16 Nov SDG 2: “All our responsible and sustainable initiatives can only achieve their full potential by sharing value and including all operators in the global food supply chain”
Blendhub is the world’s first food-as-a-service platform. By localising food production through a network of multi-localised production hubs, closer to raw materials and final consumers, costs are reduced, and supply chains become more efficient. This helps to produce faster and cheaper and therefore many more people can benefit from basic nutrition. In addition, their core business, powder-based food products, have a longer shelf life, are easier to handle and take up less space than fresh produce, saving costs and reducing the footprint of transport and storage. All of this leads to the company’s purpose of feeding more people, faster and easier, in more places, contributing to the goal of eradicating hunger.
All these ideas can only reach their full potential by sharing the value and including all operators in the food supply chain worldwide. With a unique platform offering services from idea to product delivery, any person or company can use existing facilities or participate in the deployment of new production facilities anywhere in the world.
What is Blendhub’s mission and vision?
Blendhub’s mission and vision were established almost two decades ago. The adventure of Blendhub began in 1997 when we started to investigate the traceability and transparency in food recipes. We began to mix ingredients to meet industrial requests and help make the best and most appetizing recipes. At the same time, we proposed Spanish food companies to better identify ingredients in the recipes. The reason for setting up the first Premium Ingredients company, as it was called, was that consumers need and want to know what they put into their mouth.
What responsible and sustainable commitments, both externally and internally, has the company made during the health crisis?
The health crisis is for us like a small coma on the way. We have been developing commitments to the agri-food sector for decades. That’s why, when we set up the first factory in Spain, which was a “traditional factory”, we were challenged to set up a model with clear traceability.
In 2004, instead of bringing raw materials from all over the world to Spain, I challenged my engineers to bring the factory from Spain to all over the world, closer to raw materials and final consumers, in order to help optimize the supply chain. At that time, we started the idea of a portable plant, and in 2008, three years later, we had built a prototype of a portable factory in a 40 feet container. I call it “my Nespresso machine”.
In 2008, we had a machine in a container that could mix, pack and control the quality of food anywhere in the world. In 2010, we were given the first patent for this portable factory and, immediately afterwards, we started to think where we could place the first factory and make one of our most sustainable recipes. One of our recipes, which we were already selling in the Middle East market, contained ingredients that came from India. So, we decided to localise our first factory in India.
We settled there and started employing people from India. Now our portable factory is run by local Indian people, and we are using Indian raw materials creating a much closer and more sustainable model. By producing in India, we have reduced the costs of the same recipe by 30%. This has led us to a conclusion: if we make food closer to raw materials and final consumers, we decrease costs by 20% to 50%. This is much more than a sustainable initiative, it’s really a disruption of global supply chains that proves we can do much better overall and make healthier and cheaper food.
Which of the Sustainable Development Goals does Blendhub most identify with, and how do you implement them?
Blendhub’s Sustainable Development Goals involve the use of local raw materials that are available in every part of the world. It is necessary that the world becomes aware of making agriculture and transformation sustainable. At Blendhub we have initially focused on powder-based food products because they have a longer shelf life and consequently, they are more sustainable.
The great commitment adopted by Blendhub when investing in powder-based products is to give everyone the possibility to participate in this value supply chain.
What other good practices or actions in terms of sustainability and social responsibility can you share from Blendhub?
It is very important to do things right and to show that you are doing it right. That’s why, more than a decade ago, Blendhub started to develop a new system to certify the raw materials that came into our factories and the final product that left our plants. We began to search for technologies to digitize this process.
We started to build digitization with “near infrared” technology, which is based on a machine where you put your product and it makes a prediction or a fingerprint of that food product. In the last decade, Blendhub has invested in a software that enables the homogeneity and authenticity of food products. This ensures that the product you are consuming is what you expect it to be.
How important is it for the company to communicate its social responsibility and sustainability?
Communication and storytelling are very important when you are doing things that nobody has done before. Visual communication is fundamental to engage consumers and industries and we have made a lot of use of audiovisual media. We have a small team around our marketing department to shoot little stories that you can all find on the Blendhub website and on our YouTube channel. For example, one of the most beautiful ones was shot India to tell the story of how Blendhub, together with an American company and a local Indian company, make sustainable and nutritious food for 500 girls in one of the poorest provinces of India, showing that it is really possible to make high quality and nutritious food reach also the most disadvantaged communities.
What are Blendhub’s plans in this area on the way to sustainability and social responsibility?
Since 2004, when I knew we had made a mistake making a static factory in Spain, we are implementing a multi-localisation model. We have factories in Mexico, Colombia, Thailand, India, Spain…. The future is to localise more production hubs together with teams, people, local organizations where we can really create impact together. We have all the tools in our hands to localise food production and bring basic nutrition anywhere in the world in less than six months.
The second goal is to promote the digitization of raw materials and recipes fingerprints to foster localisation of food production in Latin America, Africa or Asia. On these continents there are many countries which are very rich in raw materials, but they may not have yet fully understood their potential for making nutritionally correct recipes. What we are doing is accelerating the creation of ‘libraries’ of many of these raw materials to make it easier for local producers in these regions to sell around the globe without the need for intermediaries. We enhance these ingredients and recipes that are being produced locally in countries where food safety is being introduced. We help them through Blendhub’s platform to connect directly with industries and final consumers around the globe.
Here you can listen to the full interview with Henrik S. Kristensen, CEO and founder of Blendhub