Money makers: Profiting from the lentil-munchers

London-based Mindful Chef is one of a number of start-ups taking advantage of the flexitarian trend. Chris Carter reports.


Hopper and Humphries: sales of their healthy grub should reach £7.5m this year

"At the end of the week, people are going out for dinner, having fun. Before that, they want to recharge and be healthy," Mindful Chef co-founder Giles Humphries tells Peter Evans in The Sunday Times. Humphries spewaks from experience. When the 31-year-old, together with old school friend Myles Hopper, first started sending out their healthy meal boxes (think aubergine and pesto bake or chicken and quinoa paella) three years ago, they only delivered on Sundays. When they offered to deliver on other days, the overwhelming response from customers was "no".

Mindful Chef, based in Wandsworth, London, is one of several small firms cashing in on "flexitarianism" a diet trend that involves people cutting down on the amount of meat they eat, and adjusting their diets to reflect healthier lifestyles.

Overall, it's a growing market the number of vegans in Britain has almost quadrupled to 542,000 in the decade to 2016, says the Vegan Society. Rivals in the sector include HelloFresh, which has a market value of £1.8bn, and Unilever-backed Gousto. Mindful Chef's backers have pumped £2m into the business and include sporting stars Andy Murray and Victoria Pendleton. Humphries and Hopper expect sales of £7.5m this year.

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A footballer trades his boots for stilettos

Fifteen years after Daniel Najar, 33, swapped his football boots for stilettos when a spinal injury ended his dreams of playing for Tottenham Hotspur, he and 30-year-old brother, Gio, run one of London's increasingly must-have womenswear labels, says Joanna Bourke in the Evening Standard. Chi Chi London, launched in 2013, sells its party frocks online and in Debenhams. Last year, sales jumped by 32% to £27.5m and a similar rise is forecast for 2018. In setting up, the brothers called on their father, Jamal, for help.

The elder Najar had run a fashion stall in Finsbury Park before founding Chi Chi in the 1980s, supplying clothing made in China to high-street retailers. "We quickly realised the designs were unique, popular and affordable, and we wanted to invest in creating our own fashion label," says Daniel. "Chi Chi London was created then as a standalone company." The brothers own 49%, their father the rest. "We have a good life, run a successful family business, and genuinely believe we have massive growth potential."

The Elon Musk of bottled water

Actor Jaden Smith wants to revolutionise bottled water, says Kate Taylor on Business Insider. The 19-year-old son of actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett is set to launch his flavoured-water brand, Just Water, in America next month. The bottles, which will be priced at $1.99 each, are made from paper and plant-based material, which means they have a significantly lower carbon footprint than most competitors.

They are also designed to be refilled from the tap. The company will pay six times the going rate for its spring water so as to be able to invest back into the community. People who drink Just Water should feel like they're doing "something better for the environment, for the world, and for their children, and their children's children", says Smith, whose inspiration is Elon Musk, the founder of electric-car maker Tesla.

Musk "revolutionised the car industry in a way that no one before him could do", adds Smith. "I want to step into this water-bottle industry and revolutionise it in a way, because I'm thinking in a way that no one else is thinking." That's a lofty, but potentially lucrative, goal. In 2016, Americans bought more bottled water than soft drinks for the first time ever, and with a value of $16bn, it's a boom industry, even as concerns over its environmental impact grow.

Entrepreneurs win gold at the Olympics

When Mirai Nagasu became the first US figure skater to land a triple axel in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which ended last Sunday, she did so wearing Sonia Hou's Fire-Jacket Earrings, says Serena Lin on CNBC. The jewellery designer had contacted Nagasu in January about sporting the earrings while skating and all three female figure skaters in the US team obliged. Hou, who started her business in 2013, likens her jewellery to "Tiffany meets Forever 21". "My products use semi-precious stones and chic designs, available at a fraction of the luxury goods' cost." Sales are already up by a quarter from last year.

Hou is not the only entrepreneur to have profited from the Winter Olympics, notes James Thorne, also on CNBC. Peter Fortner answered the call from West German biathlete Peter Angerer for a better rifle in 1984. Now Fortner's patented repeater system is used by 95% of competitors. Dainese, started by Italian Lino Dainese, set out to reduce injuries in downhill skiing. The resulting D-air Ski system was used by 30 skiers at Pyeongchang. And when Kristan Bromley raced for Britain in the skeleton in 2010, he did so on a sled he designed. Since retired, "Dr Ice" sells sleds for up to £3,500 via his firm Bromley Sports.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

You can follow Chris on Instagram.