We talked to Henrik Stamm Kristensen, founder, and CEO at Blendhub, about the multi-localized food production network, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Henrik Stamm Kristensen: Fortunately, we are all fine, but these are very hard times because of the social distance and all the restrictions to move freely, not to mention all the suffering around us.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Blendhub.
Henrik Stamm Kristensen: I am from Denmark and I have traveled and worked all over the world until I settled down in Spain more than 30 years ago, where I decided to start my own food technology company. I’ve been passionate about food since I was a child and I have always been fascinated by how technology can transform the entire food production model.
In 1996 I founded Premium Ingredients, which specialized in manufacturing food ingredients for the food industry. And after a few successes and failures, I realized we had to take a different approach to move forward. And the company evolved from manufacturing to a collaborative platform to offer food-as-a-service, that’s Blendhub.
In 2004 I challenged my engineers to develop a portable factory and in 2011 we patented and deployed our first Portable Powder Blending factory in India. In these years, we have built a localized production model, closer to raw materials and final consumers, through a network of production hubs, portable factories that are developed and installed according to a unique replication model designed by Blendhub, which are transported in a 40-foot container and are operational anywhere in the world within six months. Blendhub has now 7 production hubs in Spain (2), India (2), Mexico, Colombia, and Thailand.
How does Blendhub innovate?
Blendhub’s solution is the world’s first Food-as-a-Service platform. By localizing food production through a network of hubs, we decrease costs (by 30 to 50%) and increase the efficiency of supply chains.
By decentralizing food production and stimulating local supply chains, we make food production cheaper and available to more people in more places; generate local employment, and decrease gas emissions.
Replication is at the core of our business. We deploy identical production hubs featuring portable powder-blending units worldwide. One unit, all hardware, and software included, fits in a 40-inch container. It can be deployed in less than six months anywhere: close to the raw materials and the final consumer. We can help any SME, start-up, or big company to launch a new product anywhere in the world in 90 days.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Henrik Stamm Kristensen: We have gone through difficulties during this crisis, but since we were visionary to develop a flexible and resilient multi-localized platform-based business model we have been able to react fast and adapt to the new challenges and restrictions.
The situation due to the pandemic should make us reflect and lead to a change of perspective. The agri-food sector must be better prepared to overcome this crisis – and future ones – by making food production more agile and resilient; having more storage capacity; and offering convenience and adequate nutritional value to feed more people in a faster, cost-effective, and easier way.
This crisis has made critical deficiencies visible, which leads us to seek collaborations that go beyond the mere supplier-customer relationship and create ties around the mission of ensuring the efficiency of the entire supply chain and securing food for all.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Henrik Stamm Kristensen: Personnel adjustments are painful, but fortunately, in this crisis, we have suffered less than other industries because the food industry is essential, although some projects have obviously slowed down due to the pandemic.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Henrik Stamm Kristensen: As I mentioned before, the keyword is collaboration, and this goes beyond the mere supplier-customer relationship. At Blendhub we have built a network of affiliated partners: raw material producers, machinery producers, food technologists, technology companies, blenders, distributors, food producers. They all play a vital role in the success of this model.
Collaboration involves sharing knowledge and experience and partnering to innovate, open new markets, make supply chains more efficient and lower prices, making food available to more people in more places. That is how we manage relationships with customers because we believe that the only way we can grow exponentially is by sharing the value.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Henrik Stamm Kristensen: We haven’t received any government grants but Spanish lending institution ICO has helped us renegotiate loans.
Your final thoughts?
Henrik Stamm Kristensen: A couple of weeks ago, it was published that Unilever had developed what they call a “travel factory” and this makes me incredibly pleased because I see that big food companies are starting to accept that global production models need to become local, in order to optimize supply chains resulting not only in better, safer and cheaper food and nutrition but also create a positive impact on reducing the carbon footprint.
And I also feel proud because this is the path that Blendhub and our visionary team decided to open in the food industry value chain in 2011, when we ideated, developed, and deployed our first portable factory in India. I believe that the future of food depends on decentralizing production and localizing it closer to raw materials and final consumers to produce in a more efficient and sustainable way. And this can only be achieved if others join the “localization movement” that we started more than a decade ago.