SoluBlue - A Seedbed Incubator Case Study
SoluBlue, an award-winning UK-based packaging startup, has developed a sustainable alternative to plastic food packaging, which extends shelf-life and reduces food waste. Learn more about their startup idea and how the 2020 Seedbed Incubator programme helped them on their commercial journey.
The Idea – an alternative to plastic food packaging
Alternatives to plastic food packaging are much sought after for 2 main reasons. Firstly, plastic can create condensation which causes food to spoil quickly. For example:
- Bacteria are one of the main causes of food waste, they require moisture to grow and divide, therefore controlling the moisture content of food is an important way to extend food shelf life.
Secondly, plastic waste causes pollution of the environment leading to the destruction of ecosystems.
- For example: 4.6-12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste find their way into the world’s oceans each year (Euractiv, 2020). Of the 78 million metric tons of plastic packaging produced globally each year, a mere 14 percent is recycled (National Geographic, 2019).
Recognising that plastic causes condensation, which prematurely spoils food, as well as its negative environmental impact, led to the design of a new hyper biodegradable seaweed-based polymer. SoluBlue’s unique seaweed-based packaging prevents food from rotting and instead enables it to gradually dry out over time by absorbing excess moisture, thereby extending the shelf life of packaged fresh food by more than 50%. This inspired idea means that two of the world’s biggest challenges - plastic and food waste - can be overcome using one single material.
Who is behind the idea?
SoluBlue founders Ayca Dundar, CEO and Francis Field, CTO took part in the EIT Seedbed programme in 2020 where they took the opportunity to explore the customer and stakeholder landscape for SoluBlue technology. As an industrial designer, Ayca has a background developing innovative packaging technologies which led to her focusing on biodegradable material technology and the invention of SoluBlue’s material. Working together with Francis, the two brought the company and technology to its current stage of development though lab work, developing prototypes and mapping out the path to scale, and commercialisation. Francis is an architect by profession, and therefore like Ayca is a designer, which, they say, helps them to develop technology with a focus on its ‘productisation’ impact and use within society - enabling them to take a more holistic view of the complex problems they have set out to solve.
Support from Seedbed Incubator on market validation
Bringing a new technology to the market requires commitment and determination, as often there are many obstacles to overcome.
EIT Food’s Seedbed Incubator helped SoluBlue by providing contacts and tools so they could connect with potential customers, such as fresh food producers and packaging manufacturers, to test their idea quickly and gain market insights. They needed answers to questions such as: would their idea resonate? Would potential customers actually need or pay for their product?
This activity resulted in a true understanding of potential customers ‘pain points’, and the feedback and validation from them was invaluable; giving confidence that there is actually a need for packaging material that extends the shelf life of food in the food industry.
Support from Seedbed Incubator on protecting your idea
At the Seedbed Bootcamp SoluBlue benefited from sessions that were held by experts in intellectual property (IP) strategy development and contracts which led to them filing two further patents to secure freedom to operate around their invention.
Since the Seedbed Incubator, multiple international competition wins have followed for SoluBlue. On February 25th 2021, the SoluBlue team was announced as the winner of the 2020 Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge, securing a grand prize of €500k for its work in eliminating food and plastic waste.
Learn more about SoluBlue
- Visit their website: https://solublue.com/
- Follow them on LinkedIn: SoluBlue
- Follow them on Facebook: @solublue
Learn more about EIT Food's Seedbed Incubator here