When did you start Hip & Healthy and what first inspired you to start selling healthy food?

I’ve always tried to eat a healthy balanced diet, and I find inspiration from great restaurants, TV cooking shows and food bloggers in coming up with my own recipes. After moving back from the UK in 2013, I noticed that there weren’t that many healthy eating options around, especially at the food and crafts pop-up events that were happening at the time. It all started in January 2014 with a pop-up event I was helping to organise, where I came up with the Hip & Healthy concept, some recipes and juices started selling to the public for the first time. Fortunately it was successful, so from there we started an Instagram account to advertise our menus.

What challenges did you face in the early days when the healthy eating movement was still very small?

From the outset, we tried to differentiate ourselves by concentrating on preparing and using fresh organic ingredients where possible. This has been a big problem on many occasions where we have ended up running around frantically trying to find the items we need to meet our orders. Our small market here in Brunei means the ingredients you need are not always in stock and at the start there were far fewer organic ingredients available. This meant occasionally we couldn’t deliver the quality of food we wanted to, but we learned along the way. The other main issue was demonstrating that healthy food can be delicious too and that for example quinoa is a healthier alternative to rice and baking can replace frying. We relied a lot on word of mouth to build up customers as more people have started to eat more healthily and understand ‘clean eating’.

Can you explain more about the ‘clean eating’ philosophy of Hip & Healthy?

Clean eating is all about consuming more fresh and wholesome food and replacing the processed food we have all grown so accustomed to. Processed food is full of hidden sugar, salt and most worryingly chemical additives, some of which are now being seen as harmful and being banned. Even fresh fruit and vegetables can be affected by herbicides and pesticides. It is important to wash them before use and if possible find organic ones. Once you start eating cleanly and cutting out the processed junk food, you are on the path to a healthier and happier lifestyle.

Being progressive means to always challenge yourself, look to the future, learn from your setbacks and keep going no matter what.

How do you manage to also be environmentally responsible in the business?

I think any company, however small, needs to be socially and environmentally responsible if they want to succeed these days. From the start, we have always tried to recycle what we can, sending our paper waste and plastic bottles and containers to the recycling centre. It’s good to know it can be reused rather than creating additional landfill in Tutong. It’s our duty to protect our beautiful country, so we use as many environmentally friendly products as we can, such as dishwashing liquid and washing powder. We also donate to Green Brunei from every bottle sold of our Borneo Sunrise flavour from our cold-pressed juices range, plus make all our green waste into compost to grow our own organic herbs.

What is next on the agenda for Hip & Healthy?

As the saying goes, a healthy outside starts from the inside, which I firmly believe includes mind as well as body. I have recently just hosted Brunei’s first wellness retreat in Temburong, offering an opportunity to not only eat healthily, but relax and unwind whilst experiencing the beauty and peaceful natural surroundings. I hope to do more of these in the future to offer the complete healthy package for mind, body and soul.
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