In 2015, our small group of young entrepreneurs came across a mysterious technology having several names – lyophilization, freeze-drying, hyper-drying – used by the most innovative food companies in the world and even applied by NASA.
During the first 6 months of thorough analysis we discovered that this technology solves one of the biggest challenges of these days: how to provide tasty, healthy and good looking food to the increasingly urbanized societies of the world. However, we decided that we should solve one more challenge – this top-quality food has to be affordable to everyone.
Historically, the growers of food tend to avoid production, while food processing companies tend to avoid growing, while “marketing” companies definitely avoid both growing and production, and are busy with buying industrial grade raw materials, creating branded packaging and selling these products as their own. Obviously, there is a massive loss of quality and a long chain of margins and inefficiencies, resulting in high price of food products.
We understood that if we really want to make tasty, healthy and good looking food affordable to the masses, we have to be totally different – vertically integrated – and learn to grow, produce and sell all by ourselves.
First, we selected the most popular berry in the world – strawberry – as our core product and the start of our journey. Since 2017, curious and enthusiastic, we hired the best strawberry growing consultant in the world Jorrit De Vries from Holland and started planting our strawberries.
In the beginning on a small 0.3 hectares pilot site, but in a few years on a large 5 hectares high-tech growing site having almost 40 kilometers of rows of strawberries.
Since the very beginning we set high targets to ourselves – to grow such varieties of strawberries which would be the most suitable – tasty, good looking & smelling, firm and other 10 criteria – for freeze-drying, which is not the same as for fresh consumption. After five years of intensive R&D we selected 5 varieties out of over 50 which conquered our hearts and, in our perfect growing conditions and everyday care, became the source of the sweetest, tastiest and best-looking berries for freeze-drying.
In order to eliminate the need for most of the chemicals used by regular agriculture industry, we use the good bugs to fight the bad bugs (therefore we do not use insecticides), while our skilled agronomists inspect all plants for diseases every day to avoid the use of pesticides. In fact, our berries are so clean and healthy that we give them to our children without washing. That is our quality standard.
With environmental sustainability in mind, we use water for the plants extremely efficiently with each plant having its own dripper. Furthermore, all excess water is accumulated in a secondary reservoir and is reused in hot weather.
Having become the top experts in strawberry growing, we are currently adding raspberries to our growing fields. Our final aim is to grow all fruit and berries that we freeze-dry and ensure 100% traceability to the consumers globally.
Each year we employ up to a hundred people from neighboring rural areas to plant the seedlings, prepare the blossoms, cut the shoots and pick the harvest. We value and respect our employees, therefore, we ensure excellent working conditions and motivation system well rewarding for the work done. We have the reputation of fair and good employer in the district.
We strictly follow the Worldwide Standard for Good Agricultural Practices (GLOBAL G.A.P.) and we are audited by the European Food Safety Authority.d
Having top quality raw materials for freeze-drying is vital but it is only one third of the job. The second major stage is the freeze-drying itself and it is not easy, as we discovered ourselves.
Again, with top quality in mind, we analyzed tenths of equipment providers globally and visited a number of freeze-drying companies trying to understand what differentiates them from each other and from our desired top-level target. We discovered that the „ideal“ freeze-drying company does not yet exist, and we must build a manufacturing facility which would treat our superb quality berries best and would put us way ahead of any competitor.
Thus, we designed the freeze-drying factory, which, in our opinion, has no match in terms of high-tech equipment (the most innovative decallexing machinery, x-ray scanners, quality detectors, top quality freeze-dryers, etc.) and food management processes (quality control, premises disinfection, employee hygiene, etc).
Over the course of three years, after literally thousands of trials, we established “perfect recipes” for freeze-drying of all kinds of fruit and berries in different shapes (whole, sliced, diced, crumbled, etc.) retaining best look, taste and crunchiness. We are proud that our demanding customers from Europe and Asia admit that they see no match of our quality.
With two thirds of the skills – growing and production – mastered, we took on the third piece of the challenge – the selling (in the good meaning of it). We quickly understood that having the best product in the world is not enough. We had to learn how to pack, brand, communicate and deliver our products.
Our analysis of hundreds of competitor’s products revealed that cheaper and poor-quality packaging (not hermetic, transparent to light) reduces the quality of already average product even further. Therefore, we decided to use only top quality doy-pack packaging to maintain taste, look and crunchiness and extend the storage period up to 2 years.
We can’t beat the global food industry giants in terms of marketing budgets, however, we are clearly beating them in terms of our vertical integration, because global consumers are increasingly looking for products, where they know who really grew, processed, packed and delivered to the shelf in their corner shop. Thus, our packaging communication clearly states that we are both farmers and producers ensuring full traceability from field to fork.
Our freeze-dried products are around 10 times lighter than fresh fruit and berries, therefore, they are easily transportable globally as we do not transport 90% of the initial product – water. Storage of our products is also considerably cheaper, because we do not need refrigerators or heaters – the key condition is dry storage, be it in a logistics warehouse or a cupboard in a private house.