Innovation in food

Balkan foodtech: spray that extends shelf-life, pharma food, and online honey

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If it was not for the lockdown, traditional production methods and innovation would hardly have been able to join their forces so quickly and so strategically, so we can have the food that we want. Two Ukrainian girls, the heirs of a traditional beekeeping family in North Macedonia, and a bunch of scientists from Serbia are sharing their way of dealing with the challenges on this strictly regulated and demanding market – inside and beyond the EU.

Why do they prefer the Asian markets? What are the successful marketing strategies when it comes to niche #footech products? CMYK, Floreo, and B-FRESH Technologies share more.

Serbian spin-off fights food waste with harmless spray

Food wasting worldwide results in the loss of some $1.2 billion a year, with fresh fruit and vegetables accounting for 40% of this amount.

In a bid to address the problem, Dr. Zorica Brankovic, Dr. Goran Brankovic, and Dr. Jovana Cirkovic from the University of Belgrade’s Institute for Multidisciplinary Research product a spray for packaging products in stores and at home. The team launched their project in 2018, and in 2020 they set up their company – Fresh Technologies Ltd, so they can commercialize the innovation. Their project is supported by the Innovation Fund of the Republic of Serbia.

Spray that extends the shelf-life of food products

Mehrad Vosoughi on ©Unsplash

 “B-FRESH products come in the form of biopolymer emulsion that contains active components (essential oils and metal salts) with antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. The emulsion can be sprayed on any existing packaging material, such as paper, cardboard, plastic, wood, etc. and the formed film/coating can prevent fresh food from rotting and spoilage. Thus, the shelf life of fresh food increases by 100 %,” Zoritsa told Trending Topics SEE.

B-FRESH had just started contacting potential partners and investors, when the COVID 19 crisis stroke, causing a pause in their plans. 2021 started well but brought some marketing challenges. Since the spray is very different from anything available on the market in their niche, they had to find a proper marketing strategy. What they chose to do is contact their clients directly and distribute free samples among producers, processing companies and sellers.

Unlike their counterparts in North Macedonia, Zoritsa does not think their company will have problems distributing their products in the EU because Serbia’s laws are largely harmonized with the bloc’s legislation. Still, she admits “it would be much easier for us if we would be placed in an EU country. We would probably have much more funds available”.

***Serbia’s Innovation Fund Grants €5 Million To 35 Startups And Science-Business Joint Ventures+++

Ukranian startup brings pharma food to the masses – from Bulgaria

Ukranian nationals Iryna Gavrylova and Ksenia Zashigina from CMYK Ingredients describe themselves as eco-tech & functional food evangelists. In 2020, they shifted their focus from gourmet to pharma food products, forming R&D partnerships with Bulgarian and international laboratories and universities. 2020 brought them the first systematic contracts and scalable sales revenue.

“Our commercial sales started in February 2020, immediately after the team’s official relocation to Bulgaria due to the class A investment certificate-based visas. Instead of having a successful commercial lunch, we got 9/10 of our potential contracts put on hold or cancelled. We put effort into shifting all our focus into pharma food – from functional gourmet into preventive medicine kind of food: microbiome supportive, functional, organic, clean label, free from allergens, GMO and pesticides. Our “thing” is fermentation“, Irina told Trending Topics SEE.

Asian horizons

Irina sees huge potential in exporting the company’s healthy food expertise to Asia. “Our ambition is to sell to Asia not so much the final products, but unique ingredients and industrial recipes. For instance, the Indian organic food market is worth nearly $1 billion. The European organic market in 2019 grew by 8% reaching  €45 billion. Given the number of consumers, the comparable purchasing power in India is about half of that in the EU,” she explained.

Generation of beekeepers in North Macedonia go digital

Bianca Ackermann on ©Unsplash

Floreo is one of the most popular organic honey and bee product brands in North Macedonia. Aleksander Marinkovski’s grandfather used to keep bees as a hobby. In 2005, a pharmaceutical company offered the family to sell their honey in its drugstores and Aleksander’s daughter founded the Zoralek company. The grandkids took over the business in 2015, creating the Floreo brand and taking the company on the road to digital transformation, creating North Macedonia’s first e-shop for honey.

In a bid to position their brand international markets, the company signed a franchise agreement for selling products in Saudi Arabia and is negotiating with several other countries, including Qatar, UAE and Kuwait.

Tough road to EU over compliance regulations

Floreo’s road to EU markets is a bit more difficult, though. Their products are certified under local laws but the company needs a huge investment to make sure each individual beehive complies with EU standards. “Even if we certify and get permission for our honey to have the logo on the EU organic product on the label, it will be only for our honey. If the buyer seeks a bigger amount, we would need to buy it from beekeepers that are certified. This is a great investment and a commitment, and in the end we will have a non-competitive price and we will not be able to sell our products,” Alexander told Trending Topics SEE. Therefore, the company has focused on offering cosmetics and other honey-based food products developed as a result of their R&D projects.

+++Innovations in North Macedonia cast ray of light on COVID 19 pandemic aftermaths+++


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