Reducing food waste by just 15% would be enough to feed more than 25 million Americans every year. Each year, 52.4 million tons of food is sent to landfill, and an additional 10.1 million tons of remains unharvested at farms, totaling roughly 63 million tons of annual waste.
SoFresh™ is initially pursuing the fresh baked goods market that represents nearly $500 billion in sales worldwide. The largest segment of the baked goods market is loaf bread distributed in North America. The initial target opportunities in this market segment include the specialty, artisan, organic, gluten-free, sprouted grain and preservative-free bakery suppliers that sell for a premium at retail.
Fresh loaves are delivered in frequent cycles to manage spoilage rates on the retailers’ shelves. Six billion loaves of bread are supplied to retail in North America, and suppliers experience 10-12% on shelf spoilage.
Bill Belias, chief technical officer, and Toby Thomas, chief executive officer, started SoFresh in 2018. Both have widespread experience including years at Mobile Chemical, which developed the first bread packaging product. Then it was a matter of print the film and make the bags. Now there is much more involved, with environmental and functionality factors as paramount.
“We are reinventing the bread bag. We created a bread bag that stops the mold from growing,” Belias explains.
According to SoFresh Inc., which committed to ending food spoilage, they need better bread (preservative free, clean label, lasting freshness), lower cost (less spoilage, less returns, fewer deliveries), and increased sales (more baking with less waste, new better-for-you products, and territory expansion and distribution).
“We can develop new products that we would have never thought about before,” says Doug Michael of Columbia County Bread, an early adopter of SoFresh packaging.
Reinventing the bag
The technology uses an FDA-approved food ingredient. They discovered this key ingredient in vapor form. “It is a very good antimicrobial product.”
Bags offer the following benefits:
- Naturally extended shelf life of 10 to 20 days
- Reduce food waste by up to 30%
- Premium food waste 72 million loaves at $5 each
- Improve bakery net income by 154%
In one local partnership with a bakery offering two weekly store deliveries, SoFresh bags help the bakery achieve a 30% waste reduction annually
Natural and organic
Thomas points out that they get a pure-form product that is natural and organic. “We put this in the film and make bread bags out of the film.
“We’re finding that now bakeries realize that they can take preservatives out of the bread and let the packaging do the work,” he adds. “This allows you to take that step and make it affordable. And this is a way to get into the ecommerce supply chain with bread.”
SoFresh has 350 million units of capacity between the company and co-packers. All goes through SoFresh.
Ten or so years ago people started thinking about carbs, Belias says. Now people are thinking about how whole grains are really good for you.
“A lot of packaging companies have looked into these types of packaging systems. It comes down a mix of multiple things. It takes nurturing. That’s the angle that makes it work for us. We can take risks that bigger companies can’t.”
Now SoFresh is seeking investors. There is a lot of interest in products that are good for the environment.
“It’s also important to understand that there is a cost to food waste,” Belias explains. “Wheat prices are up. People are going to be more sensitive to food waste now.”
Reducing food spoilage
Food spoilage and waste is a huge global problem. SoFresh and its unique new packaging products can do something about food spoilage, which is a portion of all food waste.
The estimated total value of food loss at retail and with consumers in the United States is $36.1 billion for grain products, $37.1 billion for fresh fruits and $75.1 billion for dairy products not including milk. Mold is a primary cause of food waste for high moisture foods like bread, baked goods, natural cheese and fresh berries. Food manufacturers and distributors combat this problem with food preservatives, packaging, and energy-intensive refrigeration.
SoFresh offers a compelling, cost-effective, product enhancing method to mitigate or delay food spoilage. SoFresh has developed mold inhibiting packaging materials that work with existing food packaging methods.
SoFresh packaging contains and emits a miniscule amount of organic vapor that binds to naturally occurring mold present on the surface of food inhibiting mold growth for several days.
Research to identify the best mold inhibitor was conducted by the passionate co-founders in conjunction with known food science Universities and the USDA. The active ingredient is an FDA approved food ingredient engineered to be available for unsuspecting mold spores residing on food consumed every day.
The bottom line is that SoFresh mold inhibiting products delay mold colonies from forming on the surface of food maintaining food quality, reducing the need for food preservatives, extending shelf life and enabling greater food consumption with less food waste.
Science behind the technology
SoFresh Inc.™ has developed a breakthrough technology solution that wraps food in an atmosphere of food grade vapor inhibiting mold growth that extends food travel life, shelf life and consumption time.
There are over 2500 species of airborne mold turning food into waste every day. SoFresh manufactures a film container or covering that contains just the right amount of organic natural ingredients to enhance nature’s protection against mold.
SoFresh discovered methods to infuse food grade natural extracts into film or containers that emit controlled active vapor inside a food package. The mold spores absorb the vapor which slows down their metabolism to the point where it is difficult for them to thrive.
Since the vapor is a food extract it is safe for humans. It has been tested successfully on many foods such as bread, cheese and berries and it imparts no new scents or flavors.
There are numerous advantages to this technology including reduction of logistics costs, increased reach of distribution, healthier ingredient and cleaner labeling and ultimately a significant reduction in food waste. The shelf-life extension can be tailored to the type of food and desires of the food manufacturer from hours to days.
The film technology is designed to not disturb the manufacturing or packaging process and does not require new capital expenditures since it is formulated to fit within the food producer’s current process.
Naturally extend shelf life
SoFresh, Inc. is committed to mitigating food spoilage.
“Our team is dedicated to fighting food waste in the US and throughout the world,” Belias says. “Our innovative packaging products allow food producers, wholesalers and retailers to naturally extend the shelf life of several foods and extend the consumable life for consumers. Our organic mold inhibiting film technology allows food to stay fresh longer with less or no preservatives, requiring less refrigeration therefore saving our customers money.”
Founders Thomas and Belias met in the late 1980s as research and development engineers developing new products and manufacturing processes for consumer packaging products in early 2000 to 2004. Thomas and Belias collaborated on a few projects to keep food fresh by incorporating ingredients into packaging materials. While their efforts maintained some food freshness, the product-market fit was not sufficient.
What remained constant was the unmet need to keep food fresh longer and the passionate pursuit to find a solution. Belias embraced the challenge between consulting projects by researching and identifying compounds that are natural and safe food ingredients and impart an antimicrobial benefit in keeping food fresh. Research over many years at universities as well as timely discussions with safety and food experts led to a short list of foods that inhibit mold really well.
“In June 2019, our development work produced several SoFresh™ film materials providing 5 days to up to 30 days of extended shelf-life for bakery products,” he explains. “Ongoing trials continue to highlight the benefits of our SoFresh™ technology for food producers, distributors, retailers and ultimately the consumers with fresher and more nutritious foods that last through full consumption. Our team’s efforts will focus expanding production and growing the premium bread packaging where high value clean label products benefit greatly from increased shelf-life, product reach and market growth.”