Scott Norton, co-founder of Sir Kensington’s, will be speaking at the Washington D.C. Food Tank Summit, “Cultivating the Next Generation of Young Food Leaders,” which will be held in partnership with George Washington University, World Resources Institute, the National Farmers Union, Future Farmers of America, and the National Young Farmers Coalition on February 28, 201
Sir Kensington’s identifies as the makers of condiments with character. With a mission
to bring integrity and charm to ordinary and overlooked food, Sir Kensington’s condiments are leading retailers and restaurants across the United States. As an organization, Sir Kensington’s combines an innovative high-growth startup environment with a value-driven natural foods company, all personified by a fabled English gentleman.
This year, Sir Kensington’s was acquired by Unilever, joining a family of global food brands, to help define the future of good food and good business. Norton, listed on Forbes’ 30 Under 30” has also been named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business. Previous to founding Sir Kensington’s, he began his career at Lehman Brothers in Tokyo and traveled across 23 countries in Asia on a folding bicycle. Norton is an alumnus of Brown University and a member of the University’s Advisory Council on Entrepreneurship.
Food Tank spoke with Scott about his efforts to educate the public about the importance of food quality and how creativity and innovation can inspire more people to care about their food.
Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
Scott Norton (SN): It began with the simple idea that food was changing for the better, yet ketchup and condiments were being left behind. When we got started, we knew very little about food, but we knew we loved it and that we wanted to build a company that stood for something beyond transactional commerce. It was only through experimentation, mistakes, and years of learning-by-doing that we discovered how important food is for human culture, health, and environmental well-being. The curiosity to see if we could make a compelling, natural product brought us to throw tasting parties for our friends, invent an English gentleman, and build a stellar team that is bringing our vision into the mainstream where it can really have an impact.
FT: How are you helping to build a better food system?
SN: At Sir Kensington’s, our mission is to bring integrity and charm to ordinary and overlooked food.
Integrity for us means consideration of our ingredients – how they’re sourced, how they’re processed, and how we communicate about them with transparency. We bring attention to condiments, the ordinary and overlooked foods which are part of the fabric of daily life in America.
In doing this, we stimulate curiosity about a sector of food that was previously ignored despite its ubiquity and remind people to be intentional about quality and taste in all the food they eat. Candidly, there is so much more that we can do. We continue to ask the question of what is our potential to change food for the better? You will be seeing more from us soon in this regard.
FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
SN: Formal food and nutrition education in schools is cursory, and the incredible amount of resources poured into advertising by food companies has shaped the way our country eats more than informed opinions favoring moderation, nutritional consideration, and taste.
People today have the minds of 21st-century superhumans with more knowledge than ever before in history, yet we still have the bodies and taste buds of cavemen that favor calorie-dense foods. Large food corporations have exploited this, so education that is as equally compelling as advertising is the way to fight back. If we can educate people about the ramifications of diet on both the health of individuals and the planet, and give people tools to satisfy themselves sustainably, we’ll be in a much better place.
FT: What innovations in food and agriculture are you most excited about?
SN: The most exciting innovations in food are not actually food at all – they’re social media and e-commerce, which have had more of an impact on food in the last ten years than any physical processing innovation.
Barriers to entry and experimentation around food products and services are lower than ever before. The introduction of crowdfunding models and platforms for niche communities have allowed creators and entrepreneurs to gain traction quickly at low costs. There is now a petri dish of low-stakes projects that embrace iterative innovation from which new megatrends will emerge. To me, that is really exciting because it brings energy and hope into the future of food, along with talent, capital, and new types of customers.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
SN: Cook food yourself! Cooking food at home forces us to think about food in so many more dimensions than eating out. You know what’s going into your food, you have consideration and control, and it turns food into a creative and meditative activity that culminates in an enjoyable experience of eating and sharing.
Cooking creates the connection between ingredients (plants, animals, and fungi) and food, which is steeped in diverse human cultures. Each meal you cook turns into a lesson and opportunity for continuous improvement and experimentation. By the end of it all, it feels right to honor our food by thinking critically about where it came from.
Other small changes people can make include eating less meat, composting, and joining a CSA.
FT: What is the best opportunity for young or aspiring farmers and entrepreneurs to get a foothold in America’s agricultural future?
SN: Right now is a remarkable time for opportunities in the food world because everything is in flux, and those who were once considered experts are being disrupted and dethroned. I can’t say there’s one best angle for an individual, as it changes based on talents, passions, and access. However, if you can focus your efforts on getting consumers to care about something and create a movement, then the impact ripples through the entire value chain. Take a shot at creating a product or a service that makes the change you want to see in the world, and figure out how to inspire eaters to advocate for it too.
FT: How can we best stimulate young people’s curiosity about food and agriculture and encourage their participation in building healthier food systems?
SN: My philosophy around stimulating curiosity is to combine education with entertainment. If we can inspire people to enjoy learning, they’ll educate themselves, and look at food (or anything) with a new perspective. Sir Kensington’s aims to follow in the tradition of educators and entertainers like Bill Nye the Science Guy and Alton Brown, bringing their perspective to food, innovation, and the environment. This aligns with our focus on the ordinary and overlooked as a company, as we hope to awaken people to how worthy the entire food system is for our collective attention and engagement.
Tickets for the 2018 D.C. Food Tank Summit are selling out quickly! Join us in Washington D.C. on February 28th as we discuss cultivating the next generation of food leaders. Apply to attend HERE.