We recently caught up with Sasha from Sasha’s Find Foods to have a chat about the company and gluten-free options.
Tell us about how Sasha’s Fine Foods started?
When I moved to Singapore with my family about 10 years ago, I found it really tricky to find “clean” and healthy food. I found there was little or no information about basics like chicken, fish, and meat that were selling at supermarkets, butchers, and wet markets. I was used to knowing not only which country the meat/seafood had come from but even the actual farm it came from too – giving full traceability to what I was eating. This information was not available in Singapore. Coming from a culture where I knew everything about what I was buying, this lack of information was startling and concerning.
My first step was with lamb from New Zealand and I also contacted some farmers in Australia that I had met on my travels. Then, I started placing tiny orders (just for family) but this soon eventuated into much bigger orders once friends started adding requests each month. This increase in awareness and concern about food quality, sourcing, and sustainability led me to take the leap in setting up Sasha’s Fine Foods (originally The Barbie Girls).
That was six years ago! Thankfully, the demand has kept getting stronger – from both new and old customers who hold the same ethos and who value our approach.
Why the change in name from “The Barbie Girls” to “Sasha’s Fine Foods”?
When I set up the company six years ago, my kids came up with the idea of “The Barbie Girls”; I was primarily selling products for BBQs and I’m a girl; they thought the name was cute and catchy. They were right!
Over time, however, my range expanded well beyond steaks and sausages… so I felt it was time for some rebranding so that customers would have a much clearer understanding of what I was offering. The name “Sasha’s Fine Foods” seemed simple, straightforward, and offered a better reflection of what the business now offers.
What are some of the challenges associated with the business?
Importing fresh and frozen meat as well as seafood is a constant challenge. There are different rules for every country; what might apply to importing Australian products can be different to what applies to importing products from the EU.
Another challenge is maintaining the cool chain. This is super important and we take this extremely seriously due to the nature of products we are selling. We have always customized our trucks so that we have both chilled and freezer compartments in them… something most companies do not practice.
Another challenge is finding good employees that share my passion and vision. I am very lucky that I have a wonderful team! This has taken years to build and finding new team members to cope with the expanding business is a constant challenge.
When did the transition into gluten-free offerings start?
It was really in response to requests from our customers around 3 years ago. I have always put our customers at the forefront of the business and when requests starting coming in for more gluten-free products, I listened and started on a mission!
I was also very conscious of the growing discussions around nutrition and food intolerances that took place around that same time.
There are a lot of gluten-free offerings out there but many are packed full of nasty additives and unnecessary preservatives. I actually reject an awful lot of what I am offered – much to the annoyance of some suppliers I work with! However, I am firm in my approach and I don’t think that good quality food needs flavourings/colourings added – gluten-free or not.
Have you seen a shift in the demand for gluten-free food over the past few years?
Yes, I have. Even if our customers had not started asking, we would probably have gone down the gluten-free route given the growing awareness of food. Food intolerances are all around us and as a healthy eater, I am very well-read in terms of what is happening in the “health and nutrition” spheres.
Which of your products are certified gluten-free?
Naturally, all our pure meat, chicken, seafood and fish products are gluten-free.
We also carry award-winning gluten-free premium pork sausages and chipolatas from England – these have been taste tested by many chefs in the UK who rate them as highly, if not higher, than their “gluten” equivalent. It is the apple pieces in these gluten-free sausages that make them so succulent and delicious.
While not all of our chef-made meals are gluten-free – we offer some gluten-free favourites such as chilli con carne and bolognese sauce.
In addition, we have a range of sauerkraut products, a range of rehydrated snacks, a delicious granola from Conscious Craves, and will soon be introducing some gut shots which are super healthy.
New items to look for
In terms of new offerings, I have just been in Australia trying some gluten-free pasta dishes and we have just launched some great frozen meals. There will be gluten-free spinach & ricotta cannelloni, vegetarian lasagna, as well as fresh spaghetti and lasagna sheets.
The other very exciting new product we are launching soon is a gluten-free bread (at least 3 different types). I can’t say more at this stage but let’s just say there is a lot of bad gluten-free bread out there (as you probably know!) and it’s taken me a long time to find “the one”. I am super excited about the local brand I have discovered and can honestly say that I prefer eating their bread than regular bread. I have never said that about any other gluten-free bread! It will be available in November I hope.
What recommendations do you have for a special gluten-free holiday meal?
Our Kelly Bronze turkeys from England are truly exceptional in quality and were a sell out by mid November last year. We also have delicious bone-in-leg ham coming from England (cooked and ready to carve at the table) as well as gammons which are always a sell out at Christmas.
We also have some exciting new products this year: beetroot gravadlax from Scotland, whole sides of Scottish sliced smoked salmon, whole sides of unsliced smoked salmon from Mt Cook Alpine in New Zealand and the most incredible, decadent smoked halibut from the Scottish Hebrides. None of these seafood products have been in Singapore before and we are really excited to be the first company to bring them here.
About the Author
Although she is actually half American, Nicole considers herself a true blue Singaporean as she has lived there her entire life. When she is not writing for various publications, she can be found thrashing CrossFit WODS (or at least trying to), burning her thighs at barre, or finding some excuse to soak up the sun. In other words, this self confessed diehard Disney fan finds it hard to sit still – unless there’s a rerun of FRIENDS showing!