Lancaster man causes stir with new street food business that's kind to the environment

A Lancaster businessman who has followed his passion for food aims to put sustainability and the environment at the heart of his new venture.

Rob Fenton launched his Wrap Ninjas street food business earlier this year, after realising his previous office-based career path wasn’t fulfilling him.

Rob, 41, who lives in Bowerham, said he has been passionate about food from an early age, and after experiencing the growth of the street food scene in London, decided to embark upon this journey himself.

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Originally from Clitheroe, Rob moved back to Lancashire from London in 2020, and made Lancaster his base after seeing the potential to help create or complement a similar scene in the city.

Rob Fenton at work on his Wrap Ninjas stall.

He gained experience working as a chef in the French Alps, and on a friend’s food truck in the Trough of Bowland.

He said his passion for food is matched by his desire to be as environmentally sustainable as possible, so he partnered with Lancaster University’s Eco-I NW programme in the summer in an effort to understand the environmental impact of his business and explore ways to improve it.

Sustainability is something that has been important in my personal life for years, so it was natural - and important - that this was reflected in my business,” he said.

“With support from the uni, I recruited an intern for the project.

A chorizo, halloumi, apple and ninja nachos wrap.

“The core aims were to carry out a sustainability audit of my business, understand the main areas of carbon emissions and environmental impact, research and recommend ways in which I could reduce emissions from my business activity, and carry out public research to better understand people’s attitudes towards sustainability and food.”

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He received 140 responses with 78 per cent indicating that sustainability was important to them.

45 per cent of respondents indicated they would be likely or very likely to choose a meal with lower carbon emissions over their preferred initial meal choice, and 56 per cent said they would be likely or very likely to pay a small additional charge to make their meal carbon neutral.

The project found that Wrap Ninjas’ average CO2 emissions from a wrap are roughly 19 per cent lower than the CO2 emissions of an average UK meal, based on figures from a sustainability report from UK COP26, last year’s climate change summit in Glasgow.

Rob Fenton is aiming to make Wrap Ninjas as sustainable as possible.
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Olivia Tugulea, who recently completed a BSc (Hons) Biology at Lancaster University and carried out the audit, said: “It was a very rewarding and interesting experience.

“It was a great insight into learning about data science and how carbon emissions are affected by business and consumer decisions. I am excited about using this opportunity to progress my career in developing sustainable policy and businesses.”

Rob added: “In the longer term I want to reduce our impact further and continue to have sustainability at the forefront of my mind when making business decisions.

“I’m particularly keen to share what we learn (and put in place) around sustainability to help inspire and encourage other small business owners to be more planet friendly too.”

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A Wrap Ninjas wrap.

He said that some of the things the business was already doing to be sustainable included having very low food waste, where the majority of uncooked food waste is composted, and surplus meals are sold on Too Good To Go.

All Wrap Ninjas serve ware/packaging is eco-friendly, with food boxes made from reclaimed and rapidly renewable sugarcane pulp and are home compostable and carbon neutral.

Fresh meat is sourced from a high-quality local butcher and eggs from a local farm egg supplier, and there is no palm oil in the ingredients, unless it is sustainably produced.

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Rob also banks with a UK top 3 ethical bank, The Co Op, which doesn’t invest in fossil fuels.

Wrap Ninjas is already creating a stir in Lancaster, with regular weekday pitches at Lancaster University, The White Cross Business Park and a newly created pitch on St Georges Quay.

On weekends he can usually be found touring around Lancaster, Morecambe, Preston and the South Lakes area.

Rob is now working on an infographic for his stall called “Planet Friendly Street Food”, which details other things he is aiming to do to become more sustainable, including moving to a renewable energy tariff on his prep kitchen when new tariffs become available, introducing seasonal specials to the menu – including more meat and dairy free options - sourcing more food from local suppliers, particularly those that use less plastic, and using zero-waste shops for dry goods.

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He also aims to add a simple carbon emissions rating to all items on the menu and explore and put in place a carbon offsetting and/or tree planting programme to help balance carbon that he can’t remove from his operation.

Follow Instagram (@wrap_ninjas) or Facebook (@wrap.ninjas) for more information.