'We're the first product that dreams of impeaching the US president'
German start-up Smuus mixes food, politics & tongue-in-cheek marketing
The first question to ask Smuus co-founder Bahador Pakravesh is 'What exactly is your product?'
Smuus describes itself as a smoothie for bread, cheese, salads, meat, yoghurt, cocktails “and everything else that you love to eat“.
Bahador adds: “It's more liquid than a jam but not as liquid than a ketchup. It has his own unique texture.“
The start-up was founded in 2014 by trained doctor Negin Pakravesh in Hamburg, Germany, and it’s a family business. Negin began experimenting in the kitchen because she wanted to give a gift to a friend "who already had everything" and the first Smuus smoothie was born.
She soon recruited her brother, Bahador, and sister Behnaz, who run their own advertising agency MAYD to develop a name, packaging design and marketing strategy.
Currently on offer are the flavours pineapple, cucumber and mint; mango, carrot and lemon balm; strawberry, tomato and ginger; raspberry, beetroot and vanilla; cherry, paprika and chili; and blueberry, rhubarb and lemongrass.
“[The ingredient list] depends on each flavour," Bahador tells us. "But we are 100% vegan and use no gluten, emulsifiers or other [additives]. The most used sugar in it comes from the fruit
itself so that we only need to add 20% refined sugar.“
With a shelf life of up to 14 months, the products retail for €3.49 in more than one hundred brick-and-mortar shops mostly in northern Germany as well as on e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Lieferello and Foodist, and the company will also begin the first round of exports by the end of 2017.
The Smuus team now counts five team members and six flavours, all of which sell equally, according to Bahador.
Impeach the peach-coloured president
But the next flavour to be added to the Smuus range could be peach, pumpkin and saffron, in homage to a certain politician’s orange skin tone.
The start-up has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to raise funds for the new flavour, Impeachment, and, if it hits the €10,000 target, will donate 10% of the profits to NGOs that fight the policies of Donald Trump.
“We want to create this product together with all of you and use it as a tool to not only send out a signal but also to create at least a little counterbalance for the whole injustice that is going on in our world right now,” the campaign reads.
“Smuus loves diversity and is like the team behind it: multicultural," Bahador says. The inspiration for the Kickstarter campaign started way before the impeachment idea. The starting point was the travel ban that affected the Smuus founders themselves because of their double citizenship. So [we] took this to send out a signal for tolerance by creating ads, like 'Smuus calls a travel ban for seven ingredients: gluten, emulsifiers etc…‘ or ‘Smuuslims welcome‘.“
According to Bahador, the message of the Kickstarter campaign has been centred on “what the majority of any democratic country stands for“ – therefore the reaction has been 95% positive. As for any reactions from American consumers: “Unfortunately not yet.“
But the entrepreneurs aren’t worried that taking such an openly political standpoint could alienate some consumers or even retailers. “Smuus stands for tolerance, equality and diversity, and that‘s what most of the people stand for."
Bahador and his siblings have compiled a list of potential NGOs to donate to but will wait until the end of the campaign before communicating any details.
The Kickstarter campaign is still in the early stages, having raised just over 10% of the goal to date. But in fact Smuus is not the only food company to take a stand against the politics of Trump through marketing campaigns.
Two years after Trump (then a presidential candidate) lambasted that a "tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border", Wisconsin-based spice company Penzeys Spice commemorated the occasion by giving away vanilla extract – the orchid originally comes from Mexico – to apologise for the newly-elected president’s words.
The campaign generated so much publicity on social media for the company - it reported a 1,600% increase in sales – that it initially wasn’t able to meet demand.