Launched in 2020, Prodigy produces chocolate and biscuits that are good for our bodies and the environment. Its plant-based chocolate range contains no refined sugar or artificial sweeteners, and is low in natural sugars. Its products are gluten, dairy and palm oil-free and help consumers add prebiotic fibre to their diet. Prodigy is also a plastic-free business, allowing it to achieve B Corp status in 2022.
Brummell caught up with Vaswani to discuss his confectionery brand and his views of sustainability within the culinary industry.
What can customers expect from Prodigy?
First and foremost, great tasting chocolate – not sugar confectionery! Secondly, authenticity; we do what we say and we say what we do. There is no washing of any kind – greenwashing, healthwashing etc. We are making the best products we know how, with the best ingredient options and sustainable packaging solutions available in the current environment.
What inspired you to begin the journey into sustainable confectionery?
Being a parent of two young girls, and a chef and food industrialist, I wanted to be able to give our kids snacks and treats that did not harm their bodies and our environment, and to build a business that can also make an impact. We just couldn’t find any options that weren’t packed with sugar and highly processed ingredients, empty calories and exacerbating the plastic pollution problem.
Achieving B Corp status is no mean feat. What do you believe contributed to this achievement?
Most of it was in our DNA already. We started this business on the premise that we wanted to create products that did not harm the planet and people, and that had a purpose. This is fundamentally what B Corp seeks to promote. The process was stringent and tough – but we have a great team who pulled all the threads together, which we did during the second year of Covid when the retail landscape was still challenging.
Did you ever doubt your abilities in making a B Corp confectionary brand? If so, how did you overcome this?
Of course we had doubts, and so much fear of failure. But we were determined, and our mission was so aligned with B Corp. Business just cannot continue to operate without care or concern for the planet or working communities, so we were not fitting squares into circles. Drive and our own purpose for setting up Prodigy gave us the courage. Belief in ourselves and the brand and our overall mission gave us the courage to soldier on.
Is there a product sold by Prodigy that you are most proud of? If so, why?
Our salted caramel chocolate egg. This is such a unique product, and challenges a long-established legacy product that no one else seems to have been able to do. I now know why, as there are not many companies in the world who have the capability and we have been through hell and back to create and deliver this product. My soul is literally in this product, as the challenges and obstacles we have endured in creating this forced me to really dig deep and find the resolve I never knew I had to get it over the line!
What do you wish more people knew about sustainability in the food industry?
We wish there was greater awareness about processed ingredients and the harm they cause to our bodies. We wish more people knew about the problem that single-use plastic is causing in our world. That plastic recycling, albeit the right thing to do, is actually still a myth! Only 20-30 per cent of plastics are recycled due to the lack of infrastructure. The majority of it gets exported from the West to the East and dumped into our oceans and waterways.
Who is your role model and why?
I don’t have a role model, but my father showed me how to behave with honour and human values when running a business.
What ingredients could you not live without and why?
I likely couldn’t live without coconut sugar, as I do have a sweet tooth, and this is the only sugar I am happy to consume. Coconut oil is also a fabulous, nutrient-rich ingredient that is very versatile in both sweet and savoury recipes.
What are your passions outside of your job?
Cooking, percussion and music.
What’s next for Sameer Vaswani?
Keep building a social impact business that makes a difference, leave a legacy my kids would be proud of and continue to raise awareness about ultra-processed foods – and inspire change in the industry to do things differently.