If you’re anything like us, we’re willing to bet you’ve found yourself lingering around the alternative milk section in your local supermarket with increasing regularity over the last six months. Sounds about right? Yep, we thought so. Honestly, if you’ve entered a coffee shop, restaurant or simply opened a magazine or newspaper in our post-Goop, gluten-obsessed world, you’re bound to have heard someone waxing lyrical about the benefits of almond milk.
We’re pretty cynical when it comes to overnight health sensations. From kale to quinoa to raw pretty much everything, we’re all inundated with health fads promising to change the way we view food and, let’s be honest, it’s hard to keep up. Is it just us or does it feel like one day we’re being told to OD on certain food, only to be told the not to go near it under any circumstance? The struggle is, well, real, but almond milk is one of the few health products that’s been constant and championed across the board.
That’s where The Pressery comes in. United by a mutual love of feeding their friends, and a frustration of the frills attached to supposedly natural foods, friends Natali Stajcic and Chi-San Wan joined forces not to fill a gap in the alternative milk market, but rather to simplify what already existed, and to promote an attainable approach to wellness in the process. Having both experimented with making their own almond milk at home, the pair felt that it was a product they could get behind, having identified what it was that they didn’t like about the super brands. They brought not only personal experience, but also their own knowledge of branding courtesy of Chi’s background in the fashion industry and also advertising through Natali’s past roles, to launch the kind of brand that is pretty much the perfect embodiment of #lifestylegoals.
The key to The Pressery is simplicity. You see it in everything they do, from their highly curated web presence to the beautifully minimalist packaging and most importantly, in what goes into their almond milk. Their recipes are simple too, without deceptive additives, and there offer now spans different flavours including matcha, strawberry and turmeric. Rather than making bold promises, they made it their mission to let the product do to the talking, using it as a starting point to inspire people to carve their own sustainable wellness journey based around a simple, pain-free approach to nutrition. We caught up with the pair to talk light bulb moments, prioritising exercise and why we need to go back to basics with our food.
ON WORKING TOGETHER: We were friends first and foremost. We would be the ones in our friendship group always organising things around food and drink, the newest restaurant opening or a gathering for a feast. One summer, after being frustrated with my job in fashion, I met up with a few of my friends already successfully working in the food industry and wondered what part I could play coming from a fashion background. Nothing really came of it but I mentioned it to Natali (over dinner, naturally) and she voiced her frustrations with her work situation too, and how she wanted to work for herself as well. The next step was what to do?
THE DECISION TO TAKE THE LEAP OF FAITH: I was lucky that I was already freelancing, so I could take jobs at the weekends, or when I knew The Pressery had a quiet few days in the first year. Because of the nature of my work, I could always be on my emails on set too, as long as I made sure I was there on the ‘milking’ days to put the physical work in. After the first year, it was time to make the jump so I could fully concentrate on all matters The Pressery related. Getting our crowd funding money definitely helped, but it really was a case of now or never – if we don’t do it, someone else will. If I could give any advice for other people wanting to leave full-time jobs to chase their dreams, it’s to put some buffer money away, say 2 months rent, just in case. You may have to suck it up and do some part-time work here and there to make ends meet but visualising the end goal should always get you through.
ON THE PROBLEM WITH SO-CALLED NATURAL DRINKS: As a lover of food and drink, it became more and more frustrating how complicated food was getting. Everything is vying for your attention on the shop shelves, and mostly were free-from this and free-from that, but loaded with ingredients you couldn’t pronounce, never mind being things your body could recognise. Most almond milks available had only 1% almonds in and full of emulsifiers, additives and sweeteners. It was with this frustration that we felt like the industry needed something simpler. Something that was exactly what it said it was, no frills, no song and dance. Just the bare ingredients that make it taste delicious. It’s not complicated if it’s real food.
ON BEING MINDFUL: I feel that once you start tapping into what makes you feel well, be it the food you feed yourself or the meditation or exercise routine you begin, you don’t generally go back because you feel so great. The key for me to keep it sustainable is not to go to extremes. I have a balanced view of it all, and I think that is important. This comes across in The Pressery as a company as well; we are not into extremes. We believe in eating well, eating real foods, really enjoying it and never depriving yourself. Think of a healthy lifestyle as an investment with your time first and foremost. But start off with the small stuff, choose one small habit to change or add, and once you have established that and feel like it has been integrated in your life, then choose another one. Don’t overwhelm yourself, as that won’t promote longevity in anything.
ON HER UPBRINGING: My family have always been in the restaurant business, so I was always surrounded by food and cooking from scratch at an early age, so that is something I have always done. I think health and wellness has developed so much over the years, nutrition is a fairly new science and we have only started to learn what nutrients do. Before this, people ate food, real food, without caring how many calories, what vitamins and if they’re getting enough minerals etc. With this comes marketing strategies from big food moguls (more fibre, less cholesterol, low fat etc.), but this wasn’t of importance before. It’s gotten so complicated now, that if we just tune into our bodies, and listen to our guts, eating should be simple. To me, that’s the path to true wellness. It’s only in recent years that I have taken responsibility by doing regular exercise and attempting meditation, and that’s all thanks to the resurgence of age-old rituals such as mindfulness being in the spotlight and so many books and apps catering for this ‘new trend’.
ON HER HEALTH JOURNEY: My journey to understanding what it means to nourish your body and mind came about from my struggle with post-natal psychosis. I was having a really hard time and one day I started to look into how I could maybe support my mental health with the foods I ate, or at least minimise the mood swings by looking at what I was already eating. I wasn’t a particularly bad eater but I now understand that certain food groups weren’t helping me. I cut down on caffeine and dairy and paid attention to the portion sizes of bread and pasta that I ate. I was in this for the long haul and didn’t cut anything out. It has taken me four years and I feel fitter and more stable than ever. I believe that once you feel the benefits of eating a diet of foods that are right for you then why would you revert back? We obviously all have days when nothing but a big pizza will do but once you understand your craving patterns you can enjoy everything you eat and lose the pointless feelings of guilt that come with eating certain foods. If you are going to have a slice of cake, make a cup of tea, sit down and enjoy every mouthful.
ON LEAVING HER JOB: Chi and I met at a party in East London around 10 years ago and bonded over our love of feeding our friends. Just before starting the business Chi was growing tired of working in fashion and I was finding it hard to juggle new motherhood with a full-time job. I was working as the head of events for an advertising trade body in Soho. I really enjoyed the job but was finding it hard to manage the hours with a young daughter. My life felt out of balance and I was ready to pursue something of my own. It started with a conversation and then we set the wheels in motion. I like taking risks. I think that is a definite personality trait required if you are going to run your own business. Most days feel risky! I am very lucky to have such a great business partner though; we encourage each other in the best way. Make sure you test your idea properly before quitting. There comes a tipping point when you realise that your idea is working and you get so busy that quitting your day job is the only option.
ON FINANCE: We started the business with £6,000. It went on setting up a mini almond milk factory in a basement we found. The first 6 months were a labour of love; we worked so hard. The physical aspect was draining; we were still making and delivering all of the milk ourselves along with running the new business. We were very fortunate in many ways though; our first clients came to us and we had some really great press in the early days, which helped to raise awareness.
ON KEEPING FIT: I walk my daughter to and from school everyday and I cycle to meetings. I run a couple of times a week and go to 2-3 classes with ClassPass every week. My current favourites are 1Rebel and Tempo Pilates. I fit it in because I work hard to prioritise it. I am more focused and make better decisions with regular exercise. The trick to adopting healthier practices is to start with realistic goals. If you want to exercise but currently don’t do anything then decide to do one class per week and then you can build on it. As mentioned earlier I have taken 4 years to be where I am now and my goals change and evolve. Positive changes and the results take time. Sticking to something really is the only option.