ASTANA – Vital Smoothies use cold-press technology to produce thick, 100-percent natural juices with pulp from fresh fruits, berries and vegetables. The process, which preserves natural taste, colour and important vitamins, is new to Kazakhstan. The initiative was supported by the Damu Entrepreneurship Development Fund, which offered attractive lending conditions to the company.
“There are a lot of freshly-squeezed juices on the market, but they start to ferment after three days because of the microorganisms contained in them. There are also many juices that can be kept on store shelves for years. These juices can be stored for so long because they go through the process of heat treatment, in which all microorganisms and vitamins are killed,” said Vital Smoothies Founder Salim Nagym.
The uniqueness is in the production technology. The juices are heat treated, retaining their taste, colour and vitamins for up to 15 days, while neutralising microorganisms that are dangerous to health and cause fermentation.
“My wife and I met in the UK while being students there, and both of us were passionate smoothie devotees. It all started back in 2014, when we undertook a family trip across the cities in the UK where we used to study and Cambridge was one of our destinations. We were sitting at a train station together with my wife’s brother, waiting for our train and enjoying smoothies we had just bought at the local train shop. I began wondering why no one had come across the idea of producing smoothies in Kazakhstan yet. My brother-in-law mentioned that one of his acquaintances looked into this business opportunity but had come to the conclusion that it was not going to be profitable,” Nagym shared.
“Upon our arrival to Kazakhstan, I decided to conduct my own research. I studied the technology of production, the cost of equipment, fruits, berries and vegetables. It was not easy as there was no analogue of such business in Kazakhstan, neither were there any similar technologies of production in the neighbouring states. I visited major retailers in Moscow, Baku, Tbilisi and Yekaterinburg trying to find such product but I found none,” he added.
The more Nagym studied the business, the more questions and doubts he had: “However, the popularity of smoothies in Europe convinced me that sooner or later it will come to Kazakhstan, so we needed to start off. Of course, it would be a challenge but we would deal with the problems in the process.”
Through his research, he learned the Damu Fund subsidises up to 10 percent of the interest rates on loans.
“I thought why should I invest my own funds in the business, when I can keep it in a bank and earn 12 percent per annum and pay 4-percent interest per annum only by subsidising interest rates with the Damu Fund,” he said.
“However, in reality everything turned out to be a little bit more complicated. I had to collect many documents to get the bank’s approval for the loan first, then the subsidy approval. There are no such business support programmes in other countries so even though I had to spend a lot of time and collect many documents, in general I am glad that I have used such state support,” he commented.
Vital Smoothies does not currently have any competitors in the Kazakh market, said Nagym. Some companies use a direct pressing method similar to its technology, but the shelf life is very short and therefore not practical to import from Europe.
“First of all, we are working on a price reduction for our products. We want Vital Smoothies to be affordable to a wide range of consumers. As of today, 70 percent of the cost of our products is the cost of fresh fruit, berries and vegetables. At the moment we are working on establishing our own supply chain of fruits, berries and vegetables directly from the manufacturers avoiding intermediaries. We are also building our own storage. After the completion of all these works, the cost of our products will be decreased,” said Nagym.
“We plan to expand the geography of our smoothie sales. Vital Smoothies are sold in all large supermarkets across Astana. Commencing May 1, we began shipping to Ramstor and Interfood in Almaty. As soon as we cover the Almaty market, we want to start deliveries to the nearby cities of Russia – Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk and others,” he added.