Friendly food: Frustration at not being able to find healthy meals to eat at work inspired former office worker Ella Bertie-Roberts to start the JarBar from her kitchen in Woodstock. Picture: SUPPLIED
Friendly food: Frustration at not being able to find healthy meals to eat at work inspired former office worker Ella Bertie-Roberts to start the JarBar from her kitchen in Woodstock. Picture: SUPPLIED

Busy Capetonians (that’s not a contradiction) who don’t have the ability or desire to make their own meals are finding help from JarBar, a company that delivers healthy, free-range salads and soups in a jar.

"The inspiration came from my own daily frustration of not having access or being able to find healthy, delicious and convenient food," says co-founder Ella Bertie-Roberts.

"I used to work in an office environment and also noticed the negative impact on my colleagues’ performance after eating high carb, processed and/or food high in sugar."

JarBar began from her kitchen in Woodstock in July 2015. She started out slowly by saving up some money, limiting orders and doing everything herself: managing the website, dealing with orders, promoting it on social media, preparing the food and making the deliveries.

"Now I pretty much run and manage everything," she says.

"This includes managing staff, delivery logistics, recipe development, costing, stock management, managing the website, managing the orders, dealing with customer queries, social media and marketing," says Bertie-Roberts.

"We have just hired our second driver as we are expanding our delivery areas into the southern suburbs, so that makes us a team of five. I think our awesome and reliable staff has been a key milestone so far, as well as attaining our own new delivery scooter."

The company sources all its produce and stock from specialised local suppliers. It has 40 to 70 customers a day. They order products through its website as well as on UberEATS or OrderIn for lunch or dinner during the week.

"In an effort to be as sustainable as possible, we only order produce based on orders received," says Bertie-Roberts.

"This means you need to pre-order your jars through our website by each Thursday at 6pm for delivery the following Monday onwards, although we sometimes extend our ordering times if it’s possible. We also sell our food in reusable jars, for which we charge a once-off R25 deposit fee per jar you have on hand. You exchange your empty jar(s) to receive new ones."

The menu is constantly changing, depending on what’s available. Items include beef cottage pie (made with sweet potato mash and topped with Italian parsley); the prodigy (with bacon, feta, avocado, quinoa in lemon extra virgin olive oil and balsamic dressing, tomatoes, caramelised onion, mixed seeds and baby spinach); Thai green cashew nut curry (vegan or with chicken); and Franky falafel (homemade falafel balls, paprika hummus dressing, cumin roasted carrots and cauliflower, purple cabbage strips and micro greens).

"We have a large variety of different cuisines to suit all taste buds, with a vegan and free-range meat option on our menu every day. We like to try and keep things interesting for our loyal customers so that if you had to order from us every day, you wouldn’t eat the same thing twice," she says.

Popular products

The most popular products have never been removed from its menu because customers never tire of them, nor does JarBar. These are the roasted Charlie (free-range roasted chicken with homemade basil macadamia nut pesto dressing, roasted mixed seasonal veggies topped with mixed seeds and wild rocket) and the Thai chicken sweet potato soup.

"Our typical customers are health-conscious people who work in a busy office environment and like to enjoy a balanced and active lifestyle, but don’t always have the time to prepare their own food," Bertie-Roberts says.

"What appeals to them is the convenience of having wholesome and healthy food with no additives or sugar delivered to their door and the fact that they are making a choice to become more sustainable with our reusable jars."

One of the food trends she is excited about is people becoming more conscious of what they eat. Add to this the growth of plant-based diets and she sees massive potential for JarBar, although she acknowledges that the food industry is a tough one to get right, given the unpredictable but ever-rising cost of produce.

"We plan to grow all our own produce as far as possible, especially with the water shortages, because we believe we can grow our own produce more sustainably with less impact on the environment," she says.

"We are also looking to secure premises within the city where there are a lot of businesses with hungry people for lunch each day.

"We want to use our voice to educate our fellow Capetonians to become more sustainable and to reuse, recycle, eat well and live a balanced lifestyle.

"The key to it all is balance and if you cannot reuse, then you can easily recycle so that your waste will be repurposed."

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