If you're running a business, there will always be rules and regulations that you have to consider - especially if you're the owner of a food business. One startup that has discovered this is Dash Water, a business taking misshapen food and vegetables and turning them into delicious, sugar-free flavoured waters. Here is co-founder Alex Wright's experience of dealing with red tape.

What are some of the regulations on selling wonky fruit & veg?

Currently between 20 to 40% of the produce grown in the UK doesn’t end up on people’s plates. Previously, European regulations put strict requirements on farmers to meet standardized shape and weight criteria. But these laws were lifted in 2009, yet the supermarkets haven’t carried through the supply of lower-graded unstandardized ingredients. Hopefully this is changing, but there’s a chicken and the egg situation going on now. The supermarkets don’t think consumers want to buy misshapen ingredients - which many studies have proved to not be true - and so consumers can’t buy them.

How did you get around this, and was it difficult?

Instead of going through the conventional supply chain, we go directly to the farmers themselves. Our surplus cucumbers come from Lee, who farms in Essex - see below for a picture from when we toured around his farm earlier in the summer.

Dash Water, red tape

What other regulations, as a drink producer, have you had to contend with?

Nutritional, back of pack, and labeling has to be worked with. Currently it has to comply with European Legislation, which is both outdated and moving slowly, to keep up with the pace of consumer requirements. We believe consumers need to have a clearer guide for variations of sugar with a ‘naturally occurring sugar’ and ‘added sugar’ nutritional guideline. One potential benefit of Brexit would be enabling the UK to forge our own guidelines and forge ahead of outdated EU ones.

Will the sugar tax affect you?

As Dash contains no sugar or added sugar, we are exempt from the levy.

Dash Water - red tape

Did you need to consult a professional to guide you through?

Absolutely. The process of making our drinks – by infusing wonky fruit and vegetables into spring water - is easy when doing so at home, but giving it a long shelf life has proved tricky. Luckily we’ve teamed up with a fantastic recipe development team who have supported us – it’s taken a long time to get right, though! 

What help would you like to see given to small businesses struggling with red tape, and what regulations do you feel are unnecessary?

The best advice can be found through working with experienced consultants. Unfortunately this can be expensive, but with food and drink it’s key to hitting safety standards. The Food Standards Authority have a good website for information, which can be a barometer, but when you're getting something done properly it's always best leaving it to people who have been there and done it before.


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