027- A More Mindful Approach to Business and Snacking with Stephanie Peritore from Mindful Bites

We’re getting deep and meaningful in this episode of Good Foodies. Stephanie Peritore grew up in Sicily and has always felt a connection with food and the land it comes from.

After a successful career in finance she embraced her passion for food and launched Mindful Bites, a healthy snack brand that champions Mindful Eating. This way of connecting with food encompasses the techniques of present awareness, and intentional eating. Tune in to discover a different side of food, eating and business.

In this episode you’ll learn

  • How our relationship with food has changed over time
  • The massive disconnect between the way we eat and the food supply chain
  • The four pillars of mindful eating
  • The challenges of feeding a growing and changing population
  • Why bold action is required to create a sustainable future of food

Notes and Links

Buy Mindful Bites online

Episode Transcript

Guy: [00:00:03] You’re listening to Good Foodies and this is Episode 27. The reason I’m speaking quietly is because I’m in the middle of a co-working space where I’ve just wrapped up a fascinating interview with Stephanie Peritore. Stephanie, I hope I pronounced that correctly. Stephanie is the founder and CEO of Mindful Bites. They’re a healthy snack brand and they’re all about mindful eating and our relationship with food. We just had a wonderful chat. We got a little bit deep and meaningful, a little bit different than the usual kind of episodes that we have here on the podcast. But it was really really interesting and I hope you enjoy it as well. So let’s jump right into that conversation with Stephanie.

Stephanie: [00:00:46] Yes I think that my personal experience is I’ve always been very highly connected with food. First of all, I was born in Sicily and as you know Italians are pretty big on food and everything we do really evolves around food. And I think this is particularly so in Sicily which is a small island heavily dependent on agriculture and fisheries. So you are brought up observing real hands, the hard labor of farmers, fishermen. How many different factors play their role in terms of the weather, the land, all that hard work. How vulnerable everything is the ecosystem themselves, so I think the place has really huge impact the way you connect to, not just food, but also the land itself you know.

Guy: [00:01:39] And in terms of growing up there in Sicily and the kind of food that you were working with and surrounded by, were you a cook yourself? Or did you just enjoy the eating side of it?

Stephanie: [00:01:48] I was brought up in a family that there’s an awful lot of cooking and my grandparents in particular, they did have land and had crops in particular of almonds, oranges, lemons, and olives. So the experience of producing olive oil played a huge part in my life, I think. Even seen there for example the wastage of that process, how that can be reused. And I think, for example you can make soap from everything that gets disregarded from when you make olive oil.

Guy: [00:02:22] Hang on a second, making soap from the olives that are leftover and the seeds and stuff like that. Is that right?

Stephanie: [00:02:28] Yes. So effectively, they used to turn the residual part from producing extra virgin olive oil into soap. And for me, that was one of the first times that I have this really vivid memories as a child of not really been able to understand how they could turn something that you know oil in your mind just associate with something stains your clothes. And all of a sudden it becomes something that cleans your clothes. And I think I’ve found all of that, always incredibly fascinating. And I also have you know those memories of you know the whole process of for example picking up almonds from a tree and the almond when it’s fresh and then they let it dry. And even that experience of the kind of grandparents that were picking up these things and the spraying that they were keeping them away for the winter, that kind of doing it now for later. So looking after it knowing that the land will give this to you now but it’s quite precious and you have to save it for later on. And they were always safe for the winter when it’s really cold and you don’t have all these beautiful fruit available so we’ll dried this for later. There was this great relationship I think with the land and how they kind of always looked after the land. But with that level of care and I think both my grandparents died you know when there are 100 years old. So something about that life must have been quite right. Whether he was eating a load of fresh produce from the land or I really think it was the level of care with the environment that they were inhabiting, that awareness that they needed to leave a better than they took it. I think always stayed with me.

Guy: [00:04:17] Yeah and it’s really interesting too because the way that you talk about it I can almost see you kind of remembering back to those times gone by and the way that you talk about that kind of connection with the food and literally being able to pick the almonds off the tree. I’m just trying to remember back myself I don’t think I’ve ever seen an almond tree because every time I always pick up almonds they’re in a plastic packet in a supermarket which is a really sad thing isn’t it?

Stephanie: [00:04:41] It is really sad and sometimes when I get to speak about the reasons why I started Mindful Bites and the firm believe, the food, more than anything else acts as a connective tissue between people. Really mean that you can sometimes sit there and look at, I look at an almond, I literally smell the smell of the tree of the almonds have when they blossom and I go back in time to that moment to the experiences. I really relieved specific memories and I think there’s very few things that can create this series of emotions that the memories just like food you know make you relieve third thing emotions just like food can.

Guy: [00:05:23] Yeah it really is a powerful thing and there’s so much potential around food a form of sustenance and nutrition and few B4 community and sharing with friends and family and stuff like that. But then there is almost this deeper connection that I think it very much speaks to you about how the food can kind of connect almost with your soul. And it’s funny I don’t often think about food this way or talk about food this way but just listening to you and telling the stories and watching how you kind of hold yourself and talk about food it really feels like that’s what you truly believe about food. Would that be fair to say?

Stephanie: [00:05:56] Absolutely. I really think it holds in itself a huge amount of emotions and a deep meaning. I really see a deep meaning inside foods but also if you think about it at least in Sicily where I come from you have those moments of pausing during the day which the infamously long eternal lunches. But truly during those moments you are poor thing and you are checking with other people how they are and say if you for example we come home from school. Entire families sitting around the table having lunch and your mum is asking you how you are. She isn’t just asking you like give me a quick come good. She’s actually asking you to let her know exactly how you felt during the day, what happened. You have sufficient time and you know, I have a huge plate of a huge bowl of spaghetti in front of you so actually you have time to cover the whole issue. I think that has always created for me a little bit of practice in terms of stopping during the day, reconnecting with how I feel and figuring out what truly was going on. Times we carry on during the day through kind of almost an autopilot. We know that there are things that we ought to get done. So we carry on but we haven’t really given ourselves the chance to stop and go. Like how is it that I’m feeling right now? What is it that I’m going through? What is it that is going through my mind? Am I feeling happy? Am I feeling okay? I think for me food represents and this is why the mind fleet is started and I think when we modernise I learnt about mindful eating as a technique. I kind of realise that it’s what we had always been doing at home. That moment of eating slowly around the table and just reconnecting emotionally not going through the emotion through the necessity reading because trust me in any time family you never really go hungry and you’re not around the table because you’re starving, you’re around the table to connect emotionally. I felt that really was my fleeting, you just probably just referred to this as lunch but that’s all there was.

Guy: [00:08:13] And it’s really interesting to hear the way that you talk about it because when you speak of these things it has an amazing feeling like in my heart or somewhere. I’m not entirely sure where I fear that this is not most people’s experience of food. I think most people are brushed or they’re impatient or they want the three minute microwave meal and they don’t even want to wait for the one minute for it to cool down at the end. So is that something that you’ve seen a lot of and I imagine is something that kind of hurts you a bit.

Stephanie: [00:08:41] Totally and I also, this is just what has just come to my mind is somebody way more clever and successful than me said that if you don’t have 10 minutes for yourself you don’t really have a life. And I think we are all capable of finding per minute. And I think whereas at applying mindful eating at every single meal three meals a day would most likely not be feasible and would be that kind of efforts, that kind of cool thing that you try for a week and then you give up because it doesn’t really have a place in the, it’s not really in line with the goal of people. You have to also take into account that people have a journey to follow. They can’t stop everything because somebody selling them eating a more mindful way and everything is going to be okay. So we have to figure out a way that you can give them a little pill of mindful eating and that is gonna work for them. So why we always refer when our tagline does it’s not quite intention and it’s because sometimes you can just use the moment of snacking. This is probably anything between 5 ,10, 12 minutes. Little moment of pause where you stop even if snacking, your snacking time can only be four minutes, five minutes make those four, five minutes a moment took presence where you are firmly in the now, you are observing the food, you give a little thought to what that food is going to do for you, and whether that there is a match between what you need and what that food can provide. Since our snacking is just reaching out in a very mindless way towards whatever is available it’s be what I refer to as mindless grazing that is a very different dimension than clearly mindful eating where you’re sitting down. It’s I think When we are grazing mindlessly, we are responding to emotional needs not physical needs. The question there is not really. Are you hungry but it’s a different emotion. You’re not really responding to, your body’s not asking for food, it is expressing a level of discomfort with something a level of unhappiness somehow we’ve trained our brains to reach out for food then get the comfort used for this as pacifier. But we haven’t really connected with emotion at the moment and I think it’s important to use even if it can only be done even if mindful eating can only be done at a snack time that moment to pause things slowing everything down. Finding headspace really that’s all it is. I think it’s very important.

Guy: [00:11:23] You’re just talking about all of these really really interesting ways of thinking about food and how sometimes when you kind of reach for a snack it’s more of an emotional thing rather than the need for food or for eating. So what are some things that people can do to be a bit more mindful of these different kinds of reactions?

Stephanie: [00:11:41] So this is very interesting I think these are all from the assumption that mindfulness meditation is just something that is reserved to an experience meditators or monks sitting in Tibet and you know you need that level of experience. This is available to everybody the ability to reconnect who one’s emotions and come back to the present moment is something that is available to absolutely everybody. Sometimes it’s good to try to feel what we are feeling of course but also to pay attention and pay attention to the food can be a great way to start a little mindful journey or mindful daily practice. Just asking ourselves so instead of maybe asking which could be a little bit more difficult for people to start from how we are feeling, trying to get a higher level of awareness of the food we have in front of us. So and sometimes even thinking where those ingredients are coming from, thinking of the land that has allowed us to have access to those ingredients, focusing on the people that would have worked that lands, the people that are involved in even the practicalities of getting that food from whatever location it’s coming from to England. The people that actually end up having that food on the shelves. What is the process? What has happened? Who is involved in all that? If find out, that generates almost immediately an incredibly high level of gratitude towards those people any kind of attempt to probably over eat over over consume, waste will be naturally curb down once you actually recognize that this people, this people that have been up before 5:00 a.m. on the land trying to irrigate, trying to save the plants maybe from a parasite, trying to do a number of things picking up the fruit, packing it. But then a lot of hard work, physical labor so that we could end up eating that. And I think that is an incredibly powerful tool. So I learned an awful lot. Clearly I had the background from more at the farm inside of course but I have learned a huge amount by spending time even on the manufacturing side and seeing how much hard work goes there that it isn’t everything as immediate as one would think that there’s an awful lot of trial and error, there’s an awful lot of understanding, all ingredients, chemistry, the biochemistry of food. So up to that point probably I was very ready to point the finger you know big food on how everything that they were doing was mean, it was against humans’ health, how hard they were trying to just make big money until I think they got to spend time there. I understood the difficulties that you have in trying to make food available for everybody, Which you know we would all love to be able to kind of create super healthy food. But the challenge we really have let’s face it my fruit bites is not gonna feed everybody on the planet and no other food start up as beautiful as the message and everything we do is think we’re not going to feed an ever increasing population of people, you saw their need, the technology, the manufacturing, the access, the controlling up the supply chain, the traditional big food companies have, they probably need us to understand what the market is demanding. We are probably more the voice and I feel Big Food is the enabler where a little bit more the carrier of the message. But I think we are definitely in a very interesting time right now where I think you have the new and traditional way coming together.

Guy: [00:15:31] It’s really interesting to hear you speak about that because it feels like a very aware way of speaking. You clearly able to see the benefits of small companies who can move fast and they can create brand new things that have never been thought of. All they can do all things in a new way. But then the kind of the awareness that that isn’t the complete solution is really interesting and I guess that comes back to this whole thing of being mindful and thinking rather than just doing and not getting the head down and off you go. Where is that come from in you? or is it just been a very slow process throughout the years of listening and learning and picking things up?

Stephanie: [00:16:05] I’m by nature a problem solver and again I think that probably comes from being Sicilian and being living on an island and on an island that has had the number of issues Mafi included. And there you have to learn to color, make a do with the resources as opposed to live in a dreamy cuckoo land. There is you know, these resources which are limited and at times very difficult situation so you learn how to become a problem solver. So I guess I applied the same thing and oftentimes even when I discuss it with the team more with the consumer we will like everybody to be part of not anymore part of the problem. We don’t point fingers, we don’t call people obese, we don’t say then the bad people creating the bad food. We don’t focus so much on the problem but because we think everybody can be part of the solution. We focus on that side not the action, the huge, firework massive action of one person. The reason going to be one hero, there is going to be a collective effort, there is going to be a trend that changes.This probably gonna be people that are going to be you know, your elite runners that will be there and they will carry a message and they will have occasionally to speak very loud and occasionally they will have to whisper and you know that’s where you’ve really got to have. But this is an effort that will have to take into account to everybody. The reason I think the challenges we have also in terms of feeding the population in terms of having to change an entire manufacturing industry that has to adopt the strains on the climate in a very delicate situation from a security standpoint. Let’s not forget all that part and you know we’re coming from over a half a century of global security. So we’ve been safe. We haven’t really witnessed war. And now we are witnessing now is let’s say a very delicate global equilibrium behind the issues of you know climate issues and depleted resources. So I think we all have to understand that this is going to require effort, collective effort from everybody. There will have to be a solution but we have to embrace, this is not something that we failed we must do this. We have to embrace this because we need to feel that we want a better way. We want to feel that we want to be part of this greater solution. We want this change to happen in this way. Otherwise it’s going to be really impossible.

Guy: [00:18:42] And so with all of that in mind and everything that you’ve talked about and this kind of connection to food and the mindful way of approaching it I guess also there are health concerns as well in terms of eating food that is good for you rather than just stuff that you want to stuff your face with because of some emotional reaction. We should probably talk a bit about the brand and the product line that you guys have and how you are, not the solution but part of the solution in this movement. Can you tell us a little bit about mindful bites and your range of products?

Stephanie: [00:19:09] Yes, Mindful Bites is quite innovative brands of premium not batteries, very different snacks. They’re all created with health and indulgence in mind. They’re inspired by my fleeting and sustainable consumption. We launched that Whole Foods Market in February 2017 and very soon we gained quite a lot of listings with Arby Nico’s, Elkridge is, Revital, Planets Organic, we are on Amazon. We have a very active web store that we manage ourselves. And we also have an incredibly high level of engagement with consumers across social media. A lot of them are truly friends of the brand so they get in touch and we have developed a fantastic relationship. Since we launched and they’ve been really behind the brand and these are the obvious people that you’d imagine so let’s say the early adopters from the fitness community. Unexpected to us, we’ve also had a lot of support from moms, young families, from people that believe in the more sustainable side so that sustainable well-being message that I think we probably are one of the first few companies to bring out there. Also for example people like Ellie Goulding I think has been an incredible supporter of the brand since the beginning and that’s primarily linked to I think the sustainable message. But you know we have a number of quite famous people that are in a degree or another involved with the brand and supported the brands. This is also true that the products thing we wanted to break with the kind of classical brown package of healthy products. You know, we are tree huggers, let’s not make any mistakes. However we are your cool tree huggers, the ones that kind of, there’s a yes there’s that old style like person that is a little bit uncool and is sitting we’re, we’re not that kind, we are loud, outspoken, we are really cool and we’re bold so the colors of the brand are incredibly bold. We don’t seats for with our message, they are not sitting shy you know at the back of the room we are in your face. We are saying to people there has to be a change. Let’s make a small change one bite at a time. We don’t care how small it is but we are going to have to change something as we are out there cool in your face, bold. We attempt to be calm people most of the times we are on some of the issues you will find even meanless, calm. So that’s where we are.

Guy: [00:21:50] And it’s really interesting because in the last few minutes your demeanor has completely changed, your volume has increased and you’ve been getting very passionate about what it is that you do. Of course we’re talking about the company that you’ve created but it’s really interesting how we started off the conversation and it was very, very calm and peaceful and mindful. And yet that still goes through everything that the brand is but I guess what you’re saying is that in order for that to make a splash and for people to sit up and notice you also have to be really bold and out there about it. Would you agree with that?

Stephanie: [00:22:21] You could have not said this in a better way it’s exactly a thing. There’s a moment of thinking time, collecting all the pieces. I think I’ve done a lot of that I’ve done all the studying. I think I’ve done my time in the manufacturing side studying the supply chain. Spending time with the farmers, all of that. But I think the time of action has to be a little bit bolder. We don’t really have that much time to dwell and think about it. There is 1 billion people that are starving and 1 billion are obese which is I think haven’t quite seen the cons and this is quite ridiculous. If you think that a lot of the malnutrition is in countries where we take a lot of the ingredients for our food from those countries where children are suffering the higher levels of malnutrition. If you think that those children with one tablespoon of peanut butter per day they would get sufficient levels of protein not to give them the happiest life but to ensure,so it wouldn’t be optimum nutrition, it would be a level of nutrition that would allow them a normal development. I think if you’re not even allowed to develop in a normal way what chances do you actually have in life if you are slowed down in your, if you’re not able to fulfill your full potential. That is not really a fair way. It’s not a fair chance and I think to have the opposite situation, the high level of obesity and all the resources that will have to be used employed to tackle it starts probably as a lifestyle problem, it then becomes a proper conditions. We can’t really, at that point, once it has turned into a disease, it’s not something that the individual can rectify alone. It requires a medical intervention. We have to bear that in mind we don’t really have an awful lot of time to wait and think in 20 years. The problem will be incredibly difficult for us to figure out a way to feed if the population carries on growing at the level that it is growing. We will have any incredibly huge problem of shortage of food. So 20 years seems like a long time and it actually isn’t. To this you have to add the fact that they are developing phenomenal ways whether it’s in a mask or somebody else I don’t know, to keep us alive until we’re at 120. So not for long time to be alive especially in a situation where all you’re witnessing is unhappiness around you. There’s a lot of pretty big social issues around you. It’s a very long time to be alive. I think we can’t really sit down, I think we can do a lot of thinking and then there’s a moment of action and the action. It’s not about solving the problem alone it’s contributing whatever way you can. Some days you will be the star of the class, some days you won’t be able to contribute, some days you are a bit distracted you’re doing your own business,you’re on gig, you’re doing something else but can’t really play the card and not participate into this. I don’t really think that there can be an option.

Guy: [00:25:32] Yeah, because even if you don’t play an active part and you kind of passively observe all this stuff happening around you. I mean if all the projections become true and I think it’s something like 10 billion people by 2050, they will need feeding and there will always be this huge contradiction almost. You’ve got obese people on one side and then this, you know food poverty on the other side it is quite crazy. And I guess really the only way that any change will happen is if people change their way of thinking in their mindset which I guess is exactly what you’re talking about in terms of having more understanding of the food and not just eating it for the sake of it but really starting to not learn in a way like you back at school but just understanding a bit more and appreciating more and it’s behavior changes, it is basically what you’re trying to do, isn’t it? And it’s one of the hardest things.

Stephanie: [00:26:22] I couldn’t agree more I think this comes from, I had spend a lot of time in manufacturing industry as I said, but I still was always left with one element which was the neuroscience part which lucky enough I come from the world of Messman Banking and there I had focus primarily on you know the neuroscience of investing so that the kind of behavioral finance and why people take that decision making process was quite relevant to the job I was doing at the time in terms of why people were buying certain things, certain stocks as a persona there you know. So it was quite something that was quite deep in that respect and I got to study a lot of the neuroscience and actually that knowledge became very very powerful very useful because you know once everything was said and done and I had to figure out okay that’s the manufacturing industry, that’s where the ingredients are coming then you have the farmer. There was no one thing that I couldn’t. So I’ve gone through the deep science and the facts. And I was like, okay what happens to the humans? What is the thing? and you know I’ve even gone to observe in terms of the neuroscience for example where, when did we decide the sweet is good and broccoli bad? When did we decide the,let me stuff my face with this much like sweets like chocolate as I can and let me just drop up broccoli because I don’t like that. Actually that connection with sugary fatty food is one of the most like deeply rooted connections because it’s rooted in the hypothalamus. So it’s like the frontal lobe of the brain and it starts when we are babies and it’s breast milk, you know, which is high in sugar, any fats and that’s because as a baby we need to know the only thing that matters is survival so that milk is like you’re going to get in the milk, I will survive, I’ll be okay. And that stays with us and that kind of stays with us over and over. Let’s say every single time we do have a moment of crisis we will look for high sugary foods and high fatty food for that level of comfort. This is why it’s a very difficult relationship to rewrite. Clearly the manufacturing industry then thanks to the use of you know palm oil because you keep something stable and makes it last forever and sugar because again increases kinda enhances the taste, increases the shelf life so dysfunctional reasons why on top of the fact that there are that cheap of course is only. So the manufacturing industry has only carried on replicating that story of life. Are you feeling a little bit sad? have some high fatty, high sugary food and the addiction then starts. Because every time you have it you have the dopamine kick just when you were a baby, just when you were being comforted by mommy. OK so I’m going to survive I’m going to be okay. It’s very difficult to rewrite that behavior and to do it in the brain. This is why I think the brands that will survive are not just the brands. You can’t really just go and talk to somebody about macros in expats. Macros will change the behavior leading up to the bikini season. So you need a bikini body you can do the maths around macros and for that short term like very limited, very narrow goal I need to lose a stone therefore I’ll go on this type of diet. The calculating the macros would work. It’s a narrow very narrow goal short term, short term lift and that’s what you get. And this is probably one of the reasons why diets,highly restricted diets never work. They can kind of cover changing behaviors for a very limited time with a very very narrow goal in mind as much as we think we are all vain. Any stated goal is not sufficient drive for humans way more intelligent than that. So you need a higher purpose if you feel that you are part of a bigger solution, that is probably high enough purpose to start generating and changing behavior where you kinda go like, I might not be able to become vegan? I can however instead of eating meat twice a day everyday, I can perhaps have meat once a week, once every other week, and make sure that the meat’s there. I know exactly the provenance of that meat. I know exactly the life that the cow was having on that farm, right exactly. Not just about the life but the death of that cow. I accept that maybe there’ll be situations where some farm rely on the presence of livestock for their existence and therefore some of the meat has to be there. So maybe I’ll choose that meat instead of going for the ones that has being produced than the animals are kept in situations in conditions that are terrible in a number there will have an impact on the level of carbon dioxide of the environment, we limit that. So I think it’s all about these choices, you know, it’s all about changing the behaviors that you can change, changing whatever is still allowing you to leap in line with your values on your journey in line with the mission that you have. We kind of all decide to be out there saving the planet. So I’m still on my journey but I will take on board these things that probably bring me even closer to my values, probably allow me to live a more authentic life. Certainly one where I have a higher purpose, maybe one where I get distracted from the obsessive checking with myself whether I’m better than the others, whether I’ve got sufficient likes, whether I got the approval, whether the others have moved faster. Maybe I forgot that part and I get a little bit more obsessed with the performance of a collectivity. As a one big family, are we doing better? Are we performing better on this goal of improving this global issues? or are we underperforming? And I think that’s a slightly different way of looking at this.

Guy: [00:32:44] It really is. And it’s such a refreshingly different stance and I guess from listening to you, One of the key things that I think you’re trying to say is that not everyone has to go and be that Elon Musk and change the world as a hero but everybody can do something small, something small that aligns with them and their values and then the way that they see the world and I think that is such an important message. And just to wrap things up have you got one last tip for a couple of tips for how people can live a slightly more mindful life whether it’s by enjoying your products or not?

Stephanie: [00:33:16] We are guests, we are here for a very very very limited time. You were a guest in my house. You would want to make sure that you give me my house back in a nicer state while you leave some flowers on the table and say thank you. We are guest very limited time here, very short passage. I think it’s important that we give this back ideal in a better state than what it was given to us.

Guy: [00:33:44] Stephanie Peritore from Mindful Bites and you can find out more about them and buy their delicious products online at mindfulbites.co.uk. So don’t know about you but I’m feeling really peckish and I’m going to go off and get a snack. I’m not entirely sure what is driving that decision but nevertheless I’m going to go and have a bite to eat. Thank you so much for joining us today. We got just a short episode for you today but we’ll be back next week. And we’ve got a fantastic show lined up for you next week. Be chatting to Pippa Murray from Pip & Nut about all the great work that they’re doing about their nut butters but also some some slightly unusual stuff as well. So we’ll be talking about teams and culture and hiring and all that kind of good stuff. So I hope you can join me then. In the meantime if you want to get any details or notes or links or anything else like that. Just head over to our website at goodfoodies.co.uk. You can find everything you need over there. So thanks so much for joining me. We’ll see you next week. Cheers!