The Single Origin of Food Co, also known as Sofco, is set to launch new vegan honey, with the support of $1.1 million in funding.
The Sofco is a brand striving to make good quality food affordable for everyone and anyone, while staying transparent in terms of origin of the products, and how they were grown. The goal of the brand is also to end the exploitation of people responsible for growing the food we consume.
To do so, the company builds long-term partnerships with small and ethical farmers they reach out to. They negotiate to help them sell their products, but also paying them more for their work. Most of their partners are outside of the United States, in countries where raw materials are more likely to grow. Their products are then imported to the US, to the packaging facilities. These farmers need to follow a few standards:
- They must produce GMO and pesticides-free products.
- They must certify their products as organic, or be coherent with this philosophy and mindset.
- They must provide high standards of living and working conditions.
- They must contribute to supporting their local community.
- They must offer products of high quality and freshness at affordable prices.
A will to “fix the food chain”: from production…
Away from food scandals and unethical practices, the Sofco aims at providing food that is sustainable for the consumer and the producer. The impacts on the food chain are reduced on different levels:
The impact on the environment is reduced: no use of pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides that are damaging the very soil we use to grow food and polluting the very water we withdraw from the land and release by the end of the agricultural activities. Not using these chemical components helps preserving this soil and this water.
The impact on animals is reduced: with this new production process, the decline in bees is tackled. Besides not using the aforementioned chemicals to make the brand new “Un-honey” launched in February, Sofco does not turn to bees, but to plants and fruits like coconut, cane and date. Bees aren’t exploited and killed to produce honey for men.
The impact on the consumer's health is positive: the future vegan Un-honeys, called Un-honey + and Un-honey Nada, will respectively surpass the health benefits of real honey, and propose an sugar free alternative, as Sofco's CEO Belal El-Banna revealed in an interview for Insights.
… to distribution
This Delaware-based company takes the product directly from the farm to their packaging facility in Kentucky before distributing it to over 3,500 retail stores across the United States, among which Whole Foods, Costco, H-E-B, or Safeway. This means they take care of most of the food production chain, from their partnerships with farmers to the points of sale. Despite a limited work in terms of marketing, the brand kept growing and intensely developed its presence in stores where anyone could go, but also online.
By selling its products at an affordable price, The Single Origin of Food Co is willing to end the practice of making good quality food as a luxury only a niche market can afford, and making it available for the mass market.
The Single Origin of Food Co is not a non profit. It's a fair profit. - Belal El-Banna
We can still notice the mindset of positive change with social responsibility in one of the packaging facilities, as it only employs disabled adults, and a future facility will allow people struggling to get a job as a consequence of their background (veterans, migrants...) as Sofco’s CEO Belal El-Banna explained during the interview. He also mentioned the company's partnership with Harambee Schools Kenya, for every unit of product sold, Sofco provides a meal per day for a child.
A journey inspired by personal experience
The Single Origin of Food Co was founded half a decade ago by Colin Carter and Muhammad Kateb, two friends who thought through this project. They got their inspiration from health-related misadventures one of the co-founders went through, that made him require to eat food of higher quality, and from origins he knew he could trust. Instead of taking medication as advised, he found out coffee could provide the desired effect, and went on with his efforts of finding better quality coffee.
This investigation led the team to realize that most of the big food corporations do not really care about the origin of the food they’re selling, most of their strategy consists in maximizing profits. They diminish the importance of the farmers’ work and pay them the minimum amount. Therefore, Carter and Kateb wanted to make a change and fix these inequalities in the food sector, while providing full transparency to the consumers.
After experiences in sales and marketing, with managerial positions, they founded Sofco as their first own company. They turned to El-Banna for co-founding, as he had a more international profile, and had been exposed to the entrepreneurial life, its risks and its struggles for a long time. The team received investments from A’Z Angels, a venture capital from the San Francisco area selecting innovative startups, in terms of technology and of economic model.
But the search of funding is far from being over: in order to release product line extensions, and to develop the business further across the country, the company aims at raising another 2 or 3 millions by the beginning of next year 2022.