The company was founded in 2016 by Mary Lynch, a registered nutritionist who worked for celebrity chef Jamie Oliver for almost five years, before deciding to create a product to fill a gap in the market - a truly healthy yet indulgent dessert.
“I used to work for Jamie Oliver as senior nutritionist and I would go and get lunch and struggle to find anything that was actually healthy but hit the sweet spot,” Lynch told FoodNavigator. “My partner hated avocados and I used to make it for him at home. He had no idea it contained them so I thought there maybe something in it.”
In line with Lynch's intention to create an indulgent dessert that is “as nutritious as possible”, one pot contains 40% fruit, making it a source of fibre, and has less than 250 calories. Using dates for sweetness instead of sugar or honey means there are no empty calories as the dates also provide fibre.
Although using fresh avocados in processed food can reduce the shelf-life, creating a clean label product was important.
'A big selling point'
“[Avocados] shorten your shelf life but are a big unique selling point (USP) and we knew we didn't want to add lots of nasties so it is about telling the story of how and why.”
The decision to not use any preservatives meant that Onist initially struggled to get batch-to-batch consistency. Setting up its own manufacturing unit in the Cotswolds, an area in south-west England, however, has given it “total control” and made the entire process much easier, Lynch said.
Available in four flavours – salted caramel, dark chocolate, mint and orange – the products contain six natural, kitchen-cupboard ingredients: avocados, dates, cashew nuts, cocoa powder, mineral water and natural flavourings.
All the ingredients used in the chocolate pots are organic, fairtrade and suitable for vegans and those on a paleo or gluten-free diet.
'Buy one, give one'
Being commercially successful is just one key performance indicator for Onist. Doing business in a socially responsible way is just as important, and it works with a local Gambian charity Pandis so that every avocado chocolate pot sold pays for one healthy breakfast for a child in the Gambia.
“If a charity is actually backed on a commercial venture, it gives that charity sustainability so it can last longer and we can continue to give money without almost any effort,” Lynch said in a short video on Onist and the positive impact it is having in the country.
The ‘buy one, give one’ business model allows consumers to fundraise with every purchase, meaning buying and giving “go hand-in-hand”, she added. “It’s a really beautiful thing and I think it’s how businesses should be run.”
On the company’s online shop, 10 pots retail for £37.50 (€41.50).
The products are currently stocked in over 30 outlets in the UK including Ocado, Selfridges, Wholefoods, Planet Organic and Revital, and Onist also ships to the US.
The social enterprise's next step is gaining listings in major UK supermarkets and growing its export markets, and it is launching a round of seed A funding shortly, the founder added.