Jessica Felton-Page (BSc 2007): Fighting food waste at Rubies in The Rubble

In the UK, an estimated 20 to 40% of all fruit and vegetables grown for human consumption are rejected before they reach the shops. This means that around 9.5 million tonnes of food is thrown away annually. This is mainly because they do not match the supermarkets’ strict cosmetic standards meaning they are not the right colour, shape or size to be deemed attractive for sale.*

Jessica Felton-Page works for Rubies in the Rubble, an ethical food company that fights food waste by using the “unattractive” fruit and vegetables to make beautiful condiments. The company suggests “if we stop wasting food that could have been eaten, the benefit to the planet would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road.” In 2020 alone, the company cooked 115 tonnes of rejected produce into delicious sauces, rescuing them from going to waste. Their mission is to double that number in the following year.

In early November, Jessica will join a panel discussion on Responsible Businesses, with insights and advice from other career experts in the sustainability profession. Ahead of the event, we spoke to Jessica about her journey from an undergraduate degree in Chemistry to fighting food waste at Rubies in the Rubble and her memories of studying in Bristol.

What was the journey to your role at Rubies in the Rubble and what’s the best thing about your job?

After graduating in 2007 I moved back to my hometown and back in with my parents. I knew I didn’t want a career in Chemistry but other than that I had no idea what I wanted to do. I took a job with a local business that happened to be Tyrrells Crisps and that ignited my passion for the food industry.

Now, I am the Commercial Manager for Retail at Rubies in the Rubble. I manage a team of two, and between us we look after sales of Rubies Ketchups, Mayos and Chutneys to wholesale, independents, eComm sites and supermarkets – anywhere where you would buy the products to consume in your own home.

The best thing about my job is working for a business I believe in, that is putting some good back into the world. It also helps that I love the products. That makes it an easy sell.

You are passionate about food and have worked in the industry throughout your career. How do you think the food industry is relevant to global justice and climate change issues today?

Hugely relevant, if only for the fact that everybody has got to eat. Rubies products are all made using at least one ingredient that would otherwise be wasted. We are actively fighting food waste and this gives us a unique insight into the wider issues surrounding food production, such as climate change, carbon emissions and supply chains. We have made a commitment to be Carbon Neutral by 2022 (our 10th birthday) and we’ve been researching a lot into what that means and what we can do better. We’re all keeping an eye on the upcoming COP26 summit too. It is great to see environmental issues being pushed to the forefront of the public agenda.

What is the best career advice that you have been given?

Not necessarily advice, but one of my Chemistry tutors said to me ‘trying to study something you’re not interested in is like swimming through treacle, isn’t it?’ I felt such relief on hearing the recognition that what I was doing was hard, and that it is not as easy as other people sometimes made it feel. Growth doesn’t happen in the comfort zone.

How did studying at the University of Bristol impact you as a person?

I made some great friends who I still hang out with today who have influenced my life in a positive way. I learned a lot from playing in the University of Bristol Ladies Hockey Club, living independently and recognising my own strengths and weaknesses. I didn’t do very well in my degree, but it’s been a huge lesson and served as a great base for growth.

What was your fondest memory from your time in Bristol?

Mostly from my first year, I met so many wonderful people who were so different to me and it truly felt like anything was possible. I loved living in halls and going to the bar or to the union for socials. It was a time where we were too independent for school but didn’t yet have to bear the responsibility of adulthood.

What was your favourite eatery when you were in Bristol and why?

I’d have to say a Sunday Roast from the Lansdown in Clifton. I worked there for a couple of years while I was studying, and the same people still own it now. The food was always fresh, and the company was always interesting – they make everyone feel so welcome. Great memories.

*See ThinkEatSave, the UN Environment Programme.

You can hear Jessica Felton-Page and other experts from the sustainability profession share career insights as part of our series of unique panel discussions exploring the sustainability sector. Book your place at Bristol Connects Live: Responsible Businesses on Tuesday 9 November, 1 – 1.45 pm.

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