Talking Business with Hillary Graves of Little Dish

    Hillary and her sons, Monty and Ridley
    Hilary and her sons, Monty and Ridley

    The mother reveals how she was inspired to create nutritious meals for kids

    Why did you set up Little Dish?

    I set up the company when I was expecting my first child and noticed that you couldn’t buy healthy, fresh meals for little ones in the supermarkets. I wanted to make good food, with exciting flavours and textures, which busy parents would feel good about serving.

    What sparked your passion for food?

    I have always loved to cook, with a focus on natural ingredients. When I became a mum, I wanted my children to eat fresh food from an early age, and as a result, they are pretty good eaters now. That’s not to say they love every vegetable – but they will try most things and definitely share my love of cooking.

    Describe a typical day for you.

    I drop my two boys [Monty, nine, and Ridley, seven] at school and then race to the office for meetings or product tastings. When I can squeeze in some exercise I feel better and more focused, but I don’t always manage to.

    What’s the best thing about your job?

    Working with such a talented team of people who are passionate about making a difference to children’s health is really inspiring. And as I’ve always been interested in healthy eating, creating new recipes and products doesn’t really feel like work.

    Do you ever get your two boys involved in the recipe testing? 

    Absolutely!  They are the inspiration behind lots of the Little Dish recipes. They love giving their opinions, and still eat the meals even though they are no longer toddlers! Monty’s choices are the Pasta Bolognese or Lasagne, and Ridley loves the Chicken & Butternut Squash Pie. One of our favourite recipes to make is healthy fruit muffins, which are great for breakfast. We add all kinds of good stuff, like flaxseed, chopped apple and fresh berries. The recipe is on the Little Dish website.

    How do you juggle family life with work?

    I definitely haven’t mastered it – there are to-do lists constantly running through my head! I find that a little forward planning can go a long way, though. For instance, preparing school uniforms and bags the evening before makes the morning run much more smoothly.

    What’s been your proudest moment?

    There are so many. Seeing Little Dish go on sale for the first time in 2006 was a really exciting moment, and we have won some lovely awards along the way. I am also really proud of our Little Dish Family Cookbook.

    What advice would you give to those wanting to launch their own brand?

    Ensure you have a good support system in place. There will be some tough times, so it’s helpful to know someone is there if needed, whether it’s for last-minute childcare or to chat through your latest challenge with.

    What can we expect from Little Dish in the next 12 months?

    We’ve just launched our Little Dish Pots & Pies range which are tasty, nutritionist-approved toddler meals. Plus, we have more product launches in the pipeline, including soups and more healthy snacks. We’ve also just written a handy nutrition guide – The Great Toddler Food Adventure – which is available for parents to download free.

    Here’s an exclusive look at a special little film from Little Dish, narrated by Hillary: