A BUNDLE OF BIG DREAMS
Three dreams found each other and started a company
Davo saves the avo
Dave’s great-grandfather plants a tree and starts an avo farm in western Kenya in 1930. Dave grows up loving avocados from the get-go. We’ve seen him talk to them. No joke. Health freaks around the globe realise The Avocado is a power fruit, and farms pop up everywhere. Even in low-rainfall areas (= bad news). Dave visits the largest distribution port for avos in Europe: Rotterdam. He is in shock. 20% of his beloved avocados are labeled as ‘category 2 avocados’: too ugly for the supermarket. Dave makes a sad discovery: Holland does have mountains after all – mountains of ugly avos waiting to be tossed out. Unbelievable. Dave feels a strong urge to rescue them. All of them. Dave moves to Europe to pursue his avo-rescue-dream and enters The Big Unknown.
The Wokewokker highers the fires
Sander a.k.a The Gastroman a.k.a the wokewokkerblogger is the first male food blogger in the Netherlands. Showing guys how to cook on a first date and roast in a sandpit while cracking jokes with his friends. Sander loves his crusts to be crunchy. It surprises him that not all natural oils can stand high heat. They start smoking and lose nutrients. And make your kitchen smell like a fast food chain afterwards. Also, he hated the fact that most sustainable oils are unhealthy saturated fat (e.g. coconut oil, ieieie) and that their flavours are too dominant. So this gastroman wants the fire to be higher. He starts the search.
Dr Jazz fights healthwashing
Jasmijn is a brand-fanatic. She is the brain behind many strong consumer brands such as VANMOOF bikes and Miskeen streetwear. But there’s one thing that really bothers her: marketing abuse. Healthwashing! Greenwashing! The problem: consumers don’t know which companies are truly sustainable and truly healthy, and which just have a good marketing team: “It’s marketing abuse. If you don’t want to help the world, fine, but stop blurring the messages of those that do”.
Instead of complaining, she decided to act. Time to prove the facts instead of just stirring in marketing sauce. Corona, obesity… humans need to be able to find healthy food easily. And so her battle begins.
GET THAT PERFECT PRODUCT
Transforming trash into treasure
Creating Healthy Oil
Where some see trash we see treasure. The beauty of ugly avos is that they are just as healthy as the pretty ones. The saying goes “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. So that's what we do.
It is not rocket science. It is just the most logical thing to do. Other avo oil brands focus on the most premium avocados and brag about it. But hey, only a few avos can be premium… so what is there to brag about? It means all the other avos are wasted. Ain’t those just as healthy? And is all this waste not the core problem of our food industry?
So we play around with the uglys and discover that when you refine the oil it becomes the perfect product for cooking. No other natural oil can be heated this high. Wow.
Next we see that olive oil machines are idle most of the year, so that’s what we use to squeeze the healthiest avocado oil out of our uglys. Rescuing their health magic. Transforming it into cooking oil. A new way of cooking healthy meals daily.
We cannot believe no one has done this yet. It's such a win-win for both the ugly avos and for health-conscious societies.
Naming the company
Our mission is easy: healthy world, healthy humans. Now we need a name. We want the name to reflect that we are all in this boat together. The consumers, the farmers, the human race. Anyone who identifies with our mission should feel connected by this one name. There it is: SOILMATES. Soilmates checks all the boxes. Plus, we believe that soil is underrated. Soil is the core of the earth. People seem to have forgotten its value. Forgotten the feel of it. What it’s like to be standing in soil with bare feet; touching soil with bare hands. The name connects. It’s perfect: Soilmates are all of us.
We did not want to brand ourselves as a company; after all, we don’t feel corporate. We feel like we’re a group of people on a mission. And we like to be open to everyone – to invite people to join us on our adventure. So we reflect this in all aspects of the brand.
Also we choose to not use pictures of avocados. We want people to buy the oil because it's natural and healthy. Without thinking it tastes like avocados. Because it doesn’t. Healthy Oil has a mild flavour. You hardly taste it. Plus, it needs to outlive any avo hype. A healthy diet is a stable diet. We don’t want people to rush from one craze to the next.
The first production run
With the lack of an office we gather at Jasmijn’s 100-year old ship in the heart of Amsterdam. Creating labels, finding the right bottles, choosing sustainable packaging, and minimizing transportation. So much work to do. And so little cash to spend.
Soon the first bottles come in. Yay! And then… nay! It’s SO hard to get the 180-degree label perfectly wrapped around the bottle. Ai. We have to hand-label 6,000 bottles. And hardly any label goes on 100% ok. They have bubbles! They crinkle! They’re skew! But hey. It’s not a big deal. Just like our rescued ugly avos: perfect on the inside… not-so-perfect on the outside. Oh well… aren’t we all?
Hustle hustle hustle
Time to get this Bottle of Benefits into some stores. During the corona lockdown we cannot visit retailers the old-school way. So we make a video card. We tape Dave telling our story. He sits in between Jasmijn’s houseplants on the ship and we record him using just our phones. But hey, all we want to show is that we’re humans and not a company, so the result turns out just fine. We send it around in a postcard together with our product. Soon, the first retailer comes knocking: Picnic believes in us and welcomes us into its arms. They are our first Soilmates.
BECOME THE TALK OF THE TOWN
When dreams become reality
The Big Launch
After all this preparation it is finally time to get the word out. A bit scary. All our work had been based on gut feelings. Now it's time to put it to the test. Will people like our product? Will they buy it and be as happy with it as we are? Or will it all be a big flop; an illusion?
Lockdown: a traditional launch party isn’t an option. So we get creative. As the whole point of Soilmates is to connect to other Soilmates – those like-minded individuals – we decide to put people to the test. Our press agency EDVM sends around our boxes of… soil. Soil with bottles buried inside, along with a pair of gloves. The test: if you start digging for our bottle WITHOUT the gloves – enjoying the feel of soil on your bare hands – only then are you a true Soilmate. After all, in our soil is all we need.
The launch goes better than we could have imagined. Influencers like Anna Nooshin, magazines like Linda, and news like nu.nl all showed us love. We are stunned and humbled by it.
From 50 to 50,000
Jasmijn mentions in the Telegraaf that she cannot believe Albert Heijn is not yet selling Healthy Oil – she cannot believe that they aren’t giving their customers such healthy joy. In the meantime, Sander and Dave use all their charm to get the attention of the AH crew. And then there it is. In comes an order. An order from THE Albert Heijn. Not for just a few stores. But for all of them. AH shows the world they are true Soilmates.
We have six weeks to increase production rapidly. Jasmijn gets Mishka, the first Soilmate employee, up to speed. Sander and Dave head to Spain to guide the production line.
We move heaven and earth. But we get the job done.
Seeing your dream on the shelves of your local store
Today we touched our dreams. ‘Cause a dream it was: to start a company, rescue ugly avocados and create Healthy Oil from Healthy Soil. It was a big risk. It was just a drawing; a sketch. It was scary. It was fun. It was intense and very hard work. We had to crawl under gates and hustle, hustle, hustle. We had to sweat. A LOT.
And then there is that moment.
That moment when you enter your local Albert Heijn and still cannot believe it. Around the corner you find your other Soilmates. The shelves did not change. But everything changed. Our Healthy Oil. Our Soilmates are standing there tall and proud. Showing off themselves on the shelves.
Now it is everything it was not. Now it’s Albert Heijn. It’s real! It’s tangible. It’s so priceless, this emotion. The moment you can actually touch your dream. It’s crying and laughing. It’s intense. It’s an indescribable feeling. It’s the BONUS after all the sweat.
And no. This is not the end of this story. This is the beginning. Now it is our challenge to spread the word and make the world aware of our product. So that it doesn’t just go IN the stores… but that they fly out with pride.
So I say: hamsteruhhhhhhhhhhh. The Soilmates are in town.