09 April 2018 Digital Printing Technologies

From around the world to the dinner table

Lisa Sohanpal discovered that business start ups can struggle to find packaging suppliers willing to work with her kind of business.

Like many mothers with a young familyLisa Sohanpal despaired of finding food for the growing children that was both wholesome and tasty. Unlike most mothers she decided to take action. The result is Nom Noms World Food, a range of convenient meals using quality ingredients from around the world and packed into meals for a family or for children.

But as with many of the new generation of start ups in the food sector, translating the ideas and insight that she had had into reality was far from plain sailing. The meal packs would include meals using fresh spices where possible and mixed to create authentic dishes from around the world. “Tastebuds love to travel,” is the company’s slogan.

The main meal would be accompanied by dipping sauces, chutneys and the like to create an all round experience. Coming up with these combinations was not a problem: finding a way to package them to reach consumers was, Sohanpal explained to an audience at the Xeikon Café 2018.

Children, even those supposed to ‘not like spicy food’ or to be fazed by the new style of eating, quickly took to the meals, the dips and sharing. “As parents with busy lives, 80% of us feel guilty about what we are feeding ourselves and children due to time constraints,” she said. Nom Noms World Food would change that.

She has developed meals from 13 different exotic or semi exotic destinations, either as adult or children meals or on the go energy wraps. But when it came to matching the recipes with the packaging Sohanpal hit a brick wall.

“I tried to find packaging formats to fit with what I wanted to deliver,” she said. “And that was extremely challenging. The big companies do not want to work with start ups. Nobody could pack the main, the side dish and the chutney in the same box. I needed to source the different elements of the packaging. I’m still surprised how some packaging and products for kids is adult proof in opening.”

The design was influenced by the contents. Nom Noms needed to stand out. The message needed to be clear, the colour needed to enhance the message and it needed to be simple. She settled on yellow for chicken based dishes, purple for lamb meals and green for vegetarian. The pack should have a hinged lid and be styled like a suitcase for a trip to the originating country.

But she found that wherever she looked, the sector was set up to serve large companies. “The minimum order for trays was 1 tonne – how is a start up supposed to cope with minimum quantities like that? And we needed everything to be recyclable, compostable or biodegradable which was the biggest barrier we faced. And whatever we chose, the packaging had to go through the packing processes.”

For three years Nom Noms worked with a consultant to get to the point where its concept could be launched on the market.

Today the boxes have the colours and look and feel of a travelling case, perhaps not the one originally envisaged, but the lid hinge up to display the food in place. Not surprisingly the airline sector is very interested in good quality ready meals that come packaged ready to eat.

There are also retail display ideas to feature the products with aircraft wobblers to recall the age of adventure in travel, floor stickers to guide feet to the display.

The packaging is already engaging, printed with information about the country where the recipe originally came from, with quizzes and stories aimed at the young consumers. And her thoughts are turning to taking the next step. From its early days, Nom Noms has supported a school in India, providing the resources to give each child a meal each day.

Now she wants to bring this story alive through video. “We have sent 360º cameras to India to capture their stories,” she says. The short videos will be posted on the website and will be triggered through a mobile phone and link embedded in the packaging. “That’s the next step,” she says.

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Lisa Sohanpal

Lisa Sohanpal

Lisa Sohanpal described the journey from concept to finished, on the shelf packaging, for Nom Noms World Food, a brand specialising in foods from around the world presented for families to enjoy. The journey was frustrating she explained as few suppliers are geared up to support start up businesses.

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