Soya Magic plans expansion into food production

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Fledgling Grimsby-based manufacturer Soya Magic is taking on the big boys in the soya category with plans to diversify into food production after...

Fledgling Grimsby-based manufacturer Soya Magic is taking on the big boys in the soya category with plans to diversify into food production after securing supermarket listings for its drinks.

The firm, which has pumped more than £7M into building a brand new factory in Europarc, Grimsby, secured listings for its original, light and chocolate-flavoured one-litre soya drinks in selected Tesco and Somerfield stores at the tail end of last year.

The next step was developing yoghurts and desserts, juice-based soya drinks and tofu products, said md Alon Salamon. “We’re doing this in stages, so we’ve focused on drinks first, but we’ve bought in the kit to produce a wide range of food products as well.”

The Israeli entrepreneurs behind the firm are also exploring novel applications for okara, the nutrient-rich by-product of its soya milk production process. While despatching it to the animal feed market was better than sending it to landfill, technical experts at the firm were now exploring more lucrative opportunities, said Salamon. “We’re talking about a low-fat food grade material that has a high percentage of protein, a lot of fibre and other nutrients. You could potentially use it in a wide range of products from cereals and cakes to bread, meat substitutes and marzipan.”

While Unilever’s Adez soy and juice drink had recently been withdrawn from the UK after disappointing sales, there was definitely mileage in exploring soy and juice again, added Salamon. “We’re talking about a total health solution containing fruit, vitamins, calcium and soy so I don’t think the concept itself is wrong. The key is getting the market positioning right.”

While the UK market for soya products was dominated by major brands such as Alpro Soya and So Good, the retailers had recognised that there was a gap in the market for another player, he claimed. “Although soya products had been growing strongly for several years, things had started to stagnate a bit when we arrived here and I think the supermarkets saw that we could introduce some excitement and innovation into the category. There hasn’t actually been that much innovation in soya lately.”

While some manufacturers had struggled to mask the bitter ‘beany’ flavour of some soy-based drinks, Soya Magic had developed a means of eliminating it during the production process, rather than trying to mask it in the end product with sweeteners and flavourings, claimed Salamon.

Longer-term, the company aimed to build up a chilled export business as well as supplying the local market, he added. “That’s another reason we chose to come to Grimsby: it has great transport links.”

The purpose-built site currently employs around 20 staff, but that number could at least double if the firm managed to make a success of plans to diversify into food products, he predicted. “On the one hand, with the economic climate as it is at the moment, you could say it isn’t a great time to launch new products, but I don’t think people are neglecting their health just because of the financial situation.”

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