Macacos is the company who literally introduced the Acai Bowl to the Swedes. Something that is said to be "the" health trend of 2016. Way to go! The newly started family company consists of three partners – two former SSE students and their Brazilian mother.
David recently graduated from the CEMS Master Program in International Business and his sister Camille has studied at the Bachelor Program in Retail Management. The acai berries used are growing and preserved directly from the rainforest in Amazonas, which means that the super powers of the berry is retained. We have talked to Camille, Manager of Marketing & Sales to get some insights about the company that started as a product of the SSE Business Lab.
When did you come up with the idea of starting your own company?
Macacos is a family owned company with roots in Brazil, where we often spend time during the holidays. The "Acai Bowl" has always been an obvious snack on the beach, and we wondered why we couldn't find it in Sweden. At the time we ate our bowls because it was tasty and a part of the Brazilian lifestyle, but we had no idea how healthy it really was! The most important for the Brazilians was to grab a quick snack, which was both good, fresh and that gave a light feeling in the stomach so they quickly could return to the surfboard after the meal.
But when we started to learn more about the acai berry, and eventually visited the Amazon rainforest, where the berries grow wild, we realized how unique it was and that an Acai Bowl is one of the few snacks that successfully combines something that is both extremely delicious and nutritious, at the same time. When the first juice bars began to pop up around Sweden, we realized that the time was right to also introduce the Acai Bowls.
In what way did SSE help you to you get started?
SSE and Macacos has been naturally connected since day one. When we decided to make a reality of the idea during the summer in 2013, we held the first planning meeting in an empty classroom at SSE. Since then, we have been working from the SSE Business Lab. We have also received help from SSE students as interns and got inspiration and knowledge from some of our courses – at both the undergraduate and graduate level. We also discussed several of our ideas with professors in areas such as marketing, retail, finance and law.
Once we even held a welcoming event for the governor of the Brazilian state where the acai berry grows, and we welcomed him in the atrium in collaboration with SSE and the Brazilian embassy.
Tell us more about SSE Business Lab and how you made use of the resources?
SSE Business Lab is an incredibly good support for all the startups that are able to get a spot. A newly formed company is short of capital, and an office rent is not exactly the first priority in the budget. To have somewhere to sit, to store our things and to hold meetings created a completely different structure and serious approach of the company at an early stage. But the most important is perhaps all the other companies that sits at the lab who you can share your ideas and also have fun with. Another important resource – that many people might forget – is that you have access to free consulting hours at for example Vinge and Deloitte.
How did your education help you along the way?
For example, in my case I based a number of our strategies for our upcoming ICA launch from the theories you learn at the Retail Management Program. David also had great use of his education, especially from the courses in Venture Capital and Private Equity at the International Business Program, which was great to have the knowledge sets to know what to focus on when talking to potential investors.
Where can consumers find your products?
You can find our products at around a hundred different resellers throughout Sweden, most of them in the Stockholm area. All our business is B2B and we use to make a division between our two main customer segment as “Retailers” and “Foodservice”. At retailers, our products are sold for home consumption so that you can enjoy delicious Acai Bowls for breakfast, lunch or as a healthy snack whenever suits you best. The Retail segment includes both offline retailers such as ICA stores as well as online retailers such as mathem.se. At our Foodservice resellers, however, our products are made ready to consume directly on the spot. These resellers include cafés, restaurants and gyms. In 2015 we mainly focused on the Foodservice segment, but for 2016 we are planning a big launch at ICA around May. At the same time we are also expanding our product portfolio to include both acai as well as other super fruits from the Brazilian rainforest. So you better stay tuned!
Is it true that you also have a focus on CSR?
Yes! Many large multinational corporations have woken up and realized, often due to outside pressure, that businesses also have a social responsibility. But for startups it is not as common to focus on CSR as you basically have no resources to work with and no external party expecting it from you. When we founded Macacos, however, we wanted to change that. As early as some months before we even got our first customer we decided to travel to the Amazon rainforest to spend some time with the locals to understand their problems and concerns and how we can help them have a better life. Incredibly enough, the answer we got was that they were satisfied and happy with their lives and that they were in no need of any outside help. Astonished by their humbleness, we continued to ask to see if there was not at least something we could do for them. After a long time of thinking and discussion we finally got the answer that they could be in need of a small health center that can provide first aid before you reach a bigger hospital in any nearby city. However, as the Amazon rainforest is 12 times bigger than Sweden we realized that this would not be sufficient to help more than a few families. Therefore we got the idea to build ambulance boats that can give first aid while at the same time transport those in need to the nearest hospital. These should be boats with professional staff that are equipped with first aid kits and fast motors.
How do you fund the project?
In order to finance this project we have started selling acai bracelets as a non-profit side business, and we will also start looking for additional streams of capital to make this a reality as soon as possible. As if that was not enough, acai berries also has a way to preserve the rainforest and combat deforestation! This since the acai berries are harvested in the wild and the acai palm tree is dependent on the Amazonian ecosystem. Hence, the more profitable the acai business is for the locals, the more incentives they have to keep the rainforest intact rather than cutting down trees for other uses. Therefore we use to make the following three statements: Acaí - we eat it because it's good, we eat it because it's healthy, we eat it because it saves the world!
Text: Malin Johansson