Forest Fruits: How A Startup Is Balancing Rapid Sales Growth With Rainforest Sustainability


The worldwide marketplace for “superfoods” is value around $162 billion and is about to grow by a mean of 5.5 per cent between now and 2028, based on figures published by IMARC.

But when superfoods are helping us to deal with our minds, bodies and tastebuds, should we even be asking whether their production is having a positive impact on the environment, particularly if the products in query are being grown and harvested in parts of the world considered necessary by way of bio-diversity.

That was a matter I used to be keen to explore with Albana Rama, founder and CEO of The Rainforest Company. Her enterprise – which is shipping Acai berry puree packs to stores in Europe – has just raised €36 million in VC finance. As Rabana sees it, a commitment to protecting the Rainforest environment is essential to the corporate’s mission. So how does that work in practice?

A Recent Contender

Sometimes evidently each day brings a latest supefood. The Acai berry is one in all the most recent contenders. Harvested from a palm of the identical name in Central and South America, it is outwardly jam-packed with antioxidants. In keeping with its proponents it may well have a useful effect on heart health and the immune system. Over the course of the previous few years, these berries have probably made it to a health store or supermarket near you. There are plenty of suppliers within the marketplace.

And if the activity of VCs is anything to go by, it’s market with potential. Within the context of food startups, the €36 million raised by The Rainforest Company last December represented a signficant sum. Not only was it one in all the biggest funding rounds within the European foodtech sector it was also the most important raise by a female founder. The fundraising round – led by family office Kaltroco – also got here at a time when investment in foodtech as a complete had slipped from $54 billion in 2021 to $28 billion in 2022, based on Forward Fooding.

So what was the attraction?

An ESG Agenda

Well, revenues clearly played an enormous part. Since launching in 2016, The Rainforest Company has increased sales rapidly. Its puree packs are currently sold through 12,000 points of sale across Europe and following a move into the U.K. market, there may be potential for further growth. The corporate has generated revenues of 38.5 million Swiss francs since 2018. Between 2021 and 2022, they grew by 200 per cent. Rama says earnings of 80 million Swiss francs in 2033 are expected this yr.

But underlying that’s an ambition to have a positive impact. The Rainforest Company’s avowed aim is to pursue an ESG policy that outstrips anyone else available in the market. So why goes the additional environmental mile so necessary?

Inspired By The Forest

Rama was born in Kosovo but moved to Switzerland together with her parents. Her early working life was within the finance industry where she had roles with GE Capital and Ekman AG. “I had a terrific profession in finance but I started to get disillusioned. It didn’t give me the success I believed it will,” she says.

The turning point got here when she visited the South American Rainforest. “I went on a three-week survival course to get out of my comfort zone.”

Despite the fantastic thing about the Rainforest, it was almost not possible not to concentrate on the issues it faced in the shape of deforestation to make way for the cattle and Palm Oil industries.

So, in organising The Rainforest Company, Rama set out to offer a method for local people to make a living that didn’t involve the degradation of the environment.

“I saw that we could make cash in on plants that were growing wild within the Forest,” she says. “And by offering an honest price, we could incentivise farmers to work for us.”

Scaling The Supply Chain

So how do you construct a genuinely sustainable business while avoiding accusations of greenwash? Rame says the provision chain was key.

“Setting it up was the longest a part of the method,” she says. “We needed to talk on to the farmers. We see them as partners and we aim to incorporate the entire community,” she says. There are currently around 200,000 growers.

But it surely wasn’t simply a matter of finding people to cultivate and harvest the berries. A processing facility was also required, together with a port close enough to the Rainforest.

The second challenge was to really discover a marketplace for a product which had not gained the traction it enjoys today.

The corporate held a launch event at a vegan restaurant and invited journalists while also enlisting the assistance of influencers. Retailers were also invited. The corporate began to get its products into stores in Switzerland. Today, the U.K. market is a priority, with its products available through supermarket group, Waitrose, delivery service Ocado and the Whole Foods chain.

Business Impact

But is the business really helping the Rainforest in any measurable way? Rama points to a policy of fair pricing to be sure that farmers usually are not (and don’t feel) exploited. And by way of the farmers themselves and the local partners providing logistics and processing, the corporate carries out due diligence to make sure its own ESG policies are adhered to. There’s a specific concentrate on biodiversity and climate.

Locking In Carbon

The corporate’s impact report claims to have stored 6.3 million metric tons of CO2 through preserving the Rainforest. Moving forward the goal is to remove 13.7 million metric tons of the gas by 2024.

But does this policy make a difference to customers? Rama says the corporate is targeting a mass audience across generations. Inside that blend, some consumers will doubtless be influenced by the moral stance of the corporate but others will likely be way more focused on the taste and reputed health advantages of the berry. But proveable positive impact is a component of the combo. Customers, Rama says, have an interest not only in health and the taste of the berry but in addition sustainability.

And that is a part of an even bigger picture. If VCs were attracted by rapid sales growth and – as investor Futury put it – “internationalization and product expansion” – Rama goals to indicate the business goals can sit alongside forest preservation.


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