“Our mission is to give people a way to eat less meat with the focus on living sustainably in harmony with, and respecting, nature and our bodies and maintaining a healthy eating lifestyle.”
Growing up in the Oxfordshire countryside, surrounded by farms and in a family who ate a lot of meat, especially Sunday roast dinners, Joanna never enjoyed it or how her body felt afterwards, so it is no wonder that she went on to become a plant based pioneer.
Knowing that she wanted to explore life beyond the UK, after completing her university studies in the USA in International Relations which also resulted in her speaking five languages Joanna, who had been undertaking marketing work to earn money to pay for her studies, was then headhunted by Coca Cola.
In a stellar career that took her from Occasion Marketing Manager for East & Central Europe Division for Coca Cola based in Vienna to Global Head Marketing & Capabilities for UBS and then Group Director of Marketing, Innovation & Business Ventures worldwide for Fonterra based in New Zealand, Joanna gained a huge depth of experience and knowledge that went on to serve her well when it came to setting up her own company.
“I stayed with Coca Cola for nearly eight years working with them in the UK and Hong Kong where I helped set up all of the innovation processes for them in China, and it was when I moved to Asia that I started to work quite seriously in innovation,” Joanna explains. It was a move from soft drinks to working with more healthy, non-carbonated beverages that heightened her profile in her innovation background and led to Joanna going on to work for Danone in Asia, living in Singapore.
Joanna then worked for UBS running global capabilities for marketing in Switzerland, but she wanted to get back into food and when approached by Fonterra, the biggest dairy company in the world as well as being the biggest cooperative of farmers, she made the move to New Zealand on her own with her five month old and two and a half year old to take on a big role running global innovation for the $8.5 billion ingredients division. “I was responsible for 400 people in a combination of marketing and innovation, research and development,” she states.
At the end of her contract in New Zealand Joanna came back to Europe. “I was separated with two young children and I needed to find a way to look after them and work at the same time and I came to Spain because the culture is very family oriented and was more similar to New Zealand.”
“My children didn’t like meat and neither did I, and I was frustrated that the only vegan food I found in the supermarket was very processed. I wanted to give my children and families like myself a way to eat wholesome protein rich food, made with real vegetables.”
It was while doing some consulting marketing innovation work for a vegan company based in Northern Europe producing processed vegan chicken & pork products, that Joanna became certain there had to be an alternative – and that led to the inception of BLOX.
“BLOX is based on the principles of the Mediterranean diet, made fresh every day from locally sourced vegetables, olive oil and pulses. We created BLOX the artisanal way, focussing on flavour and texture. BLOX is 100% vegetable based, with no animal products, no allergens, no preservatives, no colorants or chemicals. It’s pure, delicious, nutritious, healthy and whole,” Joanna states. “Our strength is that we understand how to embrace their natural textures and flavours to innovate and create a new sustainable base for food and an alternative to eating meat.”
The range consists of fresh vegetable meats, ready-to-eat vegetable based products and BLOX FIT – a whole range based around fitness that has been developed in conjunction with a nutritionist and a personal trainer.
“The Mediterranean diet is the healthiest diet in the world – so I started working with top Spanish chefs to create a new meat alternative based on the principles of the Mediterranean diet. It has taken five years to build the BLOX business, and a range of 100% vegetable based, vegan food products that are unmatched in the world.”
BLOX is the first Mediterranean vegetable meat in the world that follows the basic principles of the Mediterranean diet. Joanna comments that BLOX provides a tasty, healthy and sustainable source of protein and fibre, that’s low fat, and provides important vitamins and minerals, such as Calcium, Zinc, Iron, Magnesium, as well as B12 and DHA.
“We care about our families, our environment and respecting the diverse animal life on the planet, so everything we do at BLOX has to align with our 3 basic principles: delicious food for families, that’s healthy, and sustainable from plant to plate,” Joanna says.
More people are understanding the health benefits of a plant-based diet and buying more plant-based foods than ever before, but creating a viable alternative to meat is a courageous move.
All BLOX foods are made at their installation at the Mercado Ingeniero Torroja, the site of the original fruit and vegetables market in MercaAlgeciras. The site has been rehabilitated and it’s here Joanna and her team are opening an innovative “CASA BLOX” shop where customers will be able to not only pick up their BLOX food products such as fresh vegetable meat and readymade foods such as lasagne and moussaka, but also where from 8 pm each evening you will be able to get a fast food takeaway in the form of their BLOX burger menu.
“Convenient vegan food based on fresh vegetables is something that has been missing and if you really are focused on sustainability you also have to think about how you produce it, how you package it and how you distribute it and that is something that has been missing as well,” Joanna explains. “Our focus has been about disruptive change, going back to the community, using local suppliers and fresh vegetables based on the Mediterranean diet, packaging that uses little to no plastic and is biodegradable, and on delivering BLOX food to people in a way that has zero carbon emissions using our electric vehicles.”
Joanna’s vision is to make it easy for people to buy BLOX. “We want to be based on the edge of cities and be part of the local community working side by side with local vegetable farmers and within easy reach of local consumers. Our vision for BLOX is that it can be an alternative to the meat butcher, where you can buy freshly made BLOX vegetable meat and BLOX prepared meals that go straight in the oven or microwave ready to eat, and for people who don’t want to travel, we make home deliveries for healthy hot and cold food hassle free.”
What about the future of BLOX? “It’s too early to talk about our next project as we are just starting with our pilot in the Campo de Gibraltar in Algeciras, but we have big plans and are excited about the future and seeing BLOX around the world”.
The good news is that BLOX vegetable based foods will also be available to be delivered straight to your home in Gibraltar by ordering directly from the website”.