Breakfast pioneer Camilla Barnard on how she built Rude Health

Breakfast pioneer Camilla Barnard on how she built Rude Health

Reinventing breakfast with a bold and sexy branding

To be in rude health means to be full of vitality and, back in 2005, Camilla Barnard and her three co-founders decided it was the perfect name for their new muesli brand. The idea was formed around the kitchen table with Camilla, her then husband Nick and their neighbours putting in £1000 each to start a business that was all about eating well.

The humble kitchen table apparently still remains but the idea for a premium healthy cereal has grown exponentially with the Rude Health brand stocked worldwide and with a range of products, from dairy-free drinks to crackers and snacks. There’s also a popular café in Fulham.

Camilla tells us about what inspired her to set up the brand: “I was brought up by a mother who cooked. Food was my happy place: cooking, sharing and enjoying food. It was quite a shock when I left home and I realised that it wasn’t the case for everybody. There was a disconnect in this country – people thought that if a food was classed as healthy it wouldn’t be enjoyable, and if it tasted good it would be bad for you!”

“People counted calories, then it was about cutting out fat and sugar and gluten. It was all about depriving yourself. In countries like Japan where there is a distinct food culture, it is all about balance and variety. I wanted to inspire people with the message that food is a celebration and not a sacrifice.”


Rude Health’s growth into a worldwide brand wasn’t part of a grand plan. It was more about “a mission than a spreadsheet”, but its ethos has proved hugely successful.

“The idea of being in rude health extends into everything we do – the ingredients, the planet and the people who work for us. When B Corp certification came in, it was a great way to quantify what we were doing but we didn’t have to change anything to achieve B Corp status as we were already doing it.”

But it was a long and tough path to get to where they are today. When the business began, Camilla’s two children were very young. “It was flat out. For a long time, I was sprinting a marathon. It wasn’t sustainable and I didn’t have the head space to fix it.” Looking back, she says she would have got a mentor and planned how to manage the time requirements of children, home, work and self. “You can’t let the kids or the business down so it’s usually yourself that you sacrifice. That is when burnout happens.”

They have also had to weather economic turmoil, with the crash of 2008 hitting hard. The business was just getting off the ground and with the recession, premium breakfast foods were not exactly top of everyone’s shopping lists. “It was an incredibly hard time for over three years. We were lucky – we were stocked in Waitrose and they stood by us. We also diversified and innovated with new product lines, and we worked like demons. It forces you to examine what you will and won’t compromise on – for us, we wouldn’t compromise on ingredients.”


For Rude Health, sustainability is everything. Camilla gives the example of the nuts they use for its almond milk, which come from Sicily rather than California, with the crop needing less water and producing a more intense flavour.

“We also stand by our principle of using kitchen cupboard ingredients. We want people to know what they are buying.” As an example, carrageenan, a seaweed extract, might be used by some brands in almond milk as a thickener but it can be a gut irritant. “We use rice to blend our milks – people know if they can have rice or not.” Rude Health’s most popular line is the dairy-free milks, but Camilla emphasises the range was never an anti-dairy stance. It is all about choice. She herself is an omnivore. “When I have dairy, I want it to be ideally from a single herd and organic. With our range, it is about offering a premium non-dairy milk.” Their milks are a big hit at the café with the likes of coconut milk hot chocolate and roasted almond milk cappuccino. Popular dishes on the menu include a cheese and kimchi toastie, which is one of Camilla’s favourite dishes.

Rude Health is about to celebrate the brand’s 18th birthday around the same table where it all started. It was a tough journey but as the company grew, it got easier, says Camilla. “We were able to hire people with amazing experience, and I have a team who have skills that I don’t have. Now I have a fantastic work life balance.”

Downtime for Camilla includes yoga, breathwork, swimming at Hampton open-air pool, cycling and walking – particularly down by the riverside to Fulham Palace. And dancing around the kitchen while she cooks – a perfect example of vitality for life: aka rude health.

Camilla will be our guest speaker at our International Women’s Day event on 8 March.