What do you get when you blend Swiss chocolate expertise with modern ethical values – meet Rhythm 108, a brand with a clear conscience. Sublime talks to Siddhi Mehta to find out more about her innovative company inspired by craftmanship and the meditative way of life.
Q&A with Siddhi Mehta Founder Rhythm 108
Sublime: Could you give us some insight into the history of Rhythm108, how did it come to be?
Siddhi Mehta: I had just moved to Switzerland and instantly fell in love with the philosophy of ‘slow living’, which was embedded strongly in Swiss culture. I was also taken by the exceptional level of craftsmanship, thought and care in every product I found at the farmer’s markets at the center of every Alpine village. Inspired by the landscape’s unhurried pace, I launched Rhythm108, where I could take local artisan tradition – and in a world that is obsessed with counting calories and other functional benefits, create a company where food was viewed as so much more than just fuel. I believe food’s function is just as much a means of preserving our environment and building close, real communities. It all started when I met 3 local pâtissiers, who – intrigued by the challenge of using their savoir-faire to make a change in the world – joined me on my journey. Today, through our Swiss heritage, we craft chocolate and biscuits that are made slowly and by hand by a dedicated team of world-class Chocolatiers and Pâtissiers in our Swiss bakery. Here at Rhythm 108, the ‘Swiss Rhythm of Life’ is in every aspect of what we do.
S: What’s the ethos behind your brand? Why did you call it Rhythm108?
S M: Our name is inspired by combining ‘the Swiss Rhythm of life’ and the number 108, often used in meditation to help calm the mind. Both are an ode to Swiss quality and the culture of slow living. For us, each numeral represents one of the key values of our business. One stands for our ‘one thing’ which is Swiss craftsmanship and uncompromised creativity, thoughtfully baked into every bar and biscuit. Zero stands for ‘nothing’ – all our ingredients are natural and known. We never use any artificial colours, flavours, or additives. And the eight represents the infinity sign, a symbol of regeneration. Care for the environment and building the community around us is at the core of what we do – through our business we aim to .
S: Why did you move to Switzerland in the first place? Does your South Asian heritage play any part in your brand and if so how?
SM: I moved over when my husband moved to Switzerland for work. The first thing I discovered was the beauty and wonder of the Alps and the culture of slow living that is so embedded in Switzerland – and I knew I wanted to do something that would bring at least a piece of this way of life to a wider audience. Slow living is a large part to do with appreciating the people and the small things around you – and I believe my South Asian heritage always instilled that in me – there is a lot of importance on family, the extended community, celebrations, and food. It plays a part in how I do things – a lot of the values I bring to the company (for example, being a plant-based company for ethical reasons) stem from my South Asian heritage.
S: Could you tell us more about the concept of Swiss “slow living” and how that translates into your production methods?
SM: “Slow living” is a way of life. Carl Honore, who wrote In Praise of Slow explains:
“It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savouring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.” Each chocolate bar takes our chocolatiers 3 days to make from start to finish, whilst measuring and controlling over 20 parameters. Every morning our pâtissiers adapt the process for our biscuit recipes according to the temperature and humidity of the day. An industrial producer would have depended on a fat like palm oil that is stable over a wider range of temperatures to ease the process. But because we don’t bend on values, we adapt the process instead. We depend on our patissiers’ intuition and dexterity mastered over 20 years to get the same cookie every day. And we still bake 180,000 cookies a day.
S: The Swiss are renowned as expert chocolatiers, what’s the process of creating a chocolate bar, from start to finish and how do the Swiss do it better?
SM: Chocolate making by definition is a complex process. It starts with sourcing the cocoa beans, fermenting, and roasting them to a unique profile and then grinding, conching, tempering and moulding the bar. The Swiss are pioneers in chocolate – combining milk and chocolate was first done in Switzerland to give us that creamy comforting chocolate that we all know and love. The process of conching chocolate was also invented in Switzerland – and without this chocolate would be grainy with many off-flavours. Because precision and focussing on quality is so embedded in our culture here in Switzerland, working through a complex chocolate making process is second nature to us – we’re able to make some of the best vegan chocolate in the world.
S: Please tell us more about the brand’s ethical and sustainable credentials, why they are important to you and how they comes to life?
SM: Starting a food company was always about making a change – the current landscape of food is dominated by old conglomerates, who have been doing things the same way over generations. Here at Rhythm108, we look at the business holistically: from sourcing our ingredients, to packaging, to production waste. We were one of the first companies to roll out compostable packaging over 5 years go. We’re plant-based for the planet. And we’ve always been organic certified – organic farmers help prevent land degradation (a massive problem), by taking care of the soil and encouraging biodiversity. For the last year we’ve been working on ingredient and food waste that is inherent in our manufacturing process. Constant improvement is a part of who we are – like it says in our tagline, we are ‘Consciously Crafted’ in every way. That’s what makes it incredibly rewarding – that biscuit by biscuit, chocolate by chocolate we’re slowly laying the brickwork for a new type of food industry – one where good practice and the environment will be at the forefront.
S: Have you come across any challenges in the market when focusing on sustainability?
SM: Pushing the boundaries always has its challenges. When we launched compostable packaging, we needed to source papers, laminates, adhesives and various inks to make every pack. The complex supply chain meant it was twice as expensive as conventional plastic packaging and specialised materials were hard to source, which meant we were out of stock for weeks. This impacted our sales and margins, and at time we lost clients to competitors – but at the same time we knew we could iron out these complexities, so we patiently tackled each problem. Today, we’re rolling plastic-free options across all of our ranges.
S: What are your plans for the future of Rhythm108 ?
SM: I created this company because we are on a mission to make a difference – we want to be the first global plant-based confectionary and bakery company, where everyone can choose to consume plant-based without any compromise on indulgence or luxury. The small act of choosing one of our products means making a lesser impact on the planet. After all, it has always been small changes that add up to make the biggest difference – and that’s what we aspire to do.
S: What’s your go-to product from your range?
SM: It’s hard to choose from a range you’ve intimately been involved in creating! At the moment, I’m really proud of our new Roasted Almond Butter chocolate tablet – it’s our signature vegan mylk chocolate, filled with a creamy, roasted almond center – perfect for a cozy night in.
About the Author
Sushma Sagar is a writer specialising in lifestyle, culture, and wellness. Her first book, Find Your Flow, was published in December 2020 by Penguin Ebury. She also is a master healer and founder of The Calmery, an energy medicine clinic in London’s Harley Street. She is passionate about food, the arts, spirituality, and living mindfully. sushmasagar.com @syshma