Please introduce yourselves: What does your start-up do?
In general, gluten-free types of flour can only be used for baking with the addition of alternative binders such as xanthan gum and guar gum. At KOMEKO we have developed a new type of rice flour, which is the first gluten-free natural raw material that works without binders, starches or additives.
Although KOMEKO is made of 100% rice and naturally contains no traces of gluten, it has a special stickiness that is required for baking. This feature makes our flour an excellent alternative to wheat. Our products can be processed with ease and — in comparison to any other rice flour — be used in most recipes in the same proportion as wheat flour.
While most of the gluten-free recipes need to be modified or supplemented with binders, KOMEKO eases and enriches gluten-free baking! Our goal is to show people how simple and tasteful gluten-free baking can be.
How did you come up with an idea and concept? What inspired and motivated you to create this product?
Our KOMEKO rice flour blends were developed in Japan, as young locals tend to eat less rice and more pizza and bread. So, the idea was to create rice flour that works for baking the same way wheat flour does. The fact that this flour is naturally gluten-free was more or less a side effect. In Japan, gluten intolerances or celiac disease are not common.
During our trip to Japan, we visited the mill and realised the added value for the gluten-free diet. It quickly became clear that we should introduce this “Japanese gold” in Germany to enrich the gluten-free and wheat-free baking.
It’s great to see how KOMEKO flour improves the life quality of those suffering from allergies or gluten intolerance. Intolerance should not make you compromise, hence our motivation: enjoyment instead of renunciation!
We also want to introduce KOMEKO to those who do not necessarily depend on gluten-free nutrition but simply want to give a tasty and valuable alternative to traditional flour. The topic of conscious and varied nutrition concerns us all.
What is unique about your business idea and operating model?
It is important for us to provide the gluten-free market with a tasteful, easy and natural solution. With our rice flour, we are able to follow the clean label principle, which we also want to implement in the new flour-based snacks (i.e. ready-to-eat products without additives, only natural ingredients). The gluten-free market still lacks tasty products and we see a great potential in this area.
What were the most significant difficulties you had to overcome while building your start-up?
Creating the corporate identity was a major project for us, in particular when it came to the packaging. It needed a lot of attention as we wanted to create something that differentiates our brand from others.
It was challenging to explain the unique features of our new rice flour as the customers were convinced that it is impossible to bake with the rice flour without using additives.
Although communication and PR are crucial for us, we barely found time to talk to journalists and work on marketing communications with all the sales activities and daily business tasks.
Getting KOMEKO flour on the store shelves all over Germany also turned out to be difficult as we were not in contact with decision makers or it was almost impossible to reach them.
What are your expectations from the NX-FOOD Start-up Shelf programme?
We see NX-FOOD Start-up Shelf programme as a chance to be introduced to Real and METRO and sell our products in the stores. The best-case scenario would be to attract customer attention and get permanently listed at Real and METRO.
NX-FOOD also offers us a chance to host tastings and even baking workshops, which helps to introduce our products to the target audience. With NX-FOOD blog feature we hope to get even more visibility as well as new sales opportunities or networking events that we can use to extend our network.
What are your main milestones and achievements?
Elisabeth Panknin — CEO and founder
Stefan Marks — Baker master