• Stephanie Drax

Raw-some: Eating your way to better health

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

Alexi von Eldik is the founder of Cru8, a food company that specialises in guilt-free, raw and powerful superfood snacks: think chocolate-chip cookies, more-ish macaroons and kale crisps and crackers. She's been an advocate for raw food for years, totally won over by the positive results that high-raw eating has had on her own health, work productivity and emotional well being. She tells Storytellhers why Paleo is the only way to go.

Alexi von Eldik

Can you explain the principles of Paleo eating and how eating that way affects us?

Paleo eating is ostensibly eating as our Paleolithic or hunter-gatherer ancestors would have. What that translates to is a diet of mostly greens, fruits when available, nuts, seeds and good quality, preferably grass-fed or wild caught protein. I put protein last as this would have been the hardest to come by and therefore the smallest proportion of the diet. The modern interpretation of the Paleo diet is often protein heavy, which I take issue with and would suggest that it should be vegetable heavy. I am a huge vegetable pusher, suggesting to my clients that their plate be 75-80% vegetable and the rest protein. The Paleo diet does not include grains, legumes, dairy, processed sugars or refined foods. Eating a Paleo diet, if mostly plant-based, is hugely beneficial to one’s health with my clients often reporting increased energy, clarity of thought, positive mood and weight loss. By it’s very nature the Paleo Diet is anti-inflammatory, and Science is now beginning to understand how detrimental chronic inflammation really is. One of my favourite comments from a customer has been: “Feeling so good today, so clean and energised. Like I’ve taken some wellbeing pill!”

How did you come to create your own Paleo food brand and delivery service? And tell me about the decision to open the deli?

I've been a raw food advocate since 2009 and I've seen the transformational nature of eating high-raw firsthand. Since the beginning of my high-raw food journey, I've recovered from a pre-diabetic condition, released 20lbs of excess weight, and recovered from depression. I proved my theory through an MSc (Organisational Psychology, City University) thesis research. My results showed that a high-raw, gluten, dairy and refined-sugar free diet not only significantly enhances work productivity but emotional well-being. I was awarded a distinction for my thesis and set up Cru8 with the purpose of transforming eating habits through a detox delivery business. Then, to help my clients stay on track post detox, I developed a range of snack foods free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar. I dipped my toe into retail at the Saturday Partridges Market at the Duke of York Square in 2013, and that same year my signature Cacao Macaroons and Chocolate Chip Cookies were awarded a Great Taste Award. My innovative, nutrient-dense superfood products are now available at Wholefoods Market and a number of other independent health food stores and delis. I opened my own deli at the end of 2016 in the Chelsea Farmers Market. I have a vision of a chain of Cru8 delis and felt the space would be a great prototype just to try out the market. It’s a postage-stamp sized shop but I love it as it’s a direct connection to my customers. I try and get in there and be behind the counter occasionally just to stay connected and in tune with my customer base.

If we were inclined to implement some changes into our lifestyle that adhere to Paleo principles, what could they be?

To go grain-free, whilst a huge challenge, is massively beneficial. Being prepared with lots of ideas, great quality ingredients, fresh veg and fruit is the key. Having suitable replacements to hand is also useful, such as our Paleo bread or Paleo granola for breakfast. I find that nuts and organic eggs are my staple proteins, and filling up on lots of veg. I’m not afraid of using coconut and olive oils as these will keep you satiated as well.

There was a burst of publicity about Paleo a few years ago. Has that awareness helped your brand, or is there still a lot of work to do?

Yes, I’ve found consumers to be more familiar with Paleo as a concept, and certainly my brand has benefitted from that. We’re now in Wholefoods and Planet Organic, and we just launched into Selfridges at the beginning of January. There is, however, much more work to do around educating consumers on the benefits of a Paleo lifestyle. My consumer tends to be the well-informed, health conscious foodie, typically female and I’d say a slightly older millennial, Generation Xer and even Baby Boomers. I've found that our Paleo Bread is our best seller as customers are looking for a bread alternative that is actually good for them. It’s grain-free, low carb and low sugar. Snack-wise, the raw chocolate chip cookies are the most popular. We won a Great Taste Award for them as they are so nourishing and delicious!

How do you manage to be heard with all the diet noise that's out there? How does Cru8 set itself apart?

I think at the end of the day, the Paleo lifestyle is just that, a lifestyle. It’s not a fad diet and I think given the exponential growth of obesity and diabetes over the last several decades, consumers need to be looking at drastic lifestyle changes that put them back into control of their health. The Paleo lifestyle does just that. Cru8’s mission is to offer high quality, delicious tasting products that facilitate the Paleo lifestyle. We’re organically certified, meaning our ingredients are of the best quality. We produce all our own products in small batches, in-house in Battersea. Half our products are raw, meaning they have not been heated above 42 degrees leaving enzymes intact and accessible to the body. All our raw products are vegan. These are products that actually benefit and nourish you rather than deplete you. Did I mention that they are delicious?? I’m a complete foodie and insist on great tasting food, but food that also benefits me. One of our strap lines is that Cru8 is “food worth eating”.

You've built a successful brand...what were some of the early challenges and how did you overcome them?

I'm still quite some way from where I want to be with the brand….but one of my early challenges: As an entrepreneur, you do whatever it takes to be a success and you do everything yourself initially; I was preparing detoxes until 10pm and out delivering them at 5am, I was selling at the Duke of York Square Market on Saturdays and back in the kitchen on Sundays. I used to coerce my friends into helping me make macaroons on Friday nights in exchange for glasses of prosecco! I loved what I was doing and what it was doing for my clients, but I forgot to take care of myself and ended up nearly burning out. Self-care as an entrepreneur is important. The business is non-existent without you. What I learnt is that there are better more efficient ways to do things. Don’t forget to value your own time. I got married and had a baby, and things really got interesting! Juggling a business with a new baby was certainly a challenge. I was lucky enough to have good staff who I could rely on to keep the business ticking over. Without them, I’m not sure what I would have done.

What - or who - would you credit for your success?

I would actually credit my original branding agency, Studio H, with getting me into Wholefoods Market which really was my first major success. Wholefoods took one look at the packaging and that was it. I would not underestimate the power of branding and packaging. You can have the greatest product in the world but if it doesn’t stand out on the shelf in some way, it’s unlikely to succeed.

Plans for the future of the business?

We have huge plans for this year. We’re currently fund raising to provide the platform to really get out there and take the UK Paleo market by storm. It’s super-exciting.

What tips might you offer other female founders?

Think big. It’s too hard to be small for too long.

Finally, what quote do you live by?

“If it’s not doing me any good, it’s not worth the calories.”