An experiment led to two ecopreneurs starting their own plant-based pasta business

DURBAN – Two young ecopreneurs who knew the potential of plant-based eating four years ago developed a legume pasta in their home kitchen. 

At the time, they realized they didn’t have a rolling pin and reached for an empty red wine bottle.

After a happy dance to celebrate their exciting new creation, the duo plotted to grow their business which was recently listed with one of South Africa’s leading retailers.

Happy Earth People is now a local company producing a range of wholesome, superfood products.

Taleszia Pillay, 30, said, "The why existed before the how. I just knew it was intended to be a platform for wholesome living on a healthy planet". 

Approaching school friend Candice Perkins whole is also 30, the duo set out to create a ground-breaking new health product offering legumes as their core ingredient. 

"You cannot function at your best without the correct nutrition, so we wanted to make natural, whole foods more accessible and versatile to encourage more people to experience the benefits of good nutrition in a way that is sustainably responsible," said Pillay.

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Two young ecopreneurs who knew the potential of plant-based eating four years ago developed a legume pasta in their home kitchen. Photo: Supplied

She added that legumes (or pulses) – including the dried pea, bean and lentil families – soon became an obvious choice. 

Pillay said, "Not only are they a fantastic source of protein and fibre, full of iron and loaded with antioxidants, but we also believe pulses are the nutritious superfood of the future. They may even be the answer to climate change-related food security concerns, as they need very little water to grow and are nutritionally jam-packed! Plus, they’re soil enriching, leaving land even healthier after harvest".

After developing their recipes, Happy Earth People launched their chickpea and red lentil pasta in 2015.

The first to create these powerhouse pastas commercially in South Africa, the duo set out to educate local consumers about the benefits of their then unheard-of new products at local farmer markets across Cape Town.

Retailers began to catch wind of their products and Happy Earth People grew as their products began to land on selected local and niche retailers’ shelves. This allowed them to start using bigger machinery and up-scale their capacity.

Having recently joined forces with a leading retailer, their product will now be available on the shelf of selected Pick n Pay stores.

On their ecopreneur journey, Pillay said, "There have been a few bumps in an otherwise beautiful road with a whole lot of lessons that we have learned along the way; some extremely tough but they have made us stronger and grown us as individuals and strong business women". 

The duo joined the Pick n Pay Enterprise and Supplier Development programme in 2019. The programme provides guidance navigating the retail world, mentorship and access to a larger market. 

"This has been an absolute game-changer for us, and we are excited that through this we will be able to grow even more, employ more incredible staff and add real value to your local economy," said Perkins.

By combining Pillay’s creative skills and Perkins’s driven business sense, they increased their turnover by R800 000 in year one and this year they forecast to increase this even further through their new partnership with Pick n Pay.

With the plant-based eating trend set to continue, the duo is excited for the future.

"We are two determined, female eco-entrepreneurs who do not compromise on sustainable business journeys and offering the best legume-based products. We will always go to the ends of the earth to create the most delicious, wholesome, meat-free, organically grown legume products for families to enjoy," concluded Pillay.

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