VERŪ’s team of engineers and food scientists spent three years developing a new production process with “significant support” from a cryogenics company and the University of Berlin, MD Dr. Christian Broser told FoodNavigator. The process was patent protected in 2016.
“The new process is so unique because we found a way to lower the production temperature from about -30°C to about -180°C in an economic and efficient way to produce popsicles on a new level of quality and taste, but at the same time with significant reduced sugar and cream (hence low-calorie).”
The low-temperature shock-freezing also means the nutritional and taste profile of the fruits VERŪ uses to flavour its ice creams are retained. “We use only natural ingredients like the real puréed fruits. Due to the new process, the taste and also the vitamins of the fruits are not destroyed in the freezing process.”
This means that VERŪ’s ice cream offers a “very intense taste” but with “way fewer calories” than regular ice creams.
Shock-freezing has another benefit: it negates the need for any additives, Dr. Broser said. “We don’t need any additives anymore. Our popsicles are robust due the new shock-freezing technology and not because of stabilizers or emulsifiers.”
This means that the ice creams are well suited to meet the growing demand for clean label products. According to research firm Euromonitor, global clean label sales of food and beverage products are expected to rise to $180bn (€154bn) by 2020.
Dr. Broser believes these attributes make VERŪ’s products truly unique. “To the best of our knowledge, there is no competitive product on the popsicle market with the unique features of VERŪ since all big popsicle producers work with the old production process.”
Bring VERŪ to market
With significant resource initially dedicated to making the production process “even more economic and efficient” VERŪ is only now looking at how to bring its ice cream to market.
“We didn’t start working on distribution for our new products since it took a lot of time to develop and continuously improve the new production technology for the serial production process,” Dr. Broser revealed. “Developing out distribution network is our task for the winter months.”
“Our sales started in the second half of 2016 without distribution efforts. We are now starting to switch our focus from the new technology to distribution to increase our growth rates. At the moment, we have primarily B2B customers where we see big growth opportunities.
"We sell for example to premium hotels, gastronomy & catering and gourmet food stores. Since the end of 2016, we also have an importer in Switzerland. Due to the higher price of a VERŪ popsicle, we built VERŪ as a premium luxury brand and don’t see it as a typical food product for retail stores. At least not at this point in time.”
As VERŪ moves to ramp up its distribution levels, the company is open to the possibility of working alongside a “suitable partner”. The group is not, however, interested in attracting further investment.
“Since most of the monetary investment already happened and the patent was granted, it is not our main focus to find an investor. Nevertheless, our innovation addresses a huge market and it might make sense to work with with the right partner to get better and faster access to the market and to establish the new production technology. Although we [have already received] several inquiries, we think we haven’t found the right partner yet,” Dr. Broser explained.
Dr. Broser also noted that he expects to scale up in international markets as well as Germany. “Germany Is our home market but will probably not be our main market due to the fact that Germany has a very seasonal consumption flow for ice cream and customers are very price sensitive for food products. We think there are bigger opportunities in other countries.”