Not many South Africans will have heard of alginate technology, but several will have seen the innovative vegetable noodles that have appeared on Woolworths shelves.
The new products produced by Formfoods, a Seda Savant Technology Incubator success story is seemingly heading for a sizeable market share with its range of uniquely shaped foods.
The company uses an internationally patented technology based on alginate, a soluble fibre harvested from seaweed. This globally approved healthy, non-nutritive, natural food ingredient allows the company to produce any ingredient in any desired shape in a continuous and cost-effective process.
The technology allows Formfoods to create unique gluten and sugar-free products that are flavourful and easy to prepare and to develop a multitude of healthy and nutritious products to suite individuals suffering from non-communicable diseases.
Innovative it certainly is, but smooth sailing, it wasn’t. The technology’s inventor was initially tied into unfavourable contracts from which he had to extricate himself to fulfil the product’s true potential. In addition, the original business model was unsuccessful, as it lacked customer follow-through and did not allow for investment in equipment, which resulted in inadequate capacity.
Capacity constraints led to buying power battles with Woolworths, which was concerned about the company’s ability to meet demand and sustain quality.
Happily, thanks to Savant, these are now yesterday’s problems. With the incubator’s assistance, the business model was adapted and quality control was placed under the spotlight. Seda’s Technology Transfer Fund has granted funding for new equipment. The Formfoods team also benefited from business management mentoring and was assisted with buyer relations management. Steps were taken to fund employment for additional shifts to ramp up production and meet demand.
Formfoods is now involved in a beneficial joint venture, FabVeg, to produce processed vegetable products. This has not only created more than 20 employment opportunities, mainly for historically disadvantaged people, but has enabled the company to take on five employees at its research and development facility.
With that kind of form, the company is undoubtedly shaping up for great things.
This is an adaptation from an article entitled, “FormFoods in top form thanks to Seda Support” in the regular Seda newsletter.