AMA: Tim Boote, founder of Protein Rebel

More and more Brits are looking for better alternatives to traditional protein shakes. Plant-based, non-dairy or just generally healthier options.

That's where a company like Protein Rebel comes in. We caught up with Tim Boote, founder and CEO. Tim shares how some unusual beer snacks in Zambia gave him the idea to set up his own company.

Hi Tim, let's start by learning a bit about Protein Rebel.

Protein Rebel provides alternative proteins that are highly nutritious and sustainable.

We want to prove that people don't need to compromise to eat sustainably - that new, alternative proteins from plants, algae, insects and other sources can be better, delivering improved performance, taste, texture and nutrition than traditional animal and dairy proteins.

We believe the faster the world stops relying on traditional animal and dairy protein and moves towards a net-zero future the better. 

We’ve started with plant-based proteins and cutting edge British farmed crickets that have been made into high protein, all-natural powders for use after exercise and as a meal/snack replacement. 

Our products have been designed from the ground up and we’ve worked with academics, nutritionists, new ingredient suppliers, leading manufacturers and flavour houses to create products that provide the perfect balance of taste, nutrition and sustainability.

How did the idea for your company come about? 

I’ve always been interested in conservation and wildlife and studied wildlife management in South Africa. I then went on to work in a national park in Zambia.

zambia

This is where I had my first taste of insects – Chipime - a type of yellow caterpillar taken from the bushes and dried in the sun. 

They were tasty with a crunchy texture. And I learnt how to catch termites using buckets of water when it was a full moon. We would fry them up with salt and pepper and eat them as a beer snack. Proper delicious!

We'll take your word for it!

When I came back to the UK, I started running and biking and met Liz who is also interested in keeping fit and being outside.

Like most people, we found that you cannot out-train bad nutrition, plus whey protein shakes made us feel ill. Asking around, we realised we weren’t alone and this was typical, despite not being allergic to dairy.

People are more and more focused on eating healthily and want to know more about the ingredients in their food. And like everyone else, we can see the changes in the environment - the fires in Australia, deforestation in the Amazon and flooding in the UK.

It feels like the two ideas of eating healthily and sustainably are coming together. 

So, not only does Protein Rebel fill a gap in the market but it's also tackling a global issue.

Yes. People are open to trying new foods that are tasty and nutritious as well as sustainable. We realised the time was right to bring something new to the market. And after almost one hundred formulations of both vegan and cricket-based protein powders, Protein Rebel was born!

protein

Amazing. What would you say is the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?

Trying to do absolutely everything myself. It’s only natural when starting out to have to get stuck in with everything, from product development and marketing through to distribution. 

But it’s also important to know my strengths and weaknesses and as such, I need to know when to let go and find an expert.

Absolutely, though it's hard at first to take a step back. Can you share any practical tips or processes to help people work remotely? 

Try to plan your day best you can to be as productive as possible, and make sure you have plenty of rest and exercise breaks. If you’re not careful, hours can pass by in which you’re sat in front of the computer. Get out and go for a walk or run. It’s great for both the body and the mind right now.

Do you think you’ve nailed the work/life balance? 

I try to shut off by going for runs and spending some downtime with the family, however when growing such a young business, it’s almost impossible to switch off altogether. Protein Rebel is on my mind morning, day and night and so I haven’t got the balance right quite yet!

running

How do you keep your team aligned? 

As a small start-up, the team comprises me and my wife and so it’s pretty easy to keep ourselves aligned. The greatest challenge at the moment is keeping the children aligned as we’re running Protein Rebel while homeschooling and looking after a toddler. It’s certainly a juggling act!

It certainly sounds it! As the team grows, do you think you'll put a share scheme/option scheme in place?

When we grow the team, I’m sure we will.

And at that point, what company values will matter most? If you had to pick three.

Think sustainably, behave responsibly and challenge the norm. 

Sustainability is a key focus and is built into everything we do, from the ingredients and packaging to partnering with World Land Trust to help save threatened habitat from destruction. 

Our decisions are driven by what’s right and fair and this will never change.

And finally, we are about doing things differently, not just accepting the norm. We are breaking moulds in the nutrition industry and will continue to do so. 

sustainability

Love that. Do you think your views are mainstream or a little off-centre? How so?

I’ll think my opinions are mainstream and am always surprised when people don’t always think the same way. My views about sustainability and conservation have been developed over a lifetime and I’m a firm believer in people having to make more sustainable choices for the sake of the planet. 

Finally, a rogue question to finish on. Have you ever had a near-death experience? 

I’ve had a number of close calls including getting lost while volunteering in a remote Zambia national park and having to spend the night in a dilapidated hut. The whole night, I heard hyaenas circling the hut. Morning couldn’t come quickly enough!

hyenas

A cackling clan of hyenas is enough to give anyone nightmares (as cute as they look).

Thanks, Tim. It's been great to get to know more about you and your business.