Brazen: Go Bananas!

By Pascal Ebner

Sharon Luff, the Chief Banana

Are you as bored of the usual tea time snacks as we are? Enough of scones, shortbread and muffins? All the way from Australia a delicious delight has arrived in the United Kingdom to re-ignite the traditional British cuisine and introduce people to something so scrumptious and healthy that you’ll want to grab another slice of . . . Banana Bread!

While Italy and France already joined the banana craze, the Great Britain really needs to catch up on this tasty treat. Over the last few years especially Australian chefs and cooks have influenced the British menus and were able to spread their laissez faire mindset in the world of dining. Now Sharon Luff, mastermind behind the Big Banana Bread Co., decided to join these brave travelers to make a change and introduce her very own banana bread to shops and markets all around the UK.

“After hours of tasting, refining and using friends as guinea pigs, I’ve developed a tasty recipe to delight English taste buds whilst still paying tribute to the revolution that began in America and is now making its way around the globe.”

Sharon Luff

Sharon’s banana bread is not just like any banana bread: Using real bananas, free-range eggs, all natural products and obviously no trace of preservatives, artificial colour or sweeteners. This banana bread takes the ‘guilty’ out of guilty-pleasure. The yellow fruit is also full of brilliant benefits for your body: heaps of potassium (lowers your blood pressure) and one of the best sources of resistant starch, which will not only improve your metabolism but also beats your hunger in no time.

Trust us, there is more to Banana Bread than you might think. To prove this, we decided to ask Sharon Luff, Aussie-born owner of the Big Banana Bread Company, some questions – not only to show you her love for banana bread but also the reason behind her move to the UK, her great ideas and future plans:

.Cent: What was the initial spark that made you realize you want to create this great banana bread? Is it also your personal favorite treat?

Sharon: I grew up in Australia where banana bread is an everyday ‘breakfast religion’; it’s on every cafe menu and is almost as common as toast. I used to eat banana bread toasted with ricotta, honey and cinnamon and it was a great way to start the day, as the perfect accompaniment to a morning coffee. When I moved to London 3 years ago I searched high and low for banana bread. When I couldn’t find it anywhere, I started to make my own – sharing it with my work colleagues and friend’s (all of whom became my first customers)! From there I recognised an opportunity to take banana bread ‘mainstream’. I want to educate the British market about ‘Aussie-style’ handmade banana bread (real bananas – 40%, no artificial colours or preservatives) and most importantly, I want banana bread to be accessible for us all!

.Cent: Do you think traditional British food scenery is going to change (or has gone through a change already)?

Sharon: I think the British food scene is still playing catch-up with the likes of the U.S, Canada and Australia (in relation to trends such as widely available street food, or more adventurous menu choices across a wide cross section of society), however, I do believe that the British palette is broadening, and the UK restaurant market is one of the best in world now. The greasy burger has been replaced with the gourmet burger, greasy spoon cafes are being replaced by salad bars. It seems as though the UK food scene is reaching a tipping point – new ways of eating new things is taking hold, and I hope banana bread does too! Personally, I think Pan-Asian fusion food is under-represented in the U.K and will be the next one to watch out for.

.Cent: Did you have any other cooking/baking experiences before you started your company?

Sharon: Food is my passion. I have been baking and cooking since the age of 5, and although I’m not technically trained, I believe that if you have the passion to learn and determination to succeed anything is possible. I have owned and run a number of weekend market stalls – trialling different products / production models and marketing approaches. It’s never easy standing in the cold at -2 degrees for 8 hours straight, but I believe that if you keep coming back time and again, it must be something you are born to do! Being involved with food has been my calling for some time. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got to see Big Banana Bread replacing cornflakes and toast on the Great British breakfast menu!

.Cent: Do you already have new banana-related products in mind? Big plans coming up?

Sharon: Yes! I am very excited for the next phase for Big Banana Bread Co. I have just launched our 440g family size loaves which I expect to be selling in major supermarkets. Once we build a following and create
momentum for the original and the gluten-free options, I’ve also got plans for a walnut and blueberry recipe, which will follow next year.

.Cent: What would you tell others, who would like to share their food ideas but don’t know how to start? Was it a difficult step to go all the way from Australia to the UK and bring your idea to life?

Sharon: It definitely hasn’t been easy. I have three words for anyone that wants to start their own business, the 3 P’s – Passion, Persistence and Patience!

My advice would be to get out there as soon as you can by talking to your potential customers. I had a gut instinct that banana bread could be the next big breakfast and tea-time favourite – as I knew that it was already popular in so many western countries. As such, I perfected my recipe and took it to a high street chain who told me that it the size of slice was too big and too expensive and if I didn’t have the capability to scale then I would not succeed. As hard as it was to hear this, it was this advice that made Big Banana Bread Co. what it is today – by speaking to a customer, I learnt that the UK market is not one for ‘super sizing’ – in Australia, our banana bread slices are so much bigger, and so I had to adapt my perception of what was right for the market. I also approached a baker directly, which has afforded Big Banana Bread Co the capacity to bake 100 loaves per hour. I worked hard to ‘scale the recipe down’ to enable the production of smaller slices so I could offer my customers a size and price that ensured the right mix of product and profit.

It was this persistence to not give up that allowed us to make our first meaningful sale to 20 Crussh stores across London. This is only the start of the banana bread revolution and I know that we have a long way to go…! But my advice to others would be that if you have a product you believe in, that people want to buy, work hard to find a way to produce your product with scale and efficiency to ensure that you are able to sustain growth, and importantly, turn your passion and product into a viable business.

.Cent: What makes you go bananas, Sharon?

Sharon: (Assume you mean negative bananas?) Unethical sourcing and a world without banana bread!!

Delicious Banana Bread

So be brazen and try something new! Put the traditional stuff aside for now and introduce your taste buds to the delicious taste of banana bread. Big Banana Bread can be found at Crussh Juice Bars, Fortnum & Mason, Portobello Orange Coffee, Toucan Fruit, Wholefoods and hopefully soon in your kitchen! We at .Cent convinced ourselves of the great taste and can only approve that this product deserves the spotlight.

To delve deeper into the realm of bananas make sure to check out the official website of the Big Banana Company, become a fan of the yellow company on Facebook and follow on Twitter.