Bringing calm to mind and bellies through mindfulness, meditation and cacao, Meredith Whitely is a find favourite with Country Living Fair customers. We caught up with Meredith to hear more about her love of chocolate and the story behind the brand, Food at Heart.
I blend meditation, mindfulness and chocolate to help people explore more mindful living in a delicious way. My business is a combination of events and products, so I spend part of my time in the kitchen creating with chocolate as well as time delivering meditation workshops to people and businesses. The need to manage my own stress-related digestive issues is very much at the heart of what I do.
How did it all start?
I started my business in 2015 after over 17 years of working for various big businesses. It wasn’t a straightforward journey though; I did quite a few different things around food, chocolate and mindful eating before training as a meditation teacher and bringing together two things that make me feel good: meditation and dark chocolate.
The story behind the name…
I guess everything started with my love of food, but also the challenges I was having around food (and almost falling out of love with it!) as a result of my problems with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. My business helped me rekindle a more positive relationship with food and let me work with something I’m extremely passionate about – good chocolate.
Where are you based?
I live just west of London so work a lot from home, but I also mostly deliver my events in London.
What inspires you?
So many things! Other people in chocolate are definitely inspiring (they really are a lovely bunch), spending time in nature and reading amazing writing. I also love reading creative magazines that have a focus on slower living as I’ve discovered people doing some really amazing things, from craft to music. I guess originally my love of food came from my mum, who is an amazing cook, and she continues to inspire me.
What is your creation process?
It all starts with the chocolate of course. I’m based out of my home kitchen and I work mainly with single origin dark chocolates from a chocolate maker called Pump Street Chocolate. I now know the tastes of them well, so I’ll think about how each one tastes on its own and then what flavours it will match with. I then play around with different flavour combinations, whether it’s in chocolate bars or hot chocolate mixes, tweaking if I need to before I get to a final combination. It involves a lot of tasting – and a lot of fun.
What makes you, your brand or products unique?
My main point of difference is that rather than my products just being about the chocolate (though this is important too!), mindfulness is at the heart of what I do. My aim is for people to use my chocolate products as a tool to slow down and pause, particularly as the best way to get the most out of any chocolate is to taste it slowly. They can be used as a mini-mindful eating meditation or just to take a few minutes out of a busy life and enjoy something really delicious.
What is your next project?
I’m currently relaunching my range of chocolate products and I’m focussing 100% on hot chocolate. The idea of using hot chocolate as a mindfulness practice was something I incorporated in my Mindful Hot Chocolate Meditation sessions, as hot chocolate is a lovely sensory way to explore chocolate. Hot chocolate is also a mix of uplifting and calming, but it’s sometimes hard to find ones that aren’t just full of sugar. I wanted to create something that was more about the chocolate than the sweetness. The range is called Calm Cocoa and has 5 different flavours so hopefully most people should find at least one they enjoy!
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
As well as my product range launch, I’m also planning to bring the connection between hot chocolate and mindfulness life through a popup Calm Cocoa café experience. This will give people a space to come and slow down, even if just for a little while. A lot of my work also involves corporate wellbeing sessions so I’ll continue to share my workshops within businesses, along with a smaller version of the Calm Cocoa cafe. Oh, and lots more chocolate tasting of course.
What is your biggest achievement?
One thing I’m particularly proud of is writing chapters for two Department Store for the Mind books as a result of the work I’ve done.
What is your best-selling product/line?
Up to this point it has varied between different chocolate bars depending on the time of the year – but I’m really excited to see which of my hot chocolates will be the top selling flavour. From the feedback so far, my Original Rich Mix (which I originally designed to use in my meditations) has had the most consistent thumbs up.
What do you love about Country Living Fairs?
I just love seeing all the amazing creativity that comes together in one place at Country Living Fairs. It’s also fantastic being able to talk to the people behind the products and hearing their stories. I normally come away with some lovely gifts. Of course, I particularly love trying out all the food. It’s always really exciting to see what new and tasty things people are creating.
Your three top tips for crafters and makers…
1. Find something that you enjoy doing as it will shine through in what you’re creating. You don’t have to love every single element of it, but when you’re doing something day in, day out or at least on a regular basis, it’s much easier to stick with if you enjoy it!
2. Get inspiration from other people around you; seeing what other people are up to (and it doesn’t have to be in the same field) can give you great ideas and keep you motivated. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison, but even if you’re doing some similar to other people it will always have your personal stamp on it.
3. Experiment, experiment, experiment. Part of getting skilled is practising, making mistakes, having fun and not trying to be ‘perfect’ all the time. This is also how you’ll discover what you enjoy doing the most! It might even surprise you.
Any advice for fledgling businesses…
If you have an idea for a business start to take action on it, even if it’s just some small things to start with. This could include buying a website URL, going to classes or attending events with other people in the creative world. You might even start to make things to give away as gifts, which was one of the ways I started.
My other piece of advice is to be patient. Most things take longer than you expect, and there will be up and downs, even if you’re doing something you love. But I’ve discovered that it’s amazing what can develop if you give things a little time. My blending of chocolate and meditation took 2.5 years to develop, but everything along the way was helpful in creating this.
Join Meredith in London where she will be running two tasting workshops:
- Chocolate Canapes: Figgy Pudding Bliss Balls
- Mindful Chocolate Meditation and Tasting
Read more here.