Keeping food fresh with no plastic – Beeswax Wraps

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Carly and Fran, the women behind Beeswax Wraps, met at a clothes swap at a mutual friend’s house.  Connecting over a shared love for craft, and a desire to do something positive for the environment, they began experimenting with making wraps for foodstuffs, aiming to replace the need for plastic film.  They now make wraps of various sizes and designs, using cotton, beeswax, pine resin, and jojoba oil.

After a surprise sell-out at their first market, the business has gone from strength to strength, with their own online shop and various retailers now stocking their products.  Carly and Fran will be setting up their stall at the River Cottage Food Fair on 26th & 27th May.

Locavore spoke to them about their wraps, their plans for 2018, and the importance of being able to work and smile at the same time.

How did the idea for Beeswax Wraps come about? 

Carly and I met a few years ago and our friendship was built over a joint love of crafting, we made lots of different things before we settled on Beeswax Wraps. Carly had seen beeswax wraps in Australia. We both hated the fact we used cling film, so when we were in our local farmers market last year and spotted a stall selling local beeswax, we thought we would have a go at making them. Carly then did a market stall in Bristol selling our wraps and completely sold out. We knew then that there was definitely a need for Beeswax Wraps and built the company from there.

How do your wraps work?  

You can use the wraps in pretty much the same way as you would use cling film or sandwich bags. The beeswax and pine resin gives them the sticky quality so just by using the heat of your hand you can seal them over bowls, around sandwiches and bread. We use them in so many different ways, from making boxes to store soft fruit, pouches to collect our bulk foods, and even piping bags when we decorate cakes.

Once you have used them you just need to wash in cool water with dishwashing liquid and hang up to dry. Every few months we recommend pasteurising them by popping them in the over for 3 minutes at 100 degrees, this just re-sets the wax coating and gives new life to the wrap. Because of the wax coating they should only be used for cold foods and not used in microwaves. We also recommend not using them for raw meat.

How do you make your wraps? 

We make everything by hand; we cut the fabric, melt and mix the wax, saturate the wraps, fold, pack and ship. It is quite a long process but a very rewarding one. Carly and I are big believers in supporting small local businesses so it has been so wonderful seeing how many other people love supporting small businesses too.

With our wraps you can see our fingerprints in the top corners where we have taken them out of the oven. We love the fact that when people by from us, they are actually buying something we have made, and we get so much lovely feedback. I think people also love the more personal touch we are able to bring. When they call or email, it is either myself or Carly at the other end. Knowing you are talking to the maker is a much nicer buying experience.

From where do you source the beeswax, pine resin, jojoba oil, and cotton?

We source all of our beeswax from our local beekeeper Keith, we pop up every few weeks to pick up the big blocks of wax. His is a family run company too, so it’s lovely going to the farm shop and having a chat. He makes the most delicious honey called Cotswolds Honey.

We source our pine resin from Portugal, it was the closest place we could find – we are very aware of making sure we find the best ways possible to reduce the impact of what we are doing on the planet. Our organic jojoba oil we buy from a small company in Wales. Again, we tried to source in a way that would support a small local firm.

Our fabric we currently source from a British company but we are working on a very exciting project which we are hoping to announce very soon!

It’s quite a niche product.  What were the challenges, starting out?  And what has been the response to your wraps?

We have been very lucky, we started making our beeswax wraps just before the big awareness kicked in about the detrimental effects of single use plastics on our environment. We had about six months of honing our recipe before it really started to get busy.

We both started working on Beeswax Wraps as a sideline to other jobs but since January this year we have both had to go full time to keep up with demand. It has been a huge learning curve for us but, because we both have hugely supportive partners who have helped out a huge amount, it has been a really fun and exciting experience. There have been no challenges too big so far, so fingers crossed it keeps going that way! Both Carly and I are also quite relaxed people which we think has played a big part in us not getting overwhelmed. 

Tell us about your Bee Bombs.

We love our Bee Bombs. They came out of the fact that we hate wasting anything, we used to trim all or our wraps and then use the offcuts to make the Bee Bombs. Because we have now changed our process we don’t get many off cuts, but we do have a few wraps each day that don’t quite meet the grade so we cut these up and make little Bee Bombs out of them.

They are brilliant firelighters. We have taken them camping; because they are waterproof due to the wax coating it doesn’t matter if they get wet, they still work just as well. They are also fab for wood burners and BBQ’s.

You’re part of a wider movement of entrepreneurs and creators looking for innovative ways to reduce plastic use. Can we ever be truly plastic-free?

That is a very big question! We have seen a huge spike in people opening waste-free shops, and with the demand we have seen for our wraps there is no reason why these shops shouldn’t do well. It is a mind-bending thought that a toothbrush or plastic bag that you used 20 years ago is still on this planet and will always be on this planet. Because this is such a powerful message I can’t see that the plastic free movement will stop – if anything it will continue gaining momentum.

As more new products are brought to the market, swapping your plastic for something biodegradable, it is just going to become easier and easier for everyone to slowly become as plastic-free as possible.

Whether we become completely plastic-free is hard to tell at this point. But we did used to live plastic-free, so there really is no reason why we can’t go back to that. Plastic has been in use for a very short amount of time, there is no reason why it can’t be a thing of the past soon. 

Are your wraps available through any retailers?

We sell thorough lots of independent retailers – there is a list of stockists on our website. We have a few new stockists each week, so hopefully we will have our wraps across the UK very soon.

What are your plans for 2018?

We have so many exciting plans. We have been focusing a lot on how we can work with charities to help educate people on the importance of keeping our coastlines clean, and also how supporting our British beekeepers is so fundamentally important to our food chain. These pieces of activity will be going live in the next few months.

We will also be at the River Cottage Food Fair in May – it is going to be our first proper market stall on this scale so we are really excited about being there.

We have also been working with some exciting female designers, and all their hard work will be revealed in the next few months, too. We are both so excited about this year. One of the best things about owning your own business is that you can make things happen; we sit and chat about all these cool ideas then just get on and make them happen, it’s brilliant!

What are your hopes and fears for the future, both for your business and the wider food world?

We really hope that the awareness and education around sustainable living keeps growing. Over the past 20 years our lives have very much been focused on quantity and not quality.

We hope that people carry on supporting the small businesses that are bringing back old crafts and reusable quality items. If you can buy once at a slightly higher price and use it for life, then surely that is a better option than a cheaper version that will only last a few months. 

We both said from the beginning that we want to be thankful for each day that the business is running. We don’t have financial targets – our only target is to love what we do and make a positive impact. It may sound a bit airy-fairy, but we have both experienced a working life of financial targets and ‘career goals’. Neither of these have ever made us happy, only stressed with the feeling that we are not good enough.

As we grow the business we want to make sure that rather than replacing our hands with machines we actually just replace them with more hands. We see our business as a really great way to share the success with other like-minded people, who want to work and smile at the same time. 

Finally, why do you do what you do?

We both wanted to have a business where we were able to make a positive impact on the planet whilst also building our families. Carly has just had her first baby, and it is fantastic that we have built a business that can support her through maternity. Carly is a doer, so enjoys writing the little thank you notes whilst she is up in the night – now that is what you really call flexible working hours!

Most importantly though, we do what we do because of the support we have around us. Without Sam and Tom – our partners – there is no way we would be where we are today. 

For Beeswax Wraps online, click here.

Find them on Twitter here.