Start-up focus: Israeli-based Rafaels’ innovates in clean snacking

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04 Jun 2018 --- Israeli-based startup, Rafael’s, is on a mission to transform snacking occasions by producing nutritious and healthy foods to consumers in Israel and beyond. Located in Haderah, Rafael’s was launched in 2013, as a food startup company and was self-funded by Rafael and his family, who started their journey to produce real, clean food. According to the company, today’s consumers are looking for foods and ingredients that are minimally processed and are much more concerned about the products that they consume.

FoodIngredientsFirst spoke with Yaki Harel, the company CEO, who discussed the company ethos and plans to build on a successful platform, for consumers globally. The driving forces behind the company launch were the lack of food products in Israel that were made using healthy and clean ingredients. 

“Ten years ago, when Rafael first began this project, he wanted to offer the same kinds of products he used to have in his home for health and taste purposes. At the time, there were none to very few companies offering clean label products as there is now. Initially, we started to produce granola with all natural ingredients and no preservatives, while keeping those all nutritional values of the ingredients and not to destroy them by using heat, for example.”

According to Harel, these were one of the first steps and to begin with, the ingredients used were all organic, which at the time, was almost unheard of. “Soon after, we moved to non-organic versions of the granola, as there was very little demand for organic ingredients, but with the same principals of all natural ingredients with no preservatives. And then, the company was born and after about five or six years, we have around 50 SKU’s in granola, salad toppings, energy and cereal bars and we are continuing to develop our innovations.”Click to Enlarge

In 2017, the company took part in the Anuga Innovations Show, and presented its range of Supergood Bites and Snack Bars, containing superfoods, such as Cordyceps or Cordycipitaceae. “Cordyceps is a unique mushroom that is usually consumed in capsules as a food supplement, and we are among the first in the world that started to use Cordyceps in snacks, and for that, our series of products has taken part in the Anuga Innovation Show,” he explains. 

“And at the end of that year we also developed Super Sandwich Spread (pictured), which is natural ingredients, has no preservatives and allows you to prepare a perfect meal in a sandwich. It contains about 12 percent of protein made of vegetables. It is vegan, tasty and very innovative,” continues Harel. “We are very proud of this product, especially because of the obstacles that we have overcome in development. The reaction from the food industry has been very positive, it’s encouraging for us and we firmly believe it will be successful in the market. The spread is patent pending, which is an accomplishment by itself,” he adds. 

What is the significance of startup companies like yourselves, in emerging markets such as Israel? “Even in Israel, consumers are reading the ingredient labels more often and generally looking for cleaner labels and products. They don’t like to see E numbers and artificial flavors in their products,” Harel replies. 

Currently, Rafael’s exports its products outside of Israel, shipping to the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Japan, Canada, and according to Harel, they will also start working with a chain in New York, called Fairway. 

After initially funding the startup business themselves, Rafael’s is now in the process of looking for further investments from larger companies to increase their capacity and scale up its productions. “We want to increase our internal activities, scale up distribution channels and put more effort into R&D. At our factory in Haderah, we are nearly at full capacity, so we are looking for about €1 million to €2 million, to scale up our production and distribution channels,” he reveals. “If a company looking to invest already has similar lines of production to us, then we could shift production lines. If not, and there is some logic behind a partnership and we could scale up production and enhance our R&D capabilities, then we would look for a company that already has some production activity in this space. Even if it isn’t the same or similar products to Rafael’s, but with some type of distribution channel, we would be open to discussions because we are looking to reach other markets,” Harel says. 

“There are a lot of opportunities ahead for us and we are working on some exciting innovation concepts. We want to develop products according to the market demands that we see from consumers. Bridging the gap between existing products and wanted products regarding natural ingredients that are healthy and tasty is our mission,” he claims. 

So far, Click to EnlargeRafael’s has had a positive response from Dutch markets, and is currently in talks with the supermarket chain, Jumbo, to stock products in the future. “Jumbo is exploring innovation aisles in supermarkets and they are looking for products to supply there. Also in Canada, our products have been appealing to that market of consumers, and on the R&D side, we are hoping to hit production within the next two weeks,”

Harel states. “Some companies are evaluating the potential of our products and it has been very promising, so we are confident in our product range.”

For Rafael’s, ensuring the sustainable sourcing of ingredients is essential to the company. Harel says that they usually buy dry fruit, vegetables, seeds, and grains, typically things that are in abundance. “We don’t use industrialized ingredients that have been mass produced,” he adds. 

Where would you like to see the company in five years from now? “We would like to see big companies using our approach to ingredients and further expansion in the snacking space, particularly for Israel but globally too,” he mentions. “When considering a lack of food sources in 2020 and the need to feed growing population, then we must think about what ingredients we should use to be sustainable and address these broader global issues,” Harel concludes.

By Elizabeth Green

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