Moraes was looking for a clean label food preservation technique that makes eating fruit and vegetables on-the-go easy.
“There are many issues when you carry your food around," Marta Moraes, CEO and founder of the company, told us. "You have to carry a cooler bag around, you have nowhere to warm it up or the food is smelly by the end of the day. When I found the freeze-drying process I thought: ‘I have the solution’.”
The first product she developed was a chicken and sweet potato snack followed by a vegan version with chickpeas. Since then, QPod’s portfolio has expanded but the basic premise remains the same.
“We don’t use any additives, only real simple ingredients that you can read and understand [although] some of them are processed like whey protein and maltitol," she said.
“Freeze-drying keeps more than 95% of the nutrients intact and it doesn’t require preservatives because there is no humidity, bacteria or fungus. It makes [it] easy to carry real fruit and vegetables in a way that is light, […] and it gets very crunchy and tasty, [which is] different from dehydrated fruits that are mushy, change color, taste, and texture.”
The company’s 13 SKUs include Amazon Bites, its best-selling product, which is freeze-dried slices of banana covered with acai and whey protein. The 45 g-pack contains 10 g of protein and has no added sugar. It also has a range of savory snacks such as popped lotus seeds and sweet potato chips that are freeze-dried rather than fried.
New retail listings
Moraes financed the venture using her own private funds and said the bureaucratic nature of doing business in Brazil has been a challenge. “Start-ups don’t have any benefits. We have to follow the same requirements and pay the same taxes as big multinationals with whom we compete such as Unilever, Mondelez or Mars,” she said.
Despite the challenges, the business is growing. Up until recently, QPod was shifting around 10,000 units a month but it has recently gained listings in big chains such as Pão De Acucar, Carrefour and St Marche so it is gearing up to expand production.
Contract manufacturing also allows the company to be dynamic, testing new recipes and products. “This way we can be creative and innovate fast without having to buy new machines for every new idea,” Moraes said.
'Tasty, practical and healthy'
“When I first created the company I thought my consumer was going to be bodybuilders and gym freaks, then after a while, we realized this public is not much interested in healthiness but aesthetics,” Moraes told us, adding that three-quarters of QPod’s clients are women aged between 25 and 44 years old.
“Our main consumers are people who have a busy life but are still concerned about what they eat or people that are aware of the importance of food quality and are trying to shift habits and find in our products a tasty, practical and healthy option.”
The company’s name, QPod, reflects its clean label philosophy. It is a pun in Portuguese on the words 'que pode', which means 'you can' or 'that is allowed'.
“When we follow a diet, we always use to say 'this you can, or this you can’t eat' and so Qpod has all that you can eat in a healthy diet. It’s all-natural and has no frying, no artificial colors, preservatives or crazy-named additives that we can’t even pronounce,” said Moraes.
Where possible QPod sources its fruit and vegetables from local producers and its cocoa beans come from Bahia in Brazil. It imports its coconut chips from Sri Lanka and the water lily pops from India while the chickpeas, fava beans, and corn comes from Spain.
The finished products are not certified organic or fair trade but some of the ingredients it uses, such as cocoa, acai, and coconut.