Ignite Stories: Saveggy & ICA

After meeting through Ignite Sweden in 2020, ICA decided to support Saveggy in accelerating their time to market. Their collaboration, centered around an alternative to plastic in cucumber packaging, is now supported by Jordbruksverket and the European Union.

Reducing plastic waste is high on many companies’ agendas and is especially important for the fresh produce industry. When Swedish retailer ICA met with the startup Saveggy through Ignite Sweden in 2020, they immediately recognized the potential of their solution and decided to support Saveggy in accelerating their time to market.

Savveggy aims to help vegetables stay fresh for longer with an edible, plant-based liquid solution. For CEO Vahid Sohrabpour, their mission is clear.

“We wanted to provide a sustainable solution through the food value chain to reduce food waste, use less plastic and synthetic chemicals and help food stay fresh longer and reach more people,” he explains.

Sara Maxence, who worked for ICA at the time of the initial meeting and is now a consultant to Saveggy, recognized the potential but saw that they were still in the early stages of development.

“It is a very clever idea. I had seen similar solutions in California, but they were not allowed to be used on edible peels in the European Union. I was intrigued by the solution from the very beginning. If we can build upon the natural protections of the vegetable and make it better, then we don’t need any other protection, like plastic,” says Sara.

The Importance of Collaborating at an Early Stage

For Saveggy, who were at a very early stage at that time, the collaboration was very useful as it could help them accelerate their understanding of the market and its customers.

“We equally got guidance on initial product development and requirements from the industry,” says Vahid.

Sara adds that it was important to begin the collaboration at such an early stage as it provided benefits to both companies.

“For ICA, it was exciting to see how they could accelerate this innovative startup, gain insights into alternatives to plastic, and be part of a more sustainable future. Being able to share market knowledge and needs early felt very useful; we could help them find the right direction from the start,” says Sara.

Vahid Sohrabpour (Saveggy)

An On-going Collaboration

The collaboration between ICA and Saveggy is now supported by Jordbruksverket, the Swedish Board of Agriculture, and the European Union. Over the three years since its inception, extensive testing has been conducted to develop the technical solution and to better understand customer perceptions of the product.

After the initial meeting with the ICA innovation team, the experts within the team for fresh produce were brought into the conversation. Since then, the two organizations have met on a regular basis as part of ICA Växa, ICA’s own food innovation hub. Early on, it was decided to focus on cucumbers.

“Cucumbers are a good choice for this collaboration because they are wrapped in plastic, which is something the consumer is upset about, but without protection you wouldn’t be able to buy cucumbers in northern Sweden. From a logistics perspective it is also very efficient as cucumbers mainly go through an auction and are packed in one place,” explains Marcus Welin Sandgren, Senior Buying Manager FVF at ICA.

In the process, ICA’s customer base was used to evaluate the interest for innovations in the space.

“Our consumer studies have shown a curiosity and openness towards edible coating solutions that has exceeded our expectations which is a huge positive. We at ICA are constantly looking for ways to improve sustainability and minimize waste, so supporting Saveggy in this was an obvious choice for us,” says Marcus.

Collaborating Towards a More Sustainable Future

The good relations that the companies have developed over the years has helped Saveggy accelerate the development of their product.

“It has been a great forum to express new innovations in the process of product development and validate it in the supply chain”, says Vahid.

Sara acknowledges that she is looking forward to seeing coated products on the market in the coming year.

“It has been an interesting project and process to be part of from all perspectives. I strongly believe that we need to accelerate more collaborations in the food system to be able to transition to a more sustainable future,” concludes Sara.

Sara Maxence (Saveggy)

Find out more about this fantastic collaboration at this year’s Ignite Sweden Summit, where they will be sharing their successes, challenges and tips. Click here for more information and registration for the event.

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