Food tech + research + family business = winning business idea | Bangkok Post: learning

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Food tech + research + family business = winning business idea

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New food tech business from Maejo University, Chiang Mai: Vacuum-dried fruit that retains shape, taste, fragrance, colour & nutritional value, only 3-4 hours to make with less energy. 

The journey began by helping longan farmers, says Mrs Naraporn, posing with her husband Jatuphong, while their son promotes a Crispy Veg & Fruit product.


Existing in a vacuum

Crispy Veg & Fruit successfully pioneered vacuum drying of produce, but a lack of government support has hamstrung its expansion.


Nop Tephaval

Innovation gets a lot of attention in the creation of new businesses, but the expansion of a start-up and its struggle to bring new products to market based on research is often overlooked.

Founded in 2008 with 10 million baht in capital, Crispy Veg & Fruit is based in Chiang Mai's Mae Rim district. Its goal is to take local fruits internationally with the help of innovation.

Production began late in 2010 at its 400-square-metre facility.

"We are not business professionals but wanted to commercialise our research ourselves. That's why we established the company," said Naraporn Varith, the managing director of Crispy Veg & Fruit.

Prior to that, Ms Naraporn worked at an international school in Chiang Mai before leaving to become managing director of the company. Her husband Jatuphong, whose research led to establishment of the venture, is an assistant professor of food engineering at Maejo University, Thailand's oldest agricultural institution, and currently acts as the company's adviser.

He explained that in 2006, the price of longan plummeted, so he wanted to help farmers by adding value to it.

Research took five years to complete, with another three years to scale the production and methodology to an industrial level and create a market for the products.

The result is vacuum-dried fruit that retains its shape, taste, fragrance and colour as well as nutritional value.

"Vacuum drying works by pushing out the air in the chamber and vaporising the water so the fruit retains it characteristics until there is only 2% humidity left," said Mr Jatuphong.

He said vacuum drying uses less energy than conventional methods such as freeze drying and hot-air drying, as freeze drying can take 48 hours to complete. Hot-air drying takes 12 hours, while vacuum drying takes only three or four hours.

Initially the company's only product was dried longan, but it soon expanded to dried banana and pineapple. Crispy also began to make fruit powder for drinks, while its dried vegetables were produced only for other brands under original-equipment manufacturing (OEM) contracts.

"Marketing was difficult at first since it was a new product and innovative. It was quite difficult to convince people," said Mrs Naraporn.

The firm now employs 15 staff and achieves annual sales revenue of 6 million baht, with 30% revenue growth expected to be shown for 2013. Some 70% of products are exported. The company has reached maximum production capacity of 45,000 packets a month.

Crispy Veg and Fruit operated at a loss for the first two years but broke even in 2012, its third year of operation, with 6 million baht in sales revenue for a net profit of 300,000 baht.

The company won the Thai DE (Design Excellent) Mark and Japanese G Mark (Good Design award) in 2011 for its packaging.

Crispy Veg and Fruit products are available in Rim Ping Supermarket in Chiang Mai, and since late November dried longan can be found in Bangkok at Tops, Villa and other leading supermarkets.

The company also exports crispy dried fruit to Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan.

Despite its success, Crispy Veg & Fruit now faces constraints due to its lack of capital and access to raw materials.

"Our production facility remains small scale, so to expand we will require a lot of capital," said Mrs Naraporn.

She said the company needs to find a partner to support business expansion and meet European food safety standards. The company is capable of vacuum drying any fruit and vegetable but lacks the capital to do so.

"The government has supported a lot of innovations, and that is good. But the support is focused largely on getting a business started rather than continuing its development," said Mrs Naraporn.

"What small businesses such as ours want is support from the government in areas such as marketing and business matching."

For Mr Jatuphong, innovation is the key to differentiating Crispy Veg & Fruit from others in the market.

"Many have asked why we don't just sell popular fruits like strawberries. But strawberries are not a local fruit, nor do they match the company's ethos," he said. "Besides, we can't just sell something that someone else does better."

Pictured above are some of Crispy Veg & Fruit’s innovative products.

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access: having the opportunity to have or use something - มีโอกาสในการใช้

advisor: a person who gives advice, especially somebody who knows a lot about a particular subject - ที่ปรึกษา

agricultural: of the science or practice of farming - ที่เกี่ยวกับเกษตรกรรม

annual: happening every year - ทุกๆปีด, ประจำปี

attention: interest, especially interest that the public has in a person, event, situation etc - ความสนใจ

brand: a type of product made by a particular company - ตรา, ยี่ห้อ

break even: when a business earns just enough money to pay for its costs, not making a profit or a loss; cover the expense, make money to cover the cost - คุ้มทุน, คุ้ม, ไม่ได้ไม่เสีย, ไม่เสียดุลย์

business matching: an event or activity in which businesses find other businesses they can do business with, buy from, sell to or work as partners with -

capable: able to do something; very good at a job - มีความสามารถ

capacity: the amount of something that can be produced - ความสามารถในการ (ผลิต)

capital: a large amount of money that is invested or is used - ทุน, เงินทุน

chamber: a space in something (in a body, in a plant, a machine, etc, which is separated from the rest - ช่อง

characteristic: a feature or quality that something/somebody has - ลักษณะเฉพาะ

commercialise: to make something into a product or service that can be sold and bought for money -

complete: to finish something; to bring some project to an end after having done everything successfully - ทำเสร็จ, ทำให้สมบูรณ์

constraint: something which controls what you do by keeping you within particular limits; something that limits your freedom to do what you want - ข้อจำกัด

continuous: happening or existing for a period of time without interruption - ซึ่งติดต่อกัน, ซึ่งต่อเนื่องกัน

convince: to make somebody/yourself believe that something is true; to persuade somebody to do something - ทำให้เชื่อ, ทำให้แน่ใจ, ชักจูง

creation: the act of making something new - การสร้าง, การประดิษฐ์

crispy: food that is a little bit hard to bite, that makes a sound when you bite it - กรอบ

currently: at this time; now - ในปัจจุบัน

development: the gradual growth of something so that it becomes more advanced, stronger, etc - การพัฒนา

due to: because of - เนื่องจาก

employ: to have someone work or do a job for you and pay them for it - ว่าจ้าง, จ้าง

establish: to start something, e.g. a company, organisation, fund, project, etc. that will likely continue for a long time - สถาปนา, ก่อตั้ง, จัดตั้ง

establishment: the process of starting or creating something - การสถาปนา, การก่อตั้ง, การจัดตั้ง

ethos: the set of attitudes and beliefs that are typical of a company, organization or group of people - ลักษณะพื้นฐานทางด้านสังคมที่มีร่วมกันของกลุ่มคน

expand: to make or become larger - ขยาย

expansion: when something increases in size, number or importance - การขยายออก

export: the selling and transporting of goods to another country - สินค้าออก, การส่งสินค้าออกไปต่างประเทศ

facility: a building, equipment, etc., used for a particular purpose - โรงงาน, สถานบริการ, สิ่งก่อสร้าง, สิ่งอำนวยความสะดวก

found: to start an organization, company, political party etc - สร้าง, ก่อตั้ง, สถาปนา

fragrance: a sweet or pleasant smell - กลิ่นหอม

hamstrung: when you have an injury to your hamstring muscle, so you cannot run or walk fast anymore -

humidity: the amount of water that is present in the air - ความชุ่มชื้น

industrial: relating to industry - เกี่ยวกับอุตสาหกรรม

innovation: the introduction of new things, ideas or ways of doing something; a new idea, way of doing something, etc. that has been introduced or discovered - นวัตกรรม, การคิดขึ้นใหม่, สิ่งที่นำเข้ามาใหม่

innovative: using new methods or ideas - เกี่ยวกับการปรับปรุงใหม่, ที่เต็มไปด้วยจิตใจปฏิรูปใหม่

institutions: large and important organizations, such as universities or banks - สถาบัน

international: connected with or involving two or more countries - นานาชาติ, สากล, ระหว่างประเทศ

international school: a school that is taught in English by foreign teachers, often for the children of foreigners living in the country, but also for rich people who can afford it -

journey: travelling from one place to another, especially when they are far apart - การเดินทาง

lack of: when there is not enough of something - ขาด

level: a position or rank in a scale of size or importance - ระดับ

local: in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about - ท้องถิ่น

managing director (MD): the top manager of a company, similar to a CEO, the member of a company's board of directors who is responsible for running a company on a daily basis -

match: to be the same as or very similar to something else - เท่าเทียมกันกับ, เท่ากันกับ

maximum: the most possible - ที่สูงสุด ที่มากที่สุด

methodology: a set of methods and principles used to perform a particular activity - วิธีการ, วิธี, หลักการ

net: to earn a particular amount of money after taxes or other costs have been removed - ได้กำไรสุทธิ

nutrition: food considered as something that keeps you healthy - โภชนาการ

operate: to carry out an activity like running a business - ดำเนินการ

original-equipment manufacturing (OEM): "An original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, manufactures products or components that are purchased by another company and retailed under that purchasing company's brand name. OEM refers to the company that originally manufactured the product." (Source: Wikipedia) - โออีเอ็ม (ผู้ผลิตอุปกรณ์เดิม); โออีเอ็มย่อมาจาก original equipment manufacturer หมายถึง ผู้ผลิตอุปกรณ์เดิม เช่น บริษัท ก. ผลิตคอมพิวเตอร์ แต่บริษัท ข. ผลิตเฉพาะหน่วยบันทึกให้ใช้ในคอมพิวเตอร์ของบริษัท ก. เราเรียกบริษัท ข. ว่าเป็น OEM

overlook: to fail to notice or consider something - มองพลาด, มองไม่เห็น, เพิกเฉย

packaging: materials used to wrap or protect goods that are sold in shops/stores - วัสดุที่ใช่ห่อหุ้มหรือป้องกันสินค้า

partner: one of the people who owns a business and shares the profits, etc or works together with another business in an activity - หุ้นส่วน, ผู้ร่วมมือ,

pioneer: a person who is the first to study and develop a particular area of knowledge, culture, etc. that other people then continue to develop; one of the first people to go to a particular area in order to live and work there - นักบุกเบิก, ผู้บุกเบิก

plummet: to fall suddenly; to suddenly become much lower - ตกฮวบลง

pose: to stay in a particular position in order to be photographed - วางท่าถ่ายรูป

prior: before - ก่อนหน้า

production: the process of making goods or materials, especially large quantities - การผลิต

professional: a person who does a job that needs special training and a high level of education - ผู้เชี่ยวชาญในวิชาชีพ,ผู้มีวิชาชีพ

professor: a university teacher of the highest rank - ศาสตราจารย์

profit: money that you make from selling goods and services after all your costs have been paid - กำไร

promote: to encourage or support something - สนับสนุน

raw material: a basic material that is used to make a product - วัตถุดิบ

remain: to stay in the same place; to not leave - ยังอยู่, พักอยู่, รออยู่

research: a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - การวิจัย

results: what you get in the end when activity is completed (test results, research results, etc) - ผล

retain: to keep, continue to have, or to store something - เก็บไว้, สงวนไว้

revenue: income from taxes or business activities - รายได้

scale: the size or extent of something, especially when compared with something else - ขนาด, ระดับ

shape: the form of the outer edges or surfaces of something - รูปร่าง, รูปทรง, โครงร่าง

staff: workers employed by a person or organisation considered as a group - คณะผู้ทำงาน, คนงาน

standard: a (high) level of quality - มาตรฐาน

start up: a new business -

struggle: to try hard to do something that you find very difficult - พยายาม, ประสบปัญหา, ต่อสู้กับปัญหา

taste: the different feelings or sensations you get from food when you eat - รส

value: how much something is worth in money or other goods for which it can be exchanged - มูลค่า

value added: the value that is added by one company to a product during one stage of production - ค่าเพิ่ม

vaporise: to turn water into mist (water in air) -

venture: a new activity, usually in business, which involves risk or uncertainty - ธุริกิจเสี่ยงแต่สามารถทำกำไรได้

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