Soma Organics is a young company that has risen rapidly from a small, home-based operation to a multi-award winning food manufacturing juggernaut. The business was developed by husband and wife team, Riccardo and Colly Galbiati; and, hidden within their story, are 5 keys to achieving rapid success in the food manufacturing industry.
Riccardo and Colly launched in 2012 with a certified organic superfood snack they dubbed ‘the Soma Bite’. Like a pack of tiny edible tennis balls, the Soma Bites came packaged in a tough little tube that could be carried in handbags, glove boxes and gym gear without getting squished.
They also boasted a bevvy of features to make them appealing to even the pickiest modern consumer. To this day, Soma Organics products are:
- certified organic
- gluten free
- free of added sugar
- paleo friendly
- Australian made
- delivered to you in recyclable packaging
They also contain no:
- artificial flavours
- artificial preservatives
- artificial colours
With basically every kind of health food bar enthusiast covered, Soma Organics were thrust into mass production by a wave of customer satisfaction, high demand and industry awards. In 2016 they took out the baked goods category at the Food & Beverage Industry Awards and Colly won the Women In Industry rising star of the year award. These are just two of a string of awards the duo have taken out over the five years they’ve been in operation. Not to mention the fact they were asked to cater for the Oscars in 2014, just two years after their launch.
So how do you go from making baked goods in a food processor in your kitchen to catering for the Oscars and exporting your products to Singapore and Dubai?
Tip 1: solve your problems and then sell the solutions
Colly says she’s always been a healthy eater but grew more attentive to what she was eating when she fell pregnant with her first child.
“It is an honour to bring life into the world. And your life suddenly becomes far more important than it ever was before. This is where my awareness towards nurturing my body with wholesome and clean foods grew. I began to re-educate myself in this area and during this process I noticed a huge gap for certified organic snack foods on the market.”
Colly was frustrated with the proliferation of protein bars, snack bites and ‘superfood’ balls that looked good on the surface but, upon examination, were packed full of hidden sugars and preservatives. Even the best of them rarely bore the organic stamp of approval Colly was looking for.
And this is the key to a potentially brilliant business idea: think of what you wish existed and, instead of complaining about the lack of it, find a way to make it, and commodify it, yourself.
Colly threw, not just one, but two frustration-solutions into the creation of her first product. On top of the lack of truly healthy organic options, she found the bars and bites she did settle on would get squashed in her bag.
“I thought, ‘there has to be something more robust than this wrapper’ and that’s were the idea for a sturdy tube came into play.”
There are roughly 7.5 billion people in the world so, if something bothers you, it’s a safe bet it bothers others too. This means, if you come up with a viable solution for yourself, you could well be onto a marketable product capable of helping others too.
Tip 2: produce what you would want to consume
Solving problems is one thing, but you also need to keep a focus on creating products you would want to consume. This is the best way to understand your target market and really get what’s working and what’s not.
This is why Colly and Riccardo chose to design their snacks to meet a variety of dietary needs. With something to cater for everyone from vegans and raw foodists to paleo gym junkies, they’re giving others the options they wanted to see in the supermarket aisles.
“My diet and my family’s diet mainly consists of organic produce. We believe food should be as untouched as possible and, to be honest, there was never a moment when we thought to not make each ingredient organic.”
As an IBS sufferer, Colly knows the struggle of trying to find foods that meet your dietary restrictions and has been gluten-free before it was the trendy thing to do. She says she couldn’t imagine selling a product to the public that she wouldn’t be keen to eat herself.
Tip 3: don’t be afraid to start small
The Soma Organics journey started with two people and a food processor. In their first nine months, they were already stocked in gourmet grocers, health food stores, and cafes. Within the first year, supermarket giant, Woolworth’s, had given them shelf-space. You can now find Soma Bites in more than 500 retailers across Australia. And, if you’re ever food shopping in Dubai or Singapore, you might run across them there too.
Starting small doesn’t mean staying small. And it doesn’t mean a long slow trudge to greatness. The Soma Organics story exemplifies how, with the right foundations and intentions, you can grow a food manufacturing empire in a short amount of time. You’d be surprised at how much support people are happy to offer ‘grass roots’ start-ups. Especially if you’re doing something unique.
Tip 4: know when to invest in growth
If you are starting out small, you need to have a feel for when the time is right to ramp things up. Colly and Riccardo always had it in mind to move on from the kitchen food processor. They knew it was a means to a manufacturing end and, as soon as their resources and business forecast allowed it, they upgraded their systems.
“It was how we had to get the business off the ground. All production is now out-sourced to a certified organic food manufacturer and I manage operations externally. I can now devote my time to product development, business development, marketing and building business relationships.”
Tip 5: be on the lookout for strategic partnerships
A big part of the flourishing success of Soma Organics was Colly’s willingness to take on partnerships and her pro-activeness in seeking them out. This state of mind was key to getting Soma Organics to the Oscars and has opened up opportunities for the company to expand their reach by creating products for other brands.
“We create and develop incredible health snack foods under our own label and for others. There is always something to learn, always new relationships to maintain and build and many challenges to face. But that’s the name of the game and I appreciate every ounce of the journey.”