February 27, 2017
Meg Fry | NJBIZ
Flatev, a Zurich, Switzerland-based food and tabletop appliance manufacturer in the flatbreads space, will establish its first global manufacturing operation at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center business incubator facility in Bridgeton.
“We are very pleased that Flatev has chosen to establish their first global operation within our FDA and USDA inspected facility,” Lou Cooperhouse, executive director of the Rutgers Food Innovation Center, said. “There is a clear consumer trend in conveniently packaged products that are prepared at home and away from home, and Flatev is pioneering this trend in a category where freshness is extremely important.”
Flatev executives met with officials from the Rutgers Food Innovation Center, Choose New Jersey and other business leaders in Princeton on Friday to demonstrate its Artisan Baking System, a tabletop household appliance which gives consumers the ability to produce freshly baked flatbreads, tortillas and cookies via single-serve pods.
“We welcome Flatev to New Jersey’s growing food industry,” Michele Brown, CEO and president of Choose New Jersey, said. “New Jersey has powerful assets, including the resources at the Food Innovation Center, to help pioneering startup companies like Flatev flourish. Their first-to-market baking system will be a welcome addition to the Garden State’s growing list of innovative food products.”
Carlos Ruiz, founder, chairman and CEO of Flatev, said that the idea for the company arose out of his nostalgia for nutritious, home cooked meals.
“The business began as a result of my interest in producing authentic, healthy tortillas, just like my mother made for me when I was a child growing up in Mexico,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz left his home in Guadalajara, Mexico more than 14 years ago to learn English in Toronto, Canada before backpacking through Europe and attending college in Switzerland.
When he met Jonas Mueller, co-founder and chief technology officer of Flatev, while living in student housing, Ruiz asked the engineering student if he could create a small appliance — much like Ruiz’s single-serve coffee machine — that would make tortillas.
“Jonas replied, ‘Yes. What is a tortilla?’ ” Ruiz said.
The pair has worked since 2012 to create the prototype for Flatev.
“Our Artisan Baking System produces organic, all natural tortillas and flatbreads, which are non-GMO and contain no artificial preservatives or additives,” Ruiz said. “The hot, just-baked tortillas, which are ready in less than two minutes, are scrumptious, fresh and carry an amazing aroma.”
After partnering with Scott Cross, chief business development officer of Flatev, the company raised nearly $5 million in funding in order to engineer its appliance and dough products with teams in both the United States and Switzerland.
Choose New Jersey, the privately funded business attraction and retention arm of New Jersey, met Flatev through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce-run Select U.S. and helped introduce Flatev to the Rutgers Food Innovation Center.
“We work with the state university, Choose New Jersey, the Business Action Center and the Economic Development Agency to foster relationships in order to attract international companies to New Jersey,” Cooperhouse said. “Flatev chose to come to New Jersey because of our center’s international outreach program that supports companies like them with marketing, sales strategy, product development, quality assurance, hiring, process engineering and more.”
Flatev’s organic dough single-serve pods will be produced at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center this fall.
The appliance will continue to be developed and manufactured in partnership with Eugster-Frismag in Switzerland.
“Flatev is emblematic of how global the food industry is now,” Brown said. “A company based in Switzerland with offices in New York will manufacture the machine in Switzerland, but when they needed a place in which to innovate and develop products, they chose New Jersey.”
The future is bright for Flatev, both Brown and Cooperhouse said.
Flatev will target the ability to serve the needs of more than two-thirds of the world in a more than $12 billion multicultural market.
“We are dedicated to empowering consumers with a convenient way of preparing fresh and tasty tortillas, roti, flatbreads, cookies and more uncompromised in authenticity, quality, taste and nutrition,” Ruiz said.
Flatev plans to offer more than a dozen varieties of single-serve dough pods and rapidly expand its current employee base of 15 along with more than 20 global investment and development partners, he added.
“We project to be a $24 million company by 2018,” Ruiz said.
Flatev will begin its growth through a pilot model with hotels and commercial campuses before expanding into a consumer-based subscription model.
When the company does expand into global retail, Ruiz said, Flatev anticipates that the pods will sell for about 80 cents each and the appliance will be priced around $200.
“This company is so exciting and unique to this world,” Cooperhouse said. “There is such a demand as all of us as consumers are looking for convenient, healthy products that taste great and are nutritious. These next generation of products are coming into our homes so we can prepare those items ourselves.”