Meet Anshu & Renee, two Hackney neighbourhood friends who bonded over a love of cooking and the desire to make a difference to the planet… and takeaway! They are the advance troops of a revolution in closed loop food delivery: their purpose to deliver delicious vegan curries around East London using Mumbai’s famous reusable stainless-steel tiffin boxes – dabbas! Hey Ho, Let’s Go! Launched in November 2018, Dabbadrop was London’s first plastic and emissions free takeaway and their cool subscription model could change takeaways forever. We caught up with the pair to ask how they got started, what they’re planning next & why closed loop supply, refill & low impact living is so important to them. Look out for Dabbadrop. They’re all revved up and ready to go! Coming to a neighbourhood near you; plastic free & delicious.
WHAT IS DABBADROP?
DabbaDrop is a food delivery subscription service running out of our East London kitchen. We deliver our South Asian menus in reusable stainless steel tiffins (which are called dabbas in Hindi) by bike to customers all over London. These dabbas are then swapped out the next time our cyclist delivers thus creating a closed loop. Sustainability is at the core of what we do – because of the pre-order model, we always know how many we are cooking for, helping to eliminate food waste, which is so important!
HOW DID YOU WIND UP AT DABBADROP?
Anshu and I were neighbours first, then good friends, we were brought together by our kids, shared appreciation of music, nature and of course, food. In 2018, Anshu started cooking from home as a trial for what would later become DabbaDrop. I was one of the first to try it and I loved it so much it was a natural progression for me to become a co-founder at DabbaDrop. Happy to say we’ve not looked back! The friendship was a good basis to start a business together, as well as our complimentary skills to create something we’re both very proud of.
WHAT MAKES DABBADROP A COOL PLACE TO BE?
First and foremost, our customers are the reason we’re in business. Just an email from someone saying they loved their DabbaDrop delivery makes us truly happy. If it wasn’t for our customers, none of us would be here. Also, very occasionally when we give in to a traditional takeaway and it arrives in plastic packaging, we know what we’re doing is the right thing for the planet and future generations. Since we started in 2018, we’ve saved over 135,000 plastic containers from being used and we’re now feeding around 1000 customers each week.
IF YOU WEREN’T RUNNING DABBADROP WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
It’s a good question! My background is in Event Production and Restaurant Design/Operations so it’s likely I’d still be working in one of those areas. I’d like to think that I still would have started a business, as it was something I really wanted to experience, and as I love food so much, I’m sure food would be somewhere in the picture too!
WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON?
We’re in the process of setting up a zero-waste online shop. We already have a wonderful community of DabbaDroppers who are helping with our mission to reduce plastic waste, and we plan to offer them a thoughtfully selected range of products that can aid a plastic-free lifestyle. There’s also a couple of exciting projects in the pipeline, including the development of some of our pickles and chutneys and other delicious things. We’re slowly expanding our current delivery radius across London and eventually, we’d like to see Dabbadrop in other major cities across the UK. DIY recipe kits are also on the cards. It would be much simpler and cheaper for us to choose single-use packaging for such things but that’s not what we set out to do. This means the development takes a little longer but we’re nearly there… so watch this space!
WHAT STARTED YOU OUT IN LOW IMPACT LIVING?
(Renee:) I’ve always been big into nature and the outdoors. Being from New Zealand, we are surrounded by so much natural beauty so I feel it was a natural progression for me to end up doing everything I could to protect that. When Anshu and I started out, we used to order takeaways for ourselves and our families, and it was so hard to find one that would make us truly happy and nourished: when it arrived the food itself was never as fresh or delicious as we imagined plus it would arrive in a puff of smoke and in plastic containers which would pile up – making us feel so guilty about it. So, we decided to try and change all that. Anshu, being from Mumbai was very familiar with the dabbawala system and DabbaDrop is a modern-day version of that. Our dabbas get reused – they are swapped out each time a customer orders from us, creating a closed-loop solution. Because of the subscription model, we always know how many people we are feeding, which eliminates food waste. Our food is delivered via bikes and e-bikes and emission-free.
HOW DO YOU ESCAPE?
(Renee:) I try and run in the mornings before the kids are up, to try and escape mentally before the busy day ahead. We’ve also become big fans of keeping it local when it comes to holidaying, after being forced to because of COVID-19. Most recently, we took a much-needed break in beautiful Cornwall where the beaches remind me so much of NZ.
It was a pretty great feeling getting the keys to the bigger, better kitchen we designed earlier this year!
A VALUABLE LESSON
Don’t be afraid of failure. Past experience tells me it’s the only way you can truly learn – by trial and error. Oh, and never leave home without your reusable bag!
Bubala! Delicious vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Shoreditch. Their Oyster mushroom kebabs are STUNNING!
ONE PLACE WE SHOULD GO SEE
Go and check out DabbaDrop’s contribution to the new exhibition Waste Age at the Design Museum:
WHO IS YOUR ZERO (LOW WASTE) HERO
It’s got to be Anna Jones. Both Anshu and I adore her cooking and use her cookbooks religiously.
Her latest cookbook One brings together a way of eating that is mindful of the planet. Anna teaches us how to cook with some of the most wasted foods in the UK and has a plethora of ideas on how to cook delicious food more sustainably.
THINGS YOU COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT
My family (obvs), my reusable kinto coffee thermos, my new DabbaDrop reusable carrier bag (coming soon!) and dabba tins of course, which are so versatile for storing, cooking and delivering things in 😊
LAST SONG YOU CHOSE TO LISTEN TO
Cloudbusting by Kate Bush
WHAT SONG WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD TO THE FILL CLEAN REPEAT PLAYLIST
Chin Chin Chu by Mera Naam – an old fave of Anshu’s which we play in the office when we need something cheery and upbeat
HARDEST THING TO FIND ZERO WASTE
Plant-based yoghurt and cheese, although @theartyvegan are doing a pretty good job of changing that!
Because, like us, you’re trying to change the narrative by creating a product that does what it’s supposed to (very well I might add) but with less waste – a closed loop solution. Also, we love the branding!