Loan Bensadon of Baïa Food tells us about the team’s commitment to a natural, ecological and responsible diet with the environment
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Loan Bensadon: Good, thanks. Actually, I caught the virus back in September, but hopefully, I didn’t infect any of my close ones. My symptoms were very mild, only smell loss. Recently my wife and parents-in-law got it, and my father-in-law was very sick and spent 2 months in the hospital (intubated). I am grateful that he is home now and getting better.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Baïa Food.
Loan Bensadon: I co-founded Medicinal Gardens with my business partner Guillermo Milans del Bosch back in 2013. We recognized the untapped potential of the Miracle Berry, a small fruit native to West Africa. I heard about this fruit from a fellow pharmacist friend while I was doing a research internship at the Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Back in Madrid, my hometown, I met my mentor in entrepreneurship Isaac Chocron Benaim, who introduced me to the startup ecosystem and infused all the energy needed to start a project and found a foodtech startup.
How does Baïa Food innovate?
Loan Bensadon: We are considered an innovative SME by the Government of Spain, according to EU standards. We invest heavily in R&D, and we have spent the last 8 years working on the development of a new supply chain and demonstrating the safety of the Miracle Berry as a novel food. In the process, we have collaborated with several universities, science parks, scientific & technological centers, public and private entities, development organizations, etc. We have gone through incubation and acceleration programs and received funding from national and international public institutions to develop innovative projects. Apart from that, we have an eCommerce (www.baiafood.com) of organic and functional foods which offer different categories of products with high nutritional value, delicious and sustainable. We launched several new products during the pandemic and continued innovating and formulating, which our customers appreciated very much.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Loan Bensadon: Baïa Food, our healthy food eCommerce, has grown 3 fold (x300%) during the pandemic. We are lucky to be in a sector that has grown during the pandemic (healthy food) and selling through a channel that has not been affected by restrictions. But the logistics and capitalizing on the huge growth in such a small timescale have been a great challenge. For instance, receiving pallets of product at home, going everyday to the office during the spike of the first wave (April-May 2021) to prepare orders without running into other colleagues, managing delays with our suppliers without resuming sales and shipments, maintaining the quality of our service, etc. has been a very stressful and challenging situation. Still, it made us stronger internally and in the market.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Loan Bensadon: Actually not, because we were just 3 people working full-time in Baïa Food before the pandemic. Now we are 10.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Loan Bensadon: We established a much closer relationship with our customers and used the phone to call them to explain delays, for example. This direct contact with our customers created much more trust and intimacy. The customers appreciated this close relationship very much, and when they knew that the founders were involved in customer service, it was quite rewarding to see the comprehensive they could be and grateful to be informed first hand. We didn’t use specific digital tools to be more efficient, other than Google Drive, WhatsApp, emails, and Zoom/Meet. Now we are using ASANA.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Loan Bensadon: Yes, we received a specific government grant from the Spanish government called ICO to support SMEs through the pandemic.
Your final thoughts?
Loan Bensadon: As entrepreneurs, we are very grateful to have survived these very challenging times. We are aware of how lucky we are to be in a sector that has not been affected negatively by the Covid-19 pandemic, and we are truly sad about all the ravage it has brought to small and medium businesses. But we also think that staying alive and growing is also a consequence of working for a better world and doing things right. We believe that a healthier and more sustainable food system is possible, and innovation is the key to surviving. We offer value to our customers in the form of healthy products, and we will very soon bring a disruptive Novel Food that has the potential to revolutionize the sector: Miractin®.
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