Heike Winter’s story started in the “mustard stronghold” of Düsseldorf, Germany – her birthplace.
Quickly establishing a passion for fine foods, the kitchen became her playground whether it involved cooking with her mother, Renate, or pickling gherkins with Magdalena, her grandmother.
“There was nothing I liked better than sniffing and tasting everything that was available in the kitchen,” adds Heike.
She become more familiar with exotic and unknown spices and food through her professional career – travelling to far-flung countries – in the years that followed.
Then, after moving to Leverburgh on the Isle of Harris, this passion reached new heights.
Heike mustard up the courage to become an entrepreneur in the Hebrides
Heike said: “I must have mustard running through my veins, having always made mustard for myself the way others make jam and marmalade, spoiling friends and family.”
Her dream was to build a brand that sold gourmet artisan mustard – named Mustheb (otherwise known as The Hebridean Mustard Company) – which went on to come true.
“Friends and families encouraged [me] with questions like ‘You are so passionate for food, so why not?’ and ‘We don’t have a mustard maker here, so why not?’,” added Heike.
In September 2017, Mustheb sold its first jar.
It has been a one-woman show for the mustard production and sales ever since.
However, freelancers assist with the accounting, photography, graphics and website designing.
Mustheb: Where can I buy the range and what’s available?
The Mustheb portfolio consists of seven different types of mustards and an eighth for Christmas (named Christmas Edition).
Sweet Delight, Bonnie Wholegrain, Infernal Bliss, 8-Pepper-Cèilidh, Garlic Galore, Taste of India, and Slàinte Liquorice are among the options.
In 2023, Slàinte Liquorice was awarded the International Flavor Award in Gold (in Wisconsin) and a Great British Food Award in Bronze.
Single jars cost £7.50, according to the business’ website.
A variety of mustard salt blends are also available – priced at £5.50.
“Funnily enough, there is no ‘bestseller’,” Heike said. “They all have their fans.
“Restaurants tend to go for the more classic flavours like Sweet Delight and Bonnie Wholegrain. In retail sales, however, there really is no leader.”
I went on to ask the entrepreneur what her top pick would be. She joked: “Ha… ask a mother which of her children she likes best.
“Honestly? It depends on how I use the mustard in my cooking.”
Other than through her website, customers can purchase the mustards and salt blends at Heike’s roadside honesty shop in Leverburgh and at selected delis around the Western Isles.
‘Brits either love or hate mustard, there is nothing in between,’ says Isle of Harris mustard company owner
All ingredients are organic and, where possible, sourced locally. It is crucial to Heike that the ingredients match her high values.
“That [sourcing] is obviously a challenge in Harris,” says Heike.
“That means I source in circles. First the Hebrides, then Scotland, the rest of the UK, Europe, and if necessary internationally.
“After all the maturing and fermenting, the mustard is ready to be bottled in about four-to-six weeks, depending on the variety.”
Over the years, the business owner has come to realise that consumers’ attitudes towards mustard differs in Britain and Germany.
Heike continued: “Most British people either love or hate mustard, there is nothing in between.
“This is very different from Germany where almost everyone loves mustard.”
Heike enjoys hosting tastings, too, as they give her the opportunity to talk to customers about their experiences with mustard (good or bad) and educate them on the product.
“If you’ve had a bad experience in the past, don’t let it hold you back,” she added.
“Try new and different things and be open to new experiences. Not just with mustard, but in general life.”
The future plans for Heike and her ever-growing artisan business
New mustard varieties are currently being tested by Heike.
Plus, the search is on for new places to stock the Mustheb range.
She said: “The most important thing is to expand the mustard kitchen and create more space for maturing, fermenting and storing.
“That should happen soon but depends on a number of factors over which I have no control, so it’s too early to be more specific.”