The Sassy Coconut is a healthy meals business run by Ella-Daisy Williams, a Third year Arabic and French student at the University.
The business was created just over a year ago and has gone from strength to strength since its humble beginnings selling cheesecake. Last week, The Sassy Coconut brought out a range of healthy ready-meals –– stews, curries, chillis, pesto, hummus, and desserts –– which are already hugely popular.
“I had to close down the website, [because] there were so many orders coming in,” Ms Williams said.
She takes the popularity of the business in stride; she’s quietly industrious, and there is no hint of the success of her business being at all bittersweet. Ms Williams’ focus is on the food she creates and experimenting with ingredients. Her biggest success was the creation of a gluten-free cheesecake that doesn’t fall to pieces when it defrosts.
“I finally found a way to make it hold together,” she explained.
When I met Ms Williams, she offered me a taste of her vegan Mexican quinoa and walnut and sun-dried tomato pesto. I can attest that it was delicious, fresh, flavoursome, and all in generously sized portions.
It was lovely meeting the person behind the business; it’s evident that she is highly motivated, something which is reflected in the food. Ms Williams said that, despite coming from a family that was not particularly interested in cooking, she has always loved food, and this is where her creativity in the kitchen stems from.
A few years ago, Ms Williams started suffering from food intolerances, so she stripped down her diet and removed all of the processed elements. The result was a plant-based, mainly raw, vegan diet, and she now feels wonderful.
It’s evident that she is highly motivated, something which is reflected in the food.
“For me, it’s mainly about health and wanting to eat delicious food without it having loads of sugar,” Ms Williams said.
It is tough to find unprocessed desserts, she added, so Ms Williams experimented, and from that her cashew-based cheesecake was born. The cheesecake was deemed a success by those who tried it, so she thought about making it widely available by selling it. Now the cheesecake is so popular that it can be bought by the slice.
Ms Williams has always been entrepreneurial: as a primary school kid at the playground, she sold frozen drinks for 20p. The idea for her latest venture, however, was conceived quite suddenly. Over just a two-day period, she drew up her business model and decided to invest her student loan in The Sassy Coconut. This risky move has paid off, partially because there really is a desire and demand for healthy alternatives to microwave meals. For many people, cooking just isn’t enjoyable; it’s time consuming and at times ungratifying. Because it’s cheaper to buy in bulk, you often end up eating the same dish all week.
This is where The Sassy Coconut’s market comes from. 80 to 90 per cent of its customers are students, and the rest are people ordering for occasions such as birthdays, stalls at events, and markets. There are also those who attend initiatives like last year’s supper club and cookery workshop. All are keen to reduce or cut out their dairy, refined sugar, and gluten intake.
A move to better nourishment doesn’t have to be extreme or absolute, but many have decided to take steps in the direction of less refined food.
Ms Williams believes that St Andrews has been the perfect place to start and grow her business. It’s small enough that orders can be picked up in town by everyone, and word spreads easily across the grapevine. The typical profile of the St Andrews student body is also a bonus.
“Students are quite health conscious,” Ms Williams said, and one would imagine they also tend to be familiar with words like “quinoa.” This said, Ms Williams is keen to get others interested in the type of food she eats. She is always delighted when her family and older people enjoy her dishes. A stall in her hometown in Cheshire was at first warily skirted round, but gradually people approached an warmed to the concept of plant-based raw eating.
“People can be quite skeptical.,” Ms Williams said. “Even the food standards people who come to inspect my kitchen can’t imagine how I can make a cheesecake with no dairy in it, [so] I have to show them.”
Food snobbery works both ways, but Ms Williams is a hard-working, humble poster girl for eating naturally.
Ms Williams believes she couldn’t win The Apprentice because the competitors are all a bit ruthless, which is not her style. Instead, at the heart of the Sassy Coconut is a love of cooking and a wish to make raw food available to everyone. Ms Williams publishes
many of her own recipes on her website for all to access and enjoy. If you weren’t convinced already, then the budget-friendly prices of her meals will definitely sway you. The quinoa curry, stews, and chilis are all £2.72. You likely couldn’t make the same meals for less money yourself.
Ms Williams is undecided regarding her plans for the future of the business, but has plenty of options. Either she’ll go into production and try to get her meals stocked in supermarkets (she sees a real lack of such products at the moment), or perhaps
she’ll open up a Sassy Coconut deli and cafe in St Andrews. She’s just playing it by ear. The future for The Sassy Coconut is certainly bright.
You can find Ms Williams’ food at the newly opened Heart Space Whole Foods on South Street opposite West Port.
You can also order online where Ms Williams offers a to-your-door delivery service to those who buy in bulk. Alternatively, you can order online through the Tree Food Hub in St Andrews, a pop-up collection point that is open on Tuesdays outside the Union from 5-7 pm. Search for “The Sassy Coconut” for Ms Williams’ products.
You can follow The Sassy Coconut on Facebook to keep up with new product releases, appearances and events.