Jenny Costa, 32, started Rubies in the Rubble in 2012 fighting food waste with chutneys, ketchups and condiments created from her mother’s recipes.

We think she’s a Glowgetter because she began her upcycling fruit and veg waste business with nothing apart from a huge passion to make a difference in the world.

She’s a pioneer in the world of food waste using ingenious and resourceful ways to work with farmers and supermarket buyers to reduce waste. You can buy the Rubies in the Rubble range here.

Where did you start?

I was working for a City hedge fund but after two years I wanted to start something of my own. One night I read a newspaper article about bin divers who search for food outside supermarkets and it made me think about the food chain.

Farmers have vegetables like cucumbers turned away by buyers because they are not the right shape, supermarkets want to display food in abundance but then don’t sell it all and consumers are unpredictable and often throw food away.

I began to think there must be so much surplus with all the veg going to waste. Once I started to research food waste I became obsessed with it. A third of all food produced globally is wasted. It would feed everyone on our planet and yet while we are looking at ways to feed the population by 2020 I was asking myself why aren’t we managing it better?

Why chutney?

I was raised on a farm on the West Coast of Scotland. My mother, an artist, found great joy in turning waste into jams, cordials, ketchups and chutneys. She had a fruit and vegetable garden and she would store it so it would last all winter. We learnt to eat whatever was in season. We were brought up on chutneys as our main condiment.

I wanted to create a fun brand, that tasted delicious but had a back story and which would start forcing farmers to use food that was going to be wasted.

Everyone starts business so differently. I’m not a planner. I began by making and selling chutneys which were all a modern twist on my mother’s recipes. Within the first week I booked a stall on a farmers’ market in Marylebone. Then Borough Market gave us a stall to sell from. Then Fortnum & Mason began to stock us. Then the Head of Sustainability at Tesco read about us. People loved our product and loved what we were trying to do.

Rubies in the Rubble

How did you make it work?

We did everything on a shoestring until 2016 and then I got some funding which wasn’t very much but which allowed us to start growing a team. Doing it by ourselves for so long has allowed us to be entrepreneurs for longer. We understand the recipes and how to make them work.

Our first portable kitchen was on a wholesale market and so pallets of fruit and veg arrived all through the night. We would take all the unsold fruit and veg that was wasted because of the shape, size or colour.

We soon started learning from speaking to large-scale farmers about which crops were going to waste and we then made a recipe to use up our finds. Our main job is to fight waste – to source where there is food surplus and to create a market where things would otherwise be thrown.

We outgrew our kitchen in 2014. We now get fruit and veg from mainstream farmers – up to 30% of their crops can fail aesthetic standards. It changes all the time so at the moment we have lots of pears, tomatoes and onions. Bananas are the most wasted fruit in the UK.


Our big challenge was to make something out of those wasted so we created our banana ketchup – a play on mango ketchup.

What was the best advice you were ever given?

My old boss told me to go for it wholeheartedly. Put all your eggs in one basket. Go for it with all your heart and if you fail you will fail quickly.

What was your biggest mistake?

Sending out a product I wasn’t happy with. It was one of our first Christmas batches and we said we would do a bespoke chutney. We were battling in the kitchen to get it done in time and I wasn’t happy with it. But we jarred it up and sent it out. On Boxing Day I called them and apologised.

We had a similar situation a year later and the stress of hitting a tight deadline.

This time round I said I wasn’t happy with the product and asked for more time. When something has your name on it you have to be proud of it.

What next?

We would love Rubies in the Rubble to become an international brand known for delicious products made with the planet in mind. The thing that ties everything together is the ethos. We have got a planet that can feed everyone and we need to value all the food we produce.

What makes you glow at work?

I’m a people person and my favourite thing is talking about food waste and food sustainability. So I love talking to farmers, suppliers and supermarket buyers as well as events.

I’m passionate about raising awareness around food sustainability.

What makes you glow at home?

I got married last year and my husband bought a tandem. We love jumping on the train and going out exploring the Sussex lanes on our tandem. Nothing beats getting outdoors.

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4 Replies to “Meet the Glowgetter: Rubies in the Rubble’s Jenny Costa”

  1. I love these inspiring stories. I have a friend who is doing something similar with marinades, I will share with them!

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