Hectares Food Ltd is a new business set up to produce and sell a range of sweet potato crisps. The market for sweet potato crisps is in its infancy and consumers are starting to understand the health benefits that sweet potatoes have over standard white potatoes.
The company’s objective was to create a range of sweet potato crisps which was not only made of an ingredient with enhanced health properties, ie. higher in fibre and vitamin A, but also processed in such a way as to be “healthier” than other root crisps on the market. After spending a month frying home-made crisps in his kitchen after work, Kevin Harvie, the founder of the company, required assistance with the technical issues involved in mass production to produce a crisp that would be both acceptable to the consumer and as healthy as possible.
Harvie was aware of the potential to collaborate with academia and, with further research, identified Abertay University’s expertise in food innovation as being the most relevant for this project. Working with Food Innovation @ Abertay (FIA) enabled the company to get the product to market as well as giving FIA the opportunity to work on what appeared to be, at first glance, a straightforward project on recipe development. However, the technical challenges posed by the properties of the sweet potato, the need for a healthy cooking process, and the use of acceptable flavourings proved to be more demanding than originally thought.
To support the initial collaboration with FIA, an application was submitted to Interface – The knowledge connection for business for a Scottish Funding Council (SFC) Innovation Voucher and an award of £5,000 was made to offset these costs.
According to Harvie, "“The team at Abertay were knowledgeable and enthusiastic. They bought into our idea right from the first meeting and we worked together to reach a great outcome. The Innovation Voucher funding scheme is a fantastic way for new businesses to tap into the vast knowledge and expertise within academic organisations such as Abertay."
Support for the project was also received from Entrepreneurial Spark who accepted Harvie into their business accelerator programme for early stage and growing ventures.
The Food & Health Innovation Service (FHIS), a Scottish Enterprise and Scotland Food & Drink project, was subsequently approached by Hectares to assist with nutritional labelling and to clarify what claims could be made around health on their packaging.
Collaborating with FIA, FHIS and E-Sparks enabled Hectares to get their new product to market within a short timescale. Without their assistance, the product would not have met Harvie’s objectives, nor would the quality be high enough to be acceptable to consumers.
Shortly after trading commenced, Hectares won supply deals with the Whole Foods Market retail chain and the BrewDog bars operation and, within just two months, clinched a deal to supply BP petrol stations across the UK. It put Glasgow-based Hectares on course to achieve sales of more than £150,000 in its first year of trading.
For more information on Hectares, and to try some of their tasty, and nutritious, snacks visit www.hectares.com
Please note that Interface administers the Innovation Voucher Scheme on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council. All funding applications are reviewed on a case by case basis by the Scottish Funding Council, guidelines can be found here.