- Romanian healthy plant-based food manufacturer Unison has successfully raised EUR 225K on SeedBlink
- This was the pilot campaign for SeedBlink’s Community Stars product enhancement designed for the youngest and most aspiring startups
- The startup will use the investment to scale its proprietary production and expand its product line
Earlier this year, arguably Europe’s most active crowd investment platforms – the Romanian SeedBlink – launched a new feature, a Community Stars model for its funding campaigns. This model is specifically tailored for young startups that don’t have any previous institutional investors. The Romanian food startup Unison was chosen as the pilot project for Community Stars. Mavers Wealth Management and angel investors pre-committed EUR 133K of a EUR 225K campaign.
To Promote Health and Grow with the Market
The co-founders Tudor Iacob and Tatiana Nicoară met during a startup accelerator in 2019 where he was working on a subscription-based healthy snack business called NativeBox and she worked on her 100% plant-based food restaurant called Unison. They immediately agreed that plant-based foods and a healthy diet had the power to reverse diseases, and this was a pivotal step in their entrepreneurial journey.
Reportedly, Romania has the least healthy food habits in the EU with a shameful 2% of people eating a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables daily.
‘We now have way more products available and this creates a false sense of abundance. Ultra-processed foods are cheap and widely available, with fewer barriers for the consumer. We have more, but we know little about what’s good for us,’ Mr Iacob comments.
As such, the Romanian market in 2019 was still small in this category, but the co-founders could observe a clear promising trend for healthy foods, growing every year.
‘Tudor and Tania are exceptional people. They are skilled in their industry, and the reason why they started Unison is not only for profit, but they want to change the way people eat. We’ve seen passion and grit in their eyes,’ Mavers’s managing partner Alexandru Boghiu tells ITKeyMedia.
Perfect Alignment for Building a Healthy Business
According to the co-founders, the name ‘Unison’ stands for a perfect agreement, a statement of alignment in their shared mission to grow a business that creates value through the products, a scalable engine that makes clients happy, and is good for the planet.
‘We are building a resilient and sustainable food company. We own our production, packaging, and fulfillment operations, giving us more control over stock levels and production. What makes Unison stand out is our product benefits, our sustainability goals, and our trusted and loved brand through which we want to educate our audience,’ Mr Iacob declares.
Sustainability and Mass Education
As of now, Unison produces its food products at its own facility in Bucharest. The startup takes pride in using eco-friendly packaging and making deliveries with electric cars exclusively – albeit only in Bucharest and Ilfov so far. The deliveries in the rest of Romania are done through next day couriers.
That said, Mr Iacob cites 80% of Unison’s sales coming from small retailers and 20% from online customers. Notably, until august this year, Unison’s sales grew without any marketing budgets. The startup also has partners for online sales – Cărturești, soon to be joined by Ototo.
As for the mentioned education effort, Ms Nicoară is the one in charge of it, as well as the brand image. She does cooking or nutrition classes, supported by distribution partners like Ototo in Bucharest or Eco Bacania Happy in Iași.
We also post on social media healthy recipes and thoughts about nutrition and we work on a printed book about plant-based nutrition that will be launched next year. Further plans in this direction include TV appearances, blogging brand campaigns, as well as classes in yoga and healthy lifestyle and nutrition.
The Crowdfunding Decision
The reasons for Unison to enter SeedBlink were to allow loyal customers to become investors (with the minimal ticket of as little as EUR 500, as per Community Stars rules) and to give them the opportunity to support the startup’s further growth.
‘SeedBlink is one of the biggest investment platforms in Europe, so of course they caught our attention. They had only had tech startups, but we decided to dare and convince them to have Unison as the first food startup on the platform. We also knew for sure that some of our clients wanted to become our investors but didn’t have the framework, – which SeedBlink provided,’ Mr Iacob comments.
‘We are happy to support Unison in this important step in the local market. Food can be made fundamentally more sustainable by using fresh plant-based alternatives. We believe there is room for growth for new brands in this market,’ SeedBlink’s country manager Romania Mircea Ghiță adds.
Further Growth Plans
Specifically, Unison plans to use the new funds for scaling their operations. At this moment, the startup’s at full capacity. The SeedBlink-powered Pre-Seed investment round will be used to increase the production capacity with bigger equipment, hire new people, and launch new products. This is needed to list the products in major chains, as well as introduce a few improvements concerning the packaging.
As for expanding the product line, Mr Iacob specifies: ‘We want to make breakfasts joyful and healthy. So we’ll launch new products for this moment of the day, one that is shared with the loved ones and can set the mood for the entire day. We want to be there with new granolas, fruit spreads, and nut bars that can supercharge a person’s day.’
Mavers Health already has producers of plant-based food in its portfolio, which makes the fund an excellent fit for Unison’s ambition. Likewise, Unison’s ethos is in line with Mavers Health’s mission of accelerating the growth of innovative startups that are reshaping the way we produce, distribute, and consume healthy food.
Kostiantyn is a freelance writer from Crimea but based in Lviv. He loves writing about IT and high tech because those topics are always upbeat and he’s an inherent optimist!