Entrepeneur, Team GB
athlete & vegan leader
Lisa Gawthorne is a powerhouse. Her tremendous success seems to the rest of us to be an inevitability – from competing as a vegan athlete for Team GB to running and growing a successful chain of vegan businesses under the banner of Bravura Foods to name but two examples.
Lisa very kindly took the time to speak with editor Karin about life on and off the track these past couple of years, as well as what lies ahead.
A busy year for you – especially in business terms. New products on the horizon?
2022 will definitely go down as one of our busiest years that’s for sure! We have been super busy working on new product development in vegan confectionery across our two award-winning brands – Panda liquorice and Free From Fellows.
Our vegan mallows under the Free From Fellows brand are doing extremely well and it doesn’t stop here – we are looking forward to continuing growth of that brand with new additions and pack formats to satisfy demand.
What developments are you seeing with sustainable packaging? Is it getting easier?
It’s becoming the norm now to see products in many categories that have moved across to sustainable packaging options, we are also currently in the process of doing this and are looking forward to bringing that into play across all our brands. I hope one day it’s the only option available on the market.
You must have a
personal favourite amongst your sweets?
Yes – that’s an easy one, it’s the vanilla vegan mallows, they taste amazing and I use them as a nice pre-workout fuel too as they are kind on the stomach before racing or training, as well as being super tasty, free from the top 14 allergens and totally cruelty free.
I mean vegan wine gums, come on… that’s like stepping back into childhood for some of us! Haven’t eaten a wine gum since can’t remember…
Wine gums were my favourite until we launched the mallows! The wine gums are part of our sugar free range too – so great if you love sweets but want to cut down on sugar.
On a serious note, how important is it to wean kids off gelatine and sugar?
I think education on both these areas is key and it starts with parental guidance. We all know from the headlines that the obesity crisis is still ongoing in the UK and its affecting younger generations more than ever before, hence the introduction of the governments HFSS rules in the case of sugar / salts / fats.
On the gelatine side of things, it still astonishes me how many people are not aware of what this is and how much it features in the sweets that they are eating. Let’s be totally honest, no child is gong to be truly happy if they knew exactly what gelatine was and how its used in their sweets, and furthermore there is so much choice now in vegan confectionery that you really don’t have to be consuming it.
You are of course an athlete of some standing – representing the UK again this year?
It’s been another strong start to the year for me, hot off becoming the silver medallist in the 1500m British Championships last year, I became the 3000m champion in my age group in Jan at the British Masters Championships and I also qualified to represent England once again in the 10K which is taking place this September in Bristol. Multisport wise, I am still doing well in duathlon (run-bike-run), I just won my age group last weekend at Oulton Park Sprint Duathlon which has given me automatic qualification for the World Championships in 2023 and I am competing at both the European and World Champs this year in Bilbao and Romania for duathlon. In between those key races, I will be using local races to keep nice and sharp!
The last 2 years must have been a nightmare from a competitive perspective – but you’ve kept fighting fit?
Without fitness, I would have been lost – it’s played a huge part in my life for such a long time now and I really do class it as a healthy distraction. When all the competitions were cancelled, we as athletes all became lost as we are so routine, schedule and competition-driven then suddenly it was all taken away and that was hard. The sector responded really well with lots of virtual races that I really clung onto and tried to do as much as I could to ensure my fitness remained on track. It wasn’t the same as racing face to face but there was something quite refreshing about racing against your own watch knowing others would be doing the same. It was as good as it was going to get and I was really thankful for that during the lockdowns.
We see you’re somewhat of an accomplished artist now too?
Well I am trying! I started practising watercolours about three years ago, completed an online course then went on to experiment with oil painting too. I find both really useful again to reduce work related stress and to manage anxiety. For me, painting offers escapism and deep mindfulness which is a great contrast to the busy hum-drum of daily business. Just recently I had some of my watercolour and fine liner paintings commissioned by an art gallery in Scotland so that was pretty special too.
I really feel I am just at my early stages of learning with painting, I feel its going to be there with me for the long haul.
And we have seen a clip of you playing the piano! A remarkable array of talents!
My sister is a great piano player so we always had a piano in the house growing up – I didn’t take much notice of it back then but having a piano in my house has been a godsend as I love to learn a lot of the modern music and just try new things. I always try and sneak in a quick go when I see one in a hotel reception!
You are a big fan of Veganuary – tell us a little more.
I honestly believe that Veganuary will go down in history as the most influential organisation driving interest and uptake in veganism. I love their approach; they are informative, they are real, they have good influential ambassadors on board, retailers and wholesalers understand their cause more than ever before (most have dedicated Veganuary fixtures in store now each year).
They have without a doubt been instrumental in driving interest and growth in the market fuelling manufacturers to think outside the box with product development, so I am in full support of everything they do.
Do you have any companion animals?
I have a Bengal cat called Yoshi, he is a handful but he is a real character and features more than I do on my Instagram feed, but he’s too cute not to share with the world!
Hopes for 2022?
To continue at this rapid pace of brand growth for our vegan confectionery products in the business and to continue competing and smashing PB’s in athletics and in duathlon. Above all, just to be happy and thankful for life. It really hits home when we think about Ukraine, we realise how lucky we are right now and I try to not take that for granted, practising daily gratitude rituals to keep everything in perspective.
And finally – we very much hope you will be joining us on our Plant Powered Planet Stage at Vegfest in November! We do hope you can make it…
I am really hoping to be there, I am just waiting on confirmation as I may be racing that weekend but I will know more soon. If I am not racing, I will see you all there as I love the show. It really is the best!