Healthy ready meals for kids launched by Suffolk mum
PUBLISHED: 14:35 27 September 2019
The no added sugar, low sat, gluten and dairy-free dishes include jerk chicken curry and Moroccan lamb meatballs.
A mum of two from Suffolk has just launched her very own range of convenience meals for kids.
Jess Colmer will be in the Start-Up area of Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival this weekend (September 28 and 29) showcasing five new products in her Jess Cooks range…and she hopes other parents and children will enjoy them as much as her family does.
The entrepreneur, who worked in television before moving to the county, previously ran a very successful series of cookery classes for schoolchildren, but when it came to expanding the business, she found herself taking a different turn.
"I'd been working with a business coach for two years, talking about how I could scale that business up. It was doing well and there was a big market for it but there was no money to be made unless I personally delivered the sessions. We decided I needed a product to pool my knowledge and passion for food into. A long time ago I identified a gap in the market for children my kids' age but never had the guts to do it. She just told me to go for it!"
Jess has a long lived passion for cooking - she spent her weekends as a youngster cooking on weekends with her best friend - and has spent the last few decades 'upskilling', saying she's learnt a lot about the way children eat through her cookery classes.
"In terms of fussiness, my son is very fussy, he has no interest in food at all and would live on crisps if I let him - it's just fuel. My daughter though will try most things. All children are different, but through the classes I learnt they are more adventurous than we give them credit for. We always tend to avoid flavour with them. We assume what they will eat is very beige and bland and that's reflected in what you can get at supermarkets. Chicken nuggets and pizza. If you want something quick from the freezer for your kids between swimming and homework and bed, it's those options you have to fall back on.
"I thought, why isn't there a range of premium ready meals aimed at children? Something good quality and healthy, but that most children will like."
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And so Jess Cooks was born. With the 98% recyclable packaging (you just need to remove the plastic film from the cardboard) housing meals which will feed either two small tummies or one older child. Priced at £3.99 each and not bulked out with rice or pasta, the sauces (rated low salt, packed with veggies, with no added sugar, and gluten and dairy-free) include a beef Bolognese, pork ragu, Moroccan lamb meatballs, mild chicken tikka masala and mild jerk chicken curry - a hit with children in her classes.
"From the start my ethos was always not to put anything in these I wouldn't use at home. It's exactly the same values as for when I cook for my own family. So I use local and higher welfare meat - the best I can afford. That includes St George's chickens and lamb, beef and pork mince from Palfrey and Hall in Debenham who I shop with."
Every meal is handmade by Jess who describes them less as ready meals, and more like batch cooking. "They're not ready meals because you have to do a bit yourself, like cooking the rice, potatoes or pasta to go with them. It's more like a batch cook solution you might do at home. You might be busy and think 'I'll grab that spag bol out of the freezer'."
As well as trying the meals at the festival this weekend, customers can get their hands on the new products at Suffolk Food Hall currently, at Budgens in Long Melford and Alder Carr Farm Shop as of the beginning of October and at various other outlets in the autumn.