Summer, sun and smoothies made of fresh fruits! The three frooggies company founders Sarah Nissl-Elkuch, her husband Philippe Nissl and her brother Patrick Elkuch liked the fruit drinks they were served on their holiday in South Africa so much that they wanted to enjoy them back in Liechtenstein as well. But how can fresh fruits be given a longer shelf-life to make them more convenient for households? This is the question the trio puzzled over at length, until they came across the method of freeze-drying. This enabled them to process the fruits into powder form without having to use any additives. The recipe for success for a fruit powder for use in smoothies, muesli, desserts and numerous other recipes was born.
But where was the product to be sold? “Our plan was to take the fruit powder from Liechtenstein into the St. Gallen/Rhine valley and perhaps through to Zurich or Austria’s Vorarlberg region”, says co-founder Patrick Elkuch. But this goal was quickly exceeded. In 2016 frooggies took part in the German version of TV show “Dragons’ Den”. After juror Jochen Schweizer decided to invest in the Liechtenstein start-up, it became a priority to tap into the German market as quickly as possible. For the three founders, the time had come to quit their jobs in the banking world and focus their energies on the fruit powder. Now their products are available not only in Germany, but also Switzerland and Austria. “A large drugstore chain also sells our products in Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia.” Although Patrick Elkuch can well imagine expanding into other export markets, frooggies wants to take its time in doing so: “We don’t want to jump the gun, so we’re gaining export experience in the German-speaking region first, but of course markets like Poland, the USA or Asia certainly sound interesting.” In order to expand the German-speaking region first, frooggies has been advertising on the television since the beginning of February.
Crucial support from S-GE
Value-added tax, customer tariff numbers and the origin of goods: the Liechtenstein start-up, which now employs 12 people, has had to battle its way through plenty of formalities for its export projects, so frooggies decided to seek support from Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE): “The experts were able to give us competent information and thus made our export projects easier.” Frooggies was so satisfied with the services, that the company joined forces with S-GE to participate in the Anuga food fair in Cologne last autumn. “Funding an appearance at a trade show was not possible for us as a start-up”, explains Patrick Elkuch. “However, someone pointed out to us that Liechtenstein’s Office of the National Economy issued so-called export checks to SMEs to the value of 10,000 francs. This meant we could afford to appear at the trade show.” It was an investment that frooggies did not regret: “The appearance at the shared stand and under the umbrella label of Switzerland helped us a great deal in terms of the level of perception, otherwise we would have been invisible in the crowd. At the same time, we were able to present our products to an interesting audience.” According to Patrick Elkuch, not all companies are aware of the support available from the Principality of Liechtenstein and S-GE. “The start-up scene is not as connected as it is in big cities, for example.” He is therefore very keen to share his experiences with other start-ups from the region.