, the finances, and is also the master bottler. Our roles are interchangeable, and we have influence over each other’s work.

Range expansion

Our plant milk range currently comprises Almond, Coconut, and the recently introduced Oat. A Barista flavour will be available soon and, later in the year, we’ll have Hazelnut, Chocolate Hazelnut and Hemp. As simple as they are, there have been many tweaks to make our plant milks the way they are today. For example, it took us two years to perfect our three-ingredient coconut milk.

With the almond milk, we soak and roast our almonds to remove the phytic acid – a seed growth inhibitor that works to block the absorption of other nutrients in the human body. We blend them up in triple- filtered water with a powerful blending arm.

This rough mixture is then passed through a fine mesh bag, which is squeezed by a hydraulic press. The milk is then emulsified with a pinch of sea salt with the same blending arm, but with a different attachment, before being pumped into the bottling line for hand-bottling and pasteurisation.

With so much attention around plant-based  diets and plastic packaging, we are in a good place to grow as a business. We produce vegan products, always organically certified, sourcing them as locally as possible, using glass packaging that we wash and refill many times. We use an electric van, powered by renewable energy from Ecotricity.

Of course, we are not without our challenges. The major one is to produce something that has the same versatility and usability as cow’s milk but without involving or imprisoning an animal.

A question of price

The second challenge is to keep our price points relative to the other non-dairy brands that are already on market. Glass costs much more to buy than disposable packaging, and we also have to factor in the cost of washing the bottles.

We source our almonds from the ethical worker’s cooperative Infinity Foods, sourced from Spain and Italy. We also only ever buy organic.

The two-thirds nationwide Riverford rollout exceeded expectations, with a 300% increase in sales. We currently produce just over 1,000 litres a week, so I suppose it would be reasonable to predict going nationwide will double that. We still have a bit of room to grow in our unit, but we plan to expand within six months.

There is huge scope to expand distribution further, and we have had a lot of contact from interested retailers and distributors. We are taking our time with it, though, to ensure that the quality and reliability of our products is maintained to an impeccable standard as we grow. We are also in preliminary talks with investors at the moment, but nothing has been finalised.

Long-term, the ambition is to become a household name, known and trusted as the most delicious and ethical plant-based milk available.

We plan to have as many of our ingredients as possible grown for us in the UK, and to have direct influence over the environmental standards of those that have to be grown further afield. If we continue on the same path, I’m sure we can achieve our aims.

ReRooted Organic

Location:​ Unit 11, Burke Road, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 5XL Turnover: £250k (in 2020). Projected to reach £500k in 2021 and £1m by 2022.
Staff:​ Five.
Products:​ Organic plant milks – Almond, Coconut and Oat. Customers: Delivered direct to local area and nationwide through Riverford.
Factory size:​ 186m2
Factory output:​ 1,200 litres a week (soon to increase).
Dan Dawson:“My interests include foraging, cooking, rewilding, yoga, climbing and progressive parenting.”

Related topics: Operations

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