Innovation in chutney has been rather stagnant, much like its condiment comrade jam (although the spread has seen some movement recently with the likes of ScandiKitchen).
Fledgling business Kit’s Peanut Chutney is determined to lead the charge for change, showing there is more to it than sugary mango mush and bitter fermented lime.
The start-up is the brainchild of Kit and Max Maharajh, an uncle and nephew whose family’s spicy green peanut chutney recipe goes back five generations.
Making it healthier
Max Maharajh tells Food Spark that walking through supermarkets, he noticed a lot happening with peanut butters and hot sauces, but the jam and chutney aisle remained unchanged.
“Peanut butter has had this huge push over the last few years as people are looking at peanut butter as a source of protein. They can include it in their meals and it’s moved on from that traditional grim horrible paste that people put in sandwiches. Now, people are using it in smoothies and in ways that they didn’t before in search of healthy and wholesome food,” he comments. “Jams and chutneys that you see on the Sainsbury’s or Tesco shelves are quite high in sugar and not necessarily a go-to option.”
The brand’s chutney is made with peanuts, coriander, mint sauce, garlic, chillies, tamarind and salt. It is both gluten-free and vegan.
“Every brand is offering sugar-free, gelatine-free, gluten-free, and other free-from foods that are synthetically made to taste like their originals. We have a recipe that we’ve been making for 100-plus years that tastes incredible, and we don’t need any chemical replacements to cater to the market,” he says.
But Maharajh admits that they went through a heady development process involving ‘chutney champions’ in order to tweak the original recipe, which contained 20 finger chillies and was “blowing people’s heads off.”
The champion process involved handing it out to friends, who also got 10 people they knew to try it, resulting in batches that experimented with fewer chillies, less garlic and more mint. Their final recipe has been reviewed by 650 people, who on average have given it a rating of 4.4 out of 5.
Currently, the product is stocked in 18 independent food stores across the UK, including Eat 17, and is also a regular on the food festival and farmers market circuit.
The charm offensive
But the duo are chomping at the bit to take their chutney bigger. They have launched a crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs with the goal of raising £100,000, which will be used to aid their marketing, get the product in more stores and open commercial kitchen.
While Maharajh says the long-term goal would be to get the chutney into major supermarkets like Waitrose and Morrisons, first up the business needs to build up the “die-hard fan base through the independents”.
Part of that is changing the perception of the product as not just a chutney, but something that can be used as a dip, spread, marinade, accompaniment and even eaten by the spoonful, according to Maharajh.
“There is this whole millennial foodie market looking to do different things with food... and it is something we had always done with peanut chutney. I put it on chicken breasts before putting them in the oven, so there is that versatility in it,” he explains.
“We need to tell people exactly what to do with it. So traditional chutney might come out with cheese board, but you can put ours out next to the hummus and taramasalata, have it as snack or uses it as sandwich filler. I love it with sausage sandwiches, and other people have been using it with scrambled eggs or using it as base for quick curries.
“It’s like Marmite. There are great recipes for using it in chilli con carne and spaghetti bolognaise, so if you’ve got Marmite you can use it for so many different things – it’s that cupboard staple – and my ambition is make peanut chutney into that staple.”
The original peanut chutney is also going to get some brothers and sisters, with Maharajh revealing that people have been asking for a spicier version. He and his uncle are also exploring a milder option as well, while playing with other ingredients, including a Christmas special consisting of pickled onions with naga chillies.
As people search for more authentic products, Maharajh believes this also gives the brand a boost, with plans to play up the heritage of the chutney by redesigning the labels to include a picture of his great grandfather.
“I think that while everyone is so scared about Brexit, the good thing about being a small British brand is you get that support from people,” he says. “People are more likely to buy local and from family businesses... and people want to know there is a story behind it.”