Avoiding Gluten

If you’re still eating healthily based on New Year’s resolutions, well done, you’re doing a great job! It’s so easy to fall of the wagon, especially when it’s cold and miserable, although the days are now mercifully getting longer, so the end is in sight!

What can make healthy eating even more challenging is if for whatever reason you have to choose gluten free or dairy free – not so bad when you’re shopping and cooking yourself, but much more difficult when it comes to eating out.

Something that’s very important to us at Vital is making sure that we have a wide range of options for those who can’t eat gluten and/or dairy, and not only that they are there but that they are delicious. Our founder Alex is intolerant to gluten and taste tests everything we introduce, so you’re hearing it from the horse’s mouth.

Fifty of our salad bar ingredients don’t contain gluten and 49 don’t contain dairy, so lots of choice available! Our Bang Bang chicken is one of our most popular signature salads, containing no gluten or dairy, just a delicious selection of chicken, roquito peppers, vegetables and sweet chilli & lime dressing.

We change up the menu regularly so if there’s anything you particularly fancy or you have any feedback just let us know and we’ll see how we can incorporate it.

See you soon!

The Vital Team

New Year New Menu – with a little help from our team

Hot Food generic stews

You may have noticed that we’ve had a few changes in recent weeks. A new menu is always a busy and exciting time, and since October we’ve been working away on what to introduce in January to shake things up, and specifically to develop our hot food range.

January is not the most fun time of year, as we’ve probably all experienced over recent weeks, and trying to be healthy and virtuous is often not the most appealing option. So this was the inspiration behind the new items, to keep lots of healthy options on the menu but add a bit more excitement, and improve on what we already had.

Following lots of research, tastings, brainstorming and hard graft by Nicola, our head of food (she’s a guru of all things healthy and delicious) we decided to feature a range of products based on street food from around the world. We still wanted to flexibility for you to be able to eat your way (that’s how we work after all) so we focused on creating variety, flavour, options for those on restricted diets and of course good value.

‘Our store managers come from around the world (Morocco, Spain, Lithuania and Columbia to name a few!) and we asked them for inspiration for new hot food dishes,’ explains Nicola.  ‘My favourite is the Brazilian Pork Feijoada, which was suggested by Joffer, our manager in Artillery Row.  I worked with Joffer to get the perfect recipe, and he was pretty strict to make sure the recipe was as authentically Brazilian as possible!  The result is delicious, and it’s proving really popular with our customers.  In Brazil the dish would be traditionally served with orange wedges, which you can try in Artillery Row, and maybe be served by Joffer too!’

So you can now pop into any Vital store and enjoy 4 different bases, or a combination, topped with Brazilian Pork Feijoada, Sri Lankan chicken, Thai green curry, saag paneer or chilli con carne – all hot, healthy and filling, which fits in perfectly with what we believe; that you can eat healthily every day and never be bored or hungry.

We are still (of course) salad heroes, and you can grab a freshly tossed salad made exactly to your specifications, and our breakfast is a lovely start to the day, with lots of options from create-your-own breakfast bowls to a lovely bacon muffin and fresh-ground coffee.

We’ve also just started working with Sibberi Birch Water which you can try in our Artillery Row and Fleet Street stores – a great addition to the range.

We want to know what you think about the new developments, so let us know on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or drop us a line over on the contact page.

Happy end-of-January!

The Vital Team 

Autumn Seasonal Launch

We’ve had a busy few weeks at Vital Ingredient with the launch of our much anticipated seasonal Autumn Menu. This is the first time we’ve had a launch of this scale. Previously we’ve updated parts of our offering; the breakfast or delivery menu, however this launch involved updating our full Menu to include our new Autumn ingredients.

With all these changes to the Menus we decided this was the perfect opportunity to update the design of our menu boards across the estate. It has been three years since our last redesign and although the boards had a rustic charm, I was very much aware that the boards were very tired and the stores would very much benefit from a contemporary design.

The redesign involved simplifying the menu layout and categorising it under four headlines; Create your own, House, Hot food and Drinks menu boards. Photos of the food were added and the copy was updated to a more legible font. All graphics were printed onto a lighter 5mm foamex board, which is easier for the team members to lift when changing the menu from breakfast to lunch. The printed foamex boards are now hanging and supported from a fixed blackened steel back board. The result is a more professional menu that really allows our Autumn Menu to shout out.

Baker St after

New menu boards at Baker Street

The installation occurred over a week, our signage guys visited four stores a night, with each store taking 2-3 hours to remove existing menu boards and hang the new boards and directional signs. It was rather a painful week of long hours and unfortunately a staggered launch, which we were trying to avoid. However, the feedback from both customers and team members has been great and all the hard work has most certainly paid off.

The Autumn Menu is available now in all our stores and in head office we’re busy working on our hot food menu. The food photography shoot is booked for mid November and the new menu will be available from the beginning of next year.

Head of Design, Laura Armstrong

My first 90 days


Having joined the Vital team in mid-May I am now ninety days into my role here and I have enjoyed every minute of it. In common with every new role you take on the first few weeks were rather hectic, I have now settled into my new role and am feeling part of the team so now feels like a good time to pause and reflect back on my time here.

First, a little bit about me. I have 25 years experience in the food business and have had the good fortune to work for brands such as Pret a Manger, Leon, Starbucks and KFC. I suppose that the next question people might ask is “Why Vital?” Why indeed! Having been involved with a variety of well-known brands I believe that I have a good idea about what makes a successful brand, its things like the concept being both simple to understand and offering great quality at a reasonable price, its offering people something slightly different and it’s about doing all of these things with passion and dedication. For me, Vital is all of these things and this coupled with the fact that the business is led by some fantastic people meant that when the opportunity to join the Vital team arose I had no hesitation in saying “yes”.

The last three months have been exciting on a personal basis as there are some huge advantages working in such a health conscious business. I have been eating lots of our food and since joining I’ve not only lost a lot of weight I’m feeling healthier and I now have a lot more energy, working at Vital has really opened my eyes to the benefits of eating right.

So what about the future? In the short term we are doing some more work on our food and you can expect our menu to offer some exciting new ingredients and house salads shortly, we are also redesigning the menu boards in our stores which will make them easier to navigate as well as giving our stores a bit of a lift, hopefully you will like the new look! We will be opening a number of new stores next year so we are busy preparing for this. There are so many exciting plans in the pipeline and I am really looking forward to the next ninety days and beyond.

Paolo Peretti Managing Director

Protein – the summer’s diet must have

Protein pots

Eat Your Greens, Salmon & Edamame & Cranberry, Walnut & Goats Cheese Protein pots

Ensuring to get enough protein into your diet is an absolute must if you’re looking to keep healthy and in tip top condition. This macronutrient plays an important role in muscle repair after exercise, effectively wards off cravings and even helps to maintain a healthy immune system. And if you’re looking to beat the bulge this summer, eating good quality protein will get you one step closer to your end goal.

Protein is made up of special building blocks called amino acids. These are found in meat, fish and some plant-based foods. Here at Vital, we’ve made it super-simple to reach your daily protein quota throughout the day. Our breakfast options range from Poached Egg Pots to Sandwiches & Muffins and Breakfast Bowls which all have a hearty helping of protein. For lunch, our salads and hot food options all pack in this nutritious goodie and we have even developed a special range of Protein Pots to help make it super-easy to get your fix. These include Salmon & Edamame, Power Nicoise, (a delicious pot with egg, green beans tuna and lemon), Cranberry, Walnut & Goats Cheese and our Superfood Pot which is bursting with good-for-you ingredients like red quinoa, red rice, buckwheat, chicken, carrot, edamame, pomegranate and a tangy lemon dressing.

Vital fact: Quinoa, one of the staple ingredients on the Vital menu is the ultimate superfood. Although in texture it resembles a grain, quinoa is actually a seed which offers a hefty helping of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Nutritionist, Louise Pyne

Behind the scenes of one of our photoshoots

This is a very exciting week for us at Vital Ingredient, as we are launching our super delicious new delivery platters. Nicola, our Head of Food has been busy creating twelve new healthy platters and I’ve had the very easy task of making them look incredibly scrumptious.

Our first day of a three-day shoot starts with a briefing with the photographer, assistant, food stylist and Nicola. We discussed the shots, the lighting, angles, the set and the props; we all knew we had a very hectic few days ahead.

Since starting at Vital Ingredient, I’ve created a photography style that is clean and simplistic, with the focus being on showing the quality of the food. Our fresh ingredients are so vibrant in colour and provide interesting shapes, therefore a white rustic wooden surface is the ideal surface to compliment. Any extra propping comes from either the packaging itself or any additional ingredient cues. The focus is pin sharp on the food, which slightly tapers off to create depth with a mid to high camera angle that allows the food to be the focus with less background. The lighting is bright to create a fresh, natural setting.

Each shot takes different amount of times to capture, sometimes the shots you think will be the easiest actually turn out to be the most challenging. This was the case for our Raw and Naked Smoothie shot. This actually took us over an hour and a half! Also you may think it might be easy to create a platter that contains twenty wraps, but to make this shot perfectly we probably made thirty wraps!

Each shot follows the same process, the home stylist prepares the food and makes it look delicious, (which is easy!!) she places it on set and the photographer captures it. I then spend time tweaking the composition to create the shot I want for all the marketing material.

Our new delivery platters consist of Breakfast pastries, sandwiches and muffins, which will keep energy levels soaring all morning. Antipasti platters, protein pots, flatbread wraps, and salads are the perfect choice for a healthy buffet-style lunch that tick the flavour boxes. We also offer a range of dessert options including fresh fruit and sweet treats to finish your meal up nicely.

My personal favourite is the Raw & Naked Platter, I love healthy smoothies and Nicola’s is the Antipasto.

Head of Design, Laura Armstrong

Visiting our Salad Supplier


At Vital Ingredient we are constantly working to ensure you get the freshest tastiest food possible, this includes visiting our ingredient suppliers regularly.

Last week I visited our salad leaf supplier to see the first of this year’s production. During Spring and Summer we buy all our salad leaves from our local supplier in Kent, someone we have worked with from the very beginning.

Acres and acres of colourful lettuce filled fields stretch over the countryside. There are also test fields, where incredibly over 400 different new varieties of lettuce are tested every year! A lot of hard work goes into identifying new tasty varieties to bring to our salad bowls.

As well as flavour, the farmer is looking for varieties that will grow quickly and produce a good yield in the field. Soil can make a big difference, what grows well for one farmer won’t necessarily work for another, due to the change in soil.

The latest new leaf to be developed is baby kale, which has taken over 3 years of trials to perfect. Much sweeter and softer than normal kale, it’s perfect for salads.

Have you tried our Guest Salad? This is where you can find the seasonal and new lettuce varieties. We change it every fortnight to ensure there’s always plenty of variety to keep your lunchtime interesting. Look out for the baby kale coming to your salad bowl soon!

Head of Food, Nicola Simons

Vital caters to your dietary requirements


Our gluten and dairy-free chia pot

There’s no one size fits all approach to healthy eating. For some of us, following a dairy-free or gluten-free diet is a must-do, whilst others choose to adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. But thanks to our flexible ‘create your own’ menus, eating at Vital Ingredient gets the green light regardless of dietary requirements.

Looking for a dairy-free, wheat-free breakfast that ranks highly on the taste factor? Create your own breakfast bowl or smoothie by choosing a base ingredient like toasted oats or rye flakes plus three ingredients such as fresh or dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Then add dairy-free almond milk and your favourite topping.

If gluten or meat are off-limits but you don’t want to miss out on delicious tasting food, our ‘create your own’ salads are for you. Choose a base from our selection of zero fat leaves, brown rice and quinoa and then pick one item from the deli counter and four items from the veg counter. Drizzle over your favourite dressing from our menu and hey presto, your tailor-made lunch is served!

We even have a selection of snacks that cater to special dietary requirements. Our gluten and dairy-free chia pots are packed with brain-boosting omega-3 for the perfect afternoon pick-me-up whilst our tropical fruit salad varieties are crammed with antioxidant goodness.

Vital fact: Dairy-free milks made from almond and coconut are great alternatives to regular milk. Coconut milk contains special fats called medium chain triglycerides which help to boost the metabolism whilst almond milk is a good source of vitamin E, an important nutrient for skin health.

Nutritionist, Louise Pyne

Drink yourself healthy


Healthy smoothies are on massive on our wellbeing agenda right now. Not only are they a quick and easy way of getting your 5-a-day but they taste great too. Blitzing together loads of healthy ingredients offers a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are easily absorbed into the bloodstream and into our cells when they can get to work making us look and feel our best.

Vital Ingredient’s signature Raw & Naked smoothie line features our best-selling Virgin Mojito – a lush detoxifier made with brassicas and berries, a touch of spicy ginger ginger, fresh mint and apple juice along with our Mean & Green – a cleansing concoction which packs a serious purifying punch thanks to leafy greens, celery, pumpkin seeds, parsley and apple juice combo.

And this month we’re adding two new summer-inspired smoothies into the mix. Made with coconut water for its awesome potassium-packed, hydrating properties and tons of health-giving fruit and veg, these smoothies offer the ultimate in thirst-quenching goodness.

Take your tastebuds to the tropics with our exotic Raw & Naked Totally Tropical smoothie which pairs pineapple, mango, goji berries, apple, mango, spinach and coconut water for an exotic, antioxidant-charged treat. Looking to detox, de-bloat and refresh your senses? Our Raw & Naked Cucumber Cooler is perfect energising pick-me-up. Cucumber, melon and coconut water will quench your thirst whilst apple, ginger and mint provide a zingy hit.

Each Raw & Naked smoothie is made fresh in store. Simply take your chosen smoothie ingredients to the counter and one of the team will whizz everything together for a delicious on-the-go drink!

Nutritionist, Louise Pyne

New year’s resolution, but I mean it


You can find Avocado in our salad deck

Working at Vital really has focused my mind on what I eat and how often. The beauty of our stores is that you can make your lunch whichever way you like, there really are millions of combinations in our salad operation!

At the moment there are two areas that food is being revolutionised on the high street. One is superfoods and the other is raw foods. Both of which, we cover in our stores beautifully compared to the overly stodgy and starchy run of the mill sandwiches that are generally available.

I have recently changed my lifestyle not to include refined sugars (really hard to do especially with a sweet tooth like mine – chocaholic) and include more superfoods and raw where possible. There is research just beginning to scrape the surface on how good this way of eating is for you and still much more to be done in this field.

I have added in some of the things we do in store which have helped me not only lose weight but feel far more energetic over the last few months. I have done nothing else but watch what I eat.

Leafy greens:
What’s so amazing about the leaf is that calorie for calorie, they deliver more nutrients than just about any other food on the planet. Loaded with fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, leafy greens stock your body with the artillery needed to fight off potential killers like heart disease and cancer. Simply put: leaves benefit virtually every cell you’ve got! I choose these everyday for lunch – spinach being my fave!

Don’t be afraid of an avocado because you think it’s fattening! The often over-looked avocado is a delicious, creamy superfood that’s simply too health-boosting to skip. The myriad of healthy fats and nutrients found in avocados – oleic acid, lutein, folate, vitamin E, monounsaturated fats and glutathione among them help keep the GP away. I aim to add this in twice a week at least.

Tasty, sweet and packed with disease-fighting phytochemicals, flavinoids and soluble fibre - blueberries have the power to help prevent serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stomach ulcers and high blood pressure. In sum, blueberries are nearly miraculous! They also help tame inflammation throughout the body and can reduce “bad” cholesterol – so dig in for better health. We sell these in the morning when you create your own breakfast in a bowl or smoothie or as a dessert in the superberry pot (my new alternative for the crisps and chocolate)!

Above is just a snippet of the changes I have made daily and am reaping the benefits. We eat at least three times a day everyday so being careful is really important. I did sneak in a little choclolate over valentines (it was a gift!) every now and then can’t hurt.

Operations Manager, Emmett Loughran