5 minutes with… Ali and Emily Warburton

Pow Food is the first and only female-owned Certified B Corporation catering company in the UK, founded by industry veteran Ali Warburton and her daughter, Emily. Ahead of the launch of Pow Food’s new Gut Health Bundle on 27 December, Brummell talks to the duo about all things health and wellness.

Food and Drink 2 Jan 2024

5 minutes with... Ali and Emily Warburton

What can diners expect from Pow Food?

AW: Uncompromised excellence. We are London’s leading contract caterer for private banks and hedge funds in central London, and with that comes a need to perform at a very high level, while constantly driving new initiatives. 

EWA: A level of personal attention and creativity that sets us apart. We are made up of a highly eclectic, diverse team with a passion for food and service, and love adding our bespoke touch to all that we do. From the quality and taste of our food, to how we run our business, we are always seeking to improve our standards, and our sustainability practices.

What inspired you to set up this company together as a mother-daughter duo?

AW: I have been passionate about creating healthy catering for over 20 years, being the first caterer in the UK to launch a nutritionally designed gluten- and dairy-free menu range in 2007, and a pure raw-food menu range in 2008.

The problem with promoting healthy eating at events is there is no longevity, as the attendee usually eats that food service once and eating well needs to be a regular, preferably daily practice.

To promote healthy eating in an effective way, we needed to be feeding companies on a daily, or at least weekly basis. If a business feeds its employees Pow Food five days a week, it’s a no-brainer, that workforce will be eating for longevity, better immunity and focus on a daily basis. If a business feeds its employees Pow Food weekly, that workforce will be nurtured in eating well and will understand over time exactly what that means. As most employees consume 75 per cent of their daily food intake at work, nutrition is the cornerstone of wellness in the workplace and, since Covid, most businesses are realising exactly that.

Where businesses used to invest in “pizza Fridays”, they are now investing in “wellness Wednesdays” because they understand the importance of nurturing their employees to eat well to stay well.

When Emily returned to the UK, we both realised that our values and skills combined were well placed to work together to launch Pow Food, and we were fully aware of the lack of good nutrition in the workplace at the time.

EWA: I had recently qualified as a health coach and left working on superyachts to move home to London, and Mummy had wanted to shift away from the high-volume hospitality events she was doing and focus on another niche. Both holding the skills to run a hospitality business focusing on healthy food and high-end service, we decided to join forces!

Mother and daughter duo, Ali Warburton and Emily Warburton-Adams
Mother and daughter duo, Ali Warburton and Emily Warburton-Adams

You strive to deliver healthy and nutritious meals to your customers. Where did this passion for “good food” begin?

AW: The passion for me came from the innate knowledge that good nutrition is the key to longevity and that good nutrition holds a “preventional cure” to many health conditions. My career from 2002-2020 was more of an uphill challenge as many people pre-2020 were unaware of the real power of healthy eating.

Our main clients from 2002-2016 were in the high-end photography shoot industry, flying in talent from Hollywood and New York, as these clients understood the power of good nutrition and we were their go-to London caterer. We learned so much from these clients as they were eating to strict nutritional plans, and we had to understand and produce these plans perfectly.

In 2007 we hired our own nutritionist and produced our own nutritionally designed menus. This naturally led into catering for high-end, niche events where healthy eating was a priority.

We existed in this niche market for 15 years.

Since Covid, there is now a fast-growing wider interest and awareness in good nutrition, and this has been timely with our launch of Pow Food.

EWA: For me, food and nutrition has always been an integral part of my life, and awareness around the power of food on your mind- and body-health came from struggling with mental health problems in my teenage years. Through recovery, I experienced the power that nutrition can have on your mental, as well as physical health.

In today’s world, we have so much access to nutritionally poor convenience foods and don’t take enough time to nourish ourselves. I really believe in helping our customers eat highly nutritious, good-quality food on a daily basis, supporting their long-term health.

Achieving B Corp status is no mean feat. What do you believe contributed to this achievement?

AW: Emily was definitely the driver behind our B Corp accreditation – she was persistent in the initiatives that we needed to integrate into our business processes to gain this tough accreditation. She analysed each area to update our sustainability standards, and we both worked out the process and drove the activation.

EWA: It was a year-long, very intense process through which we learned a lot as a company, as well as individuals. A passion for making a positive difference and willingness to adapt was a huge factor, as well as having the energy of our team behind us. From day one we have held incredibly high standards around the provenance of our food and how we run our business, so much of it came naturally, however there were many ways we needed to step up and this was a good guideline.

You have worked very closely with nutritionists Sam Bourne and Lily Soutter to launch the New Parents Seven Day Meal Plan Boxes, and the soon-to-launch 21 Day Gut Health Bundle. What have you learned about healthy living and nutrition in this process?

AW: Sam Bourne is a specialist on the gut microbiome, the Pow Food master nutritionist and Lily’s teacher for over 10 years, so they are an excellent duo with all the skills that come from life experience and youth, rather like myself and Emily.

We have learned so much from this process, Sam and Lily have designed probiotic and prebiotic sprinkles for meals and soups, fermented toppings and delicious meals and soups that you can really trust to build better, long-term habits for an improved gut health without compromising on taste and variety.

EWA: Although we knew it, it has been highlighted to us that the nature of what we require from a nutritional standpoint really changes through our lifetime and what we are going through. And that as a company, we can really offer curated food bundles that support people on their life journey. Being mindful and aware of what we put in our bodies is one thing, but to optimise your health postpartum (one of our other bundles), or resetting your gut to set yourself up for good health is another, and there is so much science behind it. I believe that making bundles to help people eat well for their needs in an easy way is possible, and makes improving your wellbeing goals more achievable. Providing purely bespoke nutrition based on your individual health profile is not always necessary, achievable or sustainable – so we make the process easier, effective and achievable.

5 minute with Ali and Emily Warburton

Speaking of the 21 Day Gut Health Bundle, what can customers expect from this collection?

EWA: Customers can expect a comprehensive, nourishing and delicious meal plan from breakfast through to an evening meal that is designed by our nutrition specialists to help reset your gut health for the year ahead and establish healthy eating habits that are difficult to build alone. We are suggesting signing up for 21 days, minimum, as this is the time a new habit takes to form and to balance your healthy gut bacteria after a festive period of unhealthy eating. Each bundle includes insightful information about how to optimise the meal plan, and each day provides your full RDI (recommended dietary intake) of fibre, lots of plant diversity, protein and vitamins.

AW: The bundle focuses on meals that are rich in fibre, plant diversity and are anti-inflammatory. The festive season places a lot of stress on our digestive system and gut health. Over 58 per cent of people surveyed in the UK have reported gut health issues. Most people in the UK do not eat enough fibre. In fact, some studies suggest as few as 9 per cent of Brits are achieving the recommended fibre intake. An average Pow Food day includes 28g fibre – the national RDI is 25g for women, and 30g for men. Naturally dairy- and gluten-free, each meal provides two or more of your five a day, as well as being high in protein, prebiotics, antioxidants and fermented foods. All dishes are low in saturated fat with no refined sugar, available in vegan or a mixture of meat, fish and plant-based options, and are conveniently delivered frozen to lock-in the quality and taste, so that they can be stored in the freezer and popped in the oven or defrosted at a later date.

Pow Food’s Gut Health Bundle provides an easy way to include nutritious and delicious meals within the diet that have been carefully curated to enhance the health of our gut and its beneficial bacteria. Each day provides a nourishing breakfast kefir bircher pot (dairy or coconut), with your choice of milk – flavours include rose and cardamom, lemongrass, pineapple, date and mango, goji berry and hemp; mid-morning high fibre gut-health bar and signature vegan protein; energy balls as a mid-afternoon snack; a PRESS cold-pressed vegetable and fruit juice; a nutritious, comforting soup for lunch with a gut-health topping to sprinkle on each meal, with added probiotics and prebiotics to feed gut-health flora; and a fulfilling ready-meal accompanied by a side of fermented vegetables.

What do you wish more people knew about sustainability in the food industry?

EWA: That sustainability itself is a fluffy term that covers so much more than meets the eye. Practising sustainability has to be holistic, and we are so used to over-consuming and having everything, quickly, on a plate, so to be truly sustainable compromises have to be made. From a consumer perspective, there is a middle ground, but we need to understand more about our food systems to make conscious decisions. There is a negative impact made on agriculture and biodiversity through buying cheap food that supports poor farming methods, and sustainable food production is more expensive and takes time. It is important to support independent, local and organic food producers and suppliers.

AW: Exactly! On another note, we take a proactive approach to educating our clients. We partner with Natoora to source the most sustainable ingredients we can find, with the strongest back-stories. We drop those stories into beautiful signage that educates on the sustainability elements of that dish, so our clients can understand and appreciate the real meaning of the word sustainability from our daily services.

What single ingredient could you not live without, and why?

AW: Organic extra virgin olive oil – because I believe it enhances longevity, mental clarity and it certainly enhances taste.

EWA: Tomatoes, they are my favourite fruit. I eat them like apples, with a little bit of sea salt, as well as being my favourite base for a sauce.

What do you like to do in your free time?

AW: Meditate and dance, walk my two naughty Jack Russells, watch a heart-warming movie, eat and drink with old or new friends and spend time with my daughters.

EWA: To clear my head and stay focused, I like to run or do yoga; to let off steam I meet my friends and go out; to learn something new, I love to read; and to relax I love to spend time with my doggies, watch a good movie with my boyfriend, take a bath or have a massage.

What’s next for Ali Warburton and Emily Warburton-Adams?

AW: We will be expanding our Pow Food at Home menu range, creating more genuinely healthy, nutritionally designed ready-to-heat dishes, available nationwide.

EWA: There are quite a few things on the cards at the moment, we’re always up to quite a lot… I am personally very excited about 2024 and what it will bring!