Algae attract a lass from Cologne to Saxony-Anhalt
An online shop for vegan foods is established in Saxony-Anhalt
Although a slogan such as “eat yourself healthy” isn’t the kind of thing that Kirstin Knufmann would ever say, she is certainly aware of how strongly her own diet affects her personal wellbeing. And Kirstin wants to share her experiences with as many others as possible: with her internet-based business, she sells vegan food products that have been processed to the least possible extent. With “PureRaw”, she moved all the way from the Cologne region to Klötze – because Klötze offered her space.
Running a successful internet retail business is something that Kirstin never planned to do. You could hardly say that her career got off to a well-planned start when she was younger. Her original plan had been to do something “solid” – such as a business traineeship in the property and real estate business followed by a secure job. “I quickly realised that that wasn’t for me though,” explains Kirstin, who is 36 years old. She gave sports lessons in fitness studios, studied photography, and found her fulfilment. Barcelona, Munich, New York and Los Angeles are all cities in which she worked as a freelance photographer in the areas of fashion, beauty and celebrity.
“It was in America that I discovered raw food, which made me feel so much better.” Not that she hadn’t been very careful about her diet before that though: “I first became a vegetarian at 15 before becoming a vegan when I turned 20.” She has a very good idea about what her body needs and how to provide it with the right nutrients and minerals, without artificial food supplements. With raw foods this is something she found very easy to do.
Shopping for those who are curious
Yet when she returns to her home town of Bergheim near Cologne, things become difficult with the raw food. Of course, not so much with the classics that one immediately thinks of in this context: carrot salad, green lettuce, cucumber salad. Raw food in fact means much more than these things, and it also means products that are as unprocessed as possible and naturally ones that are vegan. Kirstin eventually found what she needed. And since her cooking and eating habits didn’t go unnoticed by those around her, she found herself answering many questions, letting others taste her creations, explaining the physiological contexts and finally serving food to more and more people, providing them with the things she usually only bought for herself: "PureRaw" was born, complete with its homepage and internet shop. That was seven years ago.
“I quickly became so busy with my business that I hardly did any photography at all”, explains Kirstin, regretting the loss of her old pursuit to this day. These days the only time she picks up her camera are the rare occasions that she – rather than someone else – photographs food for her business.
“PureRaw” continues to grow. Kirstin buys cooking ingredients, mixes them together and prepares them for her customers. Her parents’ home then becomes a warehouse for bags and boxes, which occupy one shelf after another. “It finally became impossible. I originally wanted to expand by extending my grandfather's old farm, but the concerns of my parents made me hesitate," she says, explaining the background to her move from Cologne to Klötze.
It was in Klötze that she knew Jörg Ullmann, the owner of what was then the biggest algae farm in Europe. Algae are an important part of the products which Kirstin prepares and sells. Ullmann had previously mentioned that one of the buildings on his farm was empty… “So we took everything to Klötze over the course of just four days, and the sales then continued. My family gave me a lot of help, and in the early days I spent the whole time working,” explains the elegant, energetic woman, remembering the final months of 2012. At the beginning of 2013, she hired her first employees, because even with all her healthy nutrition, enthusiasm and success it was clear that she couldn’t cope with her workload alone, especially as her business continued to grow. In 2015, she left the algae farm – "PureRaw" had become too big. Kirstin now rents a building on the Bergstrasse which she is convinced will last well into the future.
Convincing with great taste
At present, she employs six people in Klötze and has a total of some 18 employees counting those in other towns, such as trade fair staff and other employees throughout Germany. Even if “missionary zeal” isn’t really Kirstin’s thing, she still wants to raise awareness for “raw” and above all else, high-quality food, with as many people as possible. Cooking shows and workshops are a good way of achieving this goal. “Recently, a guy approached me and told me that my food tasted so good, I had turned him from being a convinced meat-eater into a vegan,” explains Kirstin proudly. But she then warns: “Vegan doesn’t automatically mean healthy, though. Whether you’re a vegan, a vegetarian or a meat-eater – it is always about eating a balanced diet and consciously choosing the ingredients.”
This is something that she also wants to contribute to with her books, one of which she has already been written together with Jörg Ullmann, who is now her partner and father of her three-year-old daughter, on the topic of algae, recipes naturally included. “RAW! - Meine raffinierte Rohkost-Küche” (Raw – my refined raw foods cuisine) was her first outing as an author, and she wants to publish another book next year – the demand is there.
Although Klötze is something of a backwater – as an erstwhile resident of the Cologne region, Kirstin misses having a good choice of fitness studios and easy access to a large city – her location doesn’t really have any impact on her internet business. Her customers include buyers, restaurant owners, intermediaries and wholesalers, not only from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but also from further afield in Europe, and from the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and recently even from Japan.
“The Altmark region is so beautiful, but I sometimes think that the local people don’t realise it and don’t make enough of it,” she says. Thanks to modern technology and the reliable postal system, with her brands PureRaw, Einhorn-Zauber (unicorn magic), RawKao and BOBEI – a German acronym which stands for "baking without butter or eggs",which, like her blue unicorn drinking powder, is another one of her many personal inventions – Kirstin has established her business in northern Saxony-Anhalt. Her customers appreciate her products and know that quality comes with its price. On the shelves, the PureRaw range of products stands neatly on display. If they want to, customers can also try out the cakes, puddings, snacks and sweets that are made with them. Relatively few customers make their way to visit Kirstin in Klötze though – she meets most of them at trade fairs and other events, or on the internet.
author/photo: Renate Wähnelt