Cancer researcher’s smoothie vending machine is a sell-out among investors

The world’s first smoothie vending machine company sees phenomenal response on crowd funding platform.

In 2007, when cancer researcher Astrid Friborg attended a lecture on entrepreneurship for a course that she took in parallel with her doctoral research, she was struck by a brainwave.

A juice bar had won a competition, and she wondered if she could do something with smoothies. “Most people love smoothies, there is a global market need. But it will be costly to have a bar. Imagine the rent and staff costs… not to mention the amount of fruits you would need to waste,” says Friborg.

After doing a Google search and scouring through patent databases, Friborg realized no one had come up with her idea yet. Her idea was to create a machine that serves smoothies, identical to the ones you find at any high end stores that, most importantly, has an inbuilt payment mechanism.

Friborg, however, waited till she completed her PhD in 2009 and then refused a researcher position at Stanford University to take the plunge by starting Berries by Astrid.

The invention of Berries by Astrid

Friborg has gone on to invent a smoothie vending machine that serves individual cups of fresh, healthy smoothies upon payment on a touch screen. The automatic dispenser attached to a smart payment function allows payment through mobile or credit card. Each machine will be connected to the internet, and the completely organic smoothie is made of 50% yoghurt and 50% fruit and berries, without additives. The shelf life is two weeks refrigerated. Friborg’s staff or service partner (depending on location) will receive an SMS when the machine is running low and replenish the machine.

Friborg’s gamble seems to have paid off, as her crowd funding exercise on fundedbyme.com has been a runaway success. Individuals have lapped up her idea, and the company has now raised two million dollars in a week, well over the target of one million dollars, which is about 237% more that the amount she needed.

“I never imagined in my wildest dream that there would be such a response. Very soon we will have to start refusing money from shareholders, as we will hit the ceiling in terms of stake sale, “says Friborg.

Offering what the traditional food industry can only dream about

Friborg says she is addressing a very big need for natural, healthy meals on the market. “Most snack meals on the market today do not fulfill these criteria. We offer what cafés and the traditional food industry can just dream about: 2 weeks shelf-life of a super premium product which is indistinguishable from a freshly made, homemade one. We introduce a completely new distribution on a very hot market – and, unlike most other food companies, we are not eaten by the supermarkets’ hysterical margins. This way, we have opportunities for both good margins and great scalability,” says Friborg on the fund raising platform.

The business model is simple, where Berries by Astrid earns revenues from both customers and consumers. The customer (e.g. a hotel) rents the machine, the consumer pays for the smoothie through the machine, Berries by Astrid gets the revenues, and the hotel receives a percentage of that revenue.

While the product hasn’t been launched yet, Friborg says Arlanda and Malmö Airports, and Täby Centrum shopping mall, have already shown interest in the concept. Friborg says the crowd funded money will be used to get a prototype into the market and towards cost for mechanical engineering, electronics, testing, and software development.

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