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Young entrepreneur starts successful Dundee-based meal prep business with a cultural twist during the pandemic

active bistro
Owner of Active Bistro, Shamma Igiraneza with meal prep boxes.

Feeling dissatisfied with the options of meal prep dishes available to him locally, Shamma Igiraneza opened his own business during the pandemic to offer something different to the people of Dundee.

After moving to Dundee from Kent five years ago, 24-year-old Shamma launched Active Bistro officially in May last year in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

A former Biomedical Science student at the University of Dundee, the young entrepreneur says he has always had a passion for food from a young age.

Growing up in family that adored food with both parents avid cooks, Shamma focuses on using simple ingredients to make healthy, delicious food for his meal prep customer base.

Chicken and lamb kofta from Active Bistro.

Making the dishes in a kitchen in a converted unit in Dundee, the firm offers ready-to-eat lunch and dinner options which are available for collection or delivery.

It wasn’t until Shamma moved away from home for university that he gained a sense of independence and realised he had more control over his diet and the nutrition he was getting from it.

During his time studying he also turned to fitness and quickly realised how much of a struggle it was to eat healthy while at university and prepping for exams.

But it was researching the meal prep industry that finally what spurred Shamma to start up Active Bistro.

Shamma Igiraneza active bistro
Shamma Igiraneza, owner of Active Bistro in the kitchen unit.

He said: “When it came to exam time, I always found that my nutrition slipped and all that hard work went down the drain with it. So I thought, surely there must be something to fix this?

“There were no real major players out there yet in the meal prep industry. That was the seed of it, and after taking part in the entrepreneurship challenge at university that seed grew.”

Having always wanted a business of his own, Shamma tried to launch his meal prep firm twice at university, but unhappy with the quality, decided to focus on his studies and attempted to save up enough money before launching again in May 2021 after graduating.

Offering convenience and a wide variety

From his research Shamma identified that the meal prep industry could become repetitive quite quickly.

He wanted Active Bistro to be as transparent and healthy as possible, and didn’t want it to just showcase one cuisine.

active bistro
Chicken fajita wraps meal prep box.

As a result he now has customers ordering weekly on Instagram and Facebook on Mondays to get their food delivered on Wednesday or Sunday.

The firm can provide meals for individuals in bulk with five, 10, 12, 15 or 20 meals available to purchase. The food delivery is split across two days of the week to ensure maximum freshness.

The five meal bulk is priced at £29.95 with the 20 meal bulk coming in at £92.95.

Shamma Igiraneza showing off the chicken and lamb kofta dish.

Shamma explained: “I have a wide mix of friends and I’m quite curious about different cuisines and cultures. The influence came from where I grew up, the friends I was around, who I am. It is an expression of myself.

“Active Bistro is an outlet where I am able to share that, and show people that you can still enjoy tasty food and be healthy.”

What’s on the menu?

Active Bistro has a core menu with a variety of culturally inspired specials, with the menu changing every two weeks.

From Mexican chilli con carne to chicken fajita wraps, shawarma chicken rice bowls and Middle Eastern red lentil and chickpea curry (dhal), customers can order a whole range of items.

Specials have included West African jollof rice, Caribbean jerk chicken, Chicken and lamb kofta, couscous and tagine.

Cajun chicken pasta.

“Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring. Changing the menu every two weeks gives that variety and makes it more enjoyable for the customer,” said Shamma.

“Active Bistro is all about bringing that element of convenience, but not compromising on taste. We are bringing all these flavours that you wouldn’t typically find in a meal prep dish, or have time to create yourself.

“We want people to look forward to their meals – one of the best types of feedback from customers is that they always look forward to food. They are always wondering what is next and that is quite magical.”

Future plans for Active Bistro

Despite the difficulties of operating entirely during the coronavirus pandemic, Shamma has found the process of being able to support people who are isolating rewarding and has helped them to continue to eat healthy.

He hopes that with restrictions being reduced, Active Bistro will be able to cater for all meals including breakfast and snacks as the business grows larger than their current team of four.

He will also experiment further with the specials menu and continue to bring new cultures and cuisines that people haven’t tried before to the forefront.

He commented: “I am really ambitious; I would like to be the best. My focus is to provide locally and perfect our processes and our menu. Within the next five years I would like to have customers in all major cities in Scotland.

“And in 10 years I could see us being nationwide, with perhaps some partnerships with supermarkets for our snacks and sauces.

“Food is the language of everyone, and we want to showcase other cultures through the food we create at Active Bistro”.

Active Bistro’s website will launch at the end of February, making ordering a much easier process for new and returning customers.

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