People at the heart of it all: Graduate Julianne talks business

Date 15.03.2021

Female business leader, lobbyist, and University of Northampton Graduate, Julianne Ponan is proud that people are at the heart of what she does.

Named in the Forbes 30 Under 30s to watch, Julianne has revolutionised the free-from snacking industry, with her company Creative Nature.

As a toddler, Julianne was diagnosed with allergies after collapsing with breathing difficulties. Tests revealed she was allergic to all nuts, chickpeas, lentils, and sesame products, amongst other things. As an ambitious graduate, it was her personal experiences of her allergies, which inspired her business moves.

Her business, Creative Nature, creates over 24 different food products, from snacks to baking mixes, which are free from the top 14 food allergens, changing the way the two million people in the UK with a food allergy can grab a safe snack on the go.

Speaking about her business, Julianne said: “Our products are life-changing, as someone with severe allergies, I can’t just grab something to eat when I’m out and about. I have to think carefully about the kinds of shops or food outlets I can even walk into based on my allergies.

“As you trawl through food packaging and menus, you can’t always be sure what you’re eating will be safe, it’s a huge pressure. That’s why people are at the heart of what I do at Creative Nature. Our team understands the importance of keeping our customers safe, and in every step of our product creation, we can be sure that our products and our kitchens, are free of the top 14 allergens, which makes such a difference to the lives of our customers.

“I’ve had parents get in touch to say that thanks to our products, their child has been able to have a birthday cake. Cake is a simple thing, missed out on by so many allergy sufferers. That’s why I do what I do, kids eating cake, teenagers having a safe snack from a supermarket or highstreets store while they’re away from their parents, safe snacks for busy adults. For me, it’s all about our customers trusting in our food.”

Outside of her own business, Julianne is well known for her work to raise awareness of food allergies and has recently been named as the face of the Teal App, an app designed to save the lives of those who live with anaphylaxis, as well as the Anaphylaxis Campaign’s newest ambassador, supporting their work to improve awareness and lobbying for changes to the Law. Julianne is a passionate supporter of Natasha’s Law – which will require these foods to have ingredient and allergen information provided on the label – and will come into effect later this year.

Not content with helping to transform the free from industry, and lives of allergy sufferers, Julianne is championing diversity and corporate responsibility in business. She said: “I’m proud of the diversity within Creative Nature, 75% of my company are women, and a third of those women are from an ethnic background. This blend of our different backgrounds, experiences, personalities, and our problem-solving skills keeps us creative, competitive, and thriving. I want to see more recognition in business that diversity should be embrace for the power it brings.

“It’s this focus on the people and the impact of the business which drives our sustainability agenda, we’re committed to doing our best to support allergy suffers, our staff, and our planet.

“We’ve worked hard to ensure that our products are sold across the globe, but we recognise that does mean that we’re creating a larger carbon footprint. We’re committed being sustainable and responsible at Creative Nature, all our packaging is easily recyclable, we won’t use air freight to move products, we responsibly source the ingredients for our products and place real importance on using the best possible standard, looking after our manufacturing teams.”

She added that the company has also become more mindful of business, “Due to the pandemic, we’ve seen a shift in the way we’ve worked embracing virtual, homeworking and safe working practices at every opportunity. Which has again put people, my staff, at the forefront of my mind. I’ll always roll up my sleeves and do what the business and our people need to thrive, in lockdown, that was me getting into the warehouse and boxing up our growing orders, alongside my people. It’s great to be able to do that within my own company and truly work with all my teams.”

Listen back to Julianne talking with NLive Radio about her journey from the University of Northampton, to top of the food chain in the free from food sector.