The Government-backed firm behind a broccoli “super soup” that aims to cut the risk of type 2 diabetes is looking to raise £3 million to expand its product range and double sales over the year ahead.
SmarterNaturally, which has developed an instant soup containing a special type of broccoli, is looking to raise the cash from investors to help bring on board new farmers to grow its patented GRextra variety and ramp up production.
It comes as nutrition and its importance in health and wellbeing has come to the fore in recent years, with personalised nutrition programmes such as Zoe becoming ever more popular.
SmarterNaturally’s soup is sold in sachets containing freeze-dried raw GRextra broccoli, which has been shown in its scientific trials to lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
It is also thought to help other age-related diseases, as well as acting as a sports performance boost, although these benefits have not been put through clinical trials.
Developed by scientists at the Quadram Institute, a Norwich-based centre for food and health research, the wonder broccoli has been specially created through years of research and plant breeding to contain high levels of glucoraphanin.
All cruciferous vegetables – such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage – contain the compound, but SmarterNaturally’s GRextra is based on a special type of broccoli first discovered growing wild in Sicily that contains very high levels of glucoraphanin.
Having notched up 500,000 sales direct to consumers over its first full year of trading, the group now wants to double this to over a million in 2024, while expanding its farm supplier base to countries in Europe, such as Spain, to help provide year-round crops.
Laura Knight, chief executive of SmarterNaturally, said the group wants to scale up given the huge potential for demand – both on these shores and globally.
“It’s a large and growing market. Type 2 diabetes is not just a problem in the developed world – third world countries suffer hugely with type 2 diabetes,” she said.
“We’ve been focused on type 2 diabetes, but new funding will allow us to start exploring new products,” Ms Knight added.
It has plans in place to add more products made with GRextra, such as fresh soups, smoothies and snack bars.
The group also has a broccoli powder pouch coming out in March, allowing people to add it to dishes.
With TV chef and author Theo Michaels on board, it is creating recipes using GRextra, but crucially without having to cook it – as this reduces its effectiveness.
So far, the group has been focusing on selling its products direct to customers through subscriptions costing £5 a portion and £20 a month.
It is in talks with large food manufacturers about possible ranges made using GRextra and Ms Knight said the group is open to partnerships with retailers.
But for now, it is looking to focus on its own products and continue with the direct-to-consumer model.
The latest fundraising will bring its total so far since being set up to £5 million, adding to £500,000 raised last year.
Ms Knight is also working on plans to target overseas markets, with her sights set on Europe and the US, with aims to launch abroad possibly next year.