S’porean students transform ugly fruits to instant smoothie drinks that are good for health & the environment

Un-pretty, but just as nutritious.

| Candice Cai | Sponsored | August 19, 2023, 10:00 AM

Ugly fruits and vegetables are just as delicious and nutritious as their more perfect-looking counterparts

That’s what 23-year-old students Tan Boon Kai and Aron Lee want Singaporeans to know.

The pair of Engineering System Design undergraduates from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) as well as two other teammates were participants of Youth Action Challenge Season 4.

Photo courtesy of Noshinom

At the end of the Challenge, they received a grant of more than S$30,000 to execute their vision.

With the topic on the environment and sustainability in mind, the team had come up with an innovative idea to transform otherwise discarded (but perfectly edible) fruits into instant smoothie drinks.

Tan shared: “Backed by our personal experience of volunteering and also personally heading down to wholesale centres, we found out that many of the fruits being thrown out were still in great condition — perfectly edible and sweet.”

“However, it is due to their appearance and shorter shelf life that they are binned. Understanding this, we dived into the possibility of using these fruits and up-cycling them into something else.”

But saving these unwanted fruits from the trash bin wasn’t their only motivation.

Being a picky eater since he was a child meant Tan often felt that he was not consuming sufficient fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.

And he noticed how he wasn’t the only one with the problem.

“It is a common issue with the people around me — they would mention how troublesome it is to buy fruits, or they’re too lazy or picky to consume fruits, or they simply don’t care about their nutritional requirements,” shared Tan.

That observation became a source of inspiration for the project, especially when it was corroborated by other team members.

They were especially motivated to create a product that could seamlessly integrate into people’s busy lives while promoting better nutrition.

“We envisioned a convenient and tasty solution that would allow individuals to effortlessly obtain the necessary vitamins and minerals they need through natural means,” said Lee.

The four of them landed upon the concept of reducing food waste, in particular, for fruits and vegetables.

And just like that, their brainchild, Noshinom, was born.

Photo courtesy of Noshinom

The product is made from powdered, freeze-dried fruits and vegetables or “smoothie crumbs”, which can be turned into ready-to-drink smoothies.

Harnessing freeze-drying technology

Through a period of exploration, the team eventually decided on harnessing freeze-drying technology to create smoothies on demand, added Lee, who’s also pursuing a Masters in Technology Entrepreneurship at SUTD.

“We realised that by utilising freeze-drying technology, we could transform fruits and vegetables into fine powder, which could then be mixed with liquid to create instant smoothies. This approach offered convenience, retained nutritional properties, and extended the shelf life of the produce to up to two years,” he explained.

Lee shared how Noshinom's smoothie crumbs are designed “to supplement the daily recommended intake of fruits and vegetables”, with each sachet purportedly offering 2.5 servings or half of the daily recommended intake of fruits and vegetables according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The product also contains no artificial additives and offers a higher fibre content compared to fruit juices due to the use of the whole fruit, Lee added.

For their efforts, the team were awarded a total grant of S$30,300 at the end of the Challenge, to turn their dream into reality.

Photo courtesy of Noshinom

Both Lee and Tan credit the National Youth Council’s Youth Action Challenge programme for not only broadening their horizons but also helping them pick up new skill sets as budding entrepreneurs.

“The platform they created allows us to learn and develop bold ideas in a friendlier setting,” Lee stated.

For Tan, seeing Noshinom through from concept to fruition was what he called a “personal milestone”.

“As someone with no business background, it is a personal milestone to go through the entire process of a start-up such as finding suppliers and branding,” said Tan.

This includes the hurdles they had to overcome along the way, such as discovering how many of their initial ideas were deemed unfeasible or impractical.

The overwhelming number of things to do at times was also demoralising.

But now, the team is ready for perhaps the biggest challenge of all — launching Noshinom to the masses.

Shared Lee: “We are thrilled to announce that our first-ever Noshinom smoothie soft launch will take place at the end of August this year. The two flavours — Zesty Bomb and Summer Sip — will initially be available online through our upcoming website at Noshinom.com, where customers can easily explore and place their orders.

“Additionally, we will be setting up shop on TikTok at @noshinomsg, where people can find us and stay updated on all our latest offerings and exciting developments.”


Creating a social impact

Besides gunning for Noshinom to be a commercial success, a big part of the team’s goal is to make a meaningful impact on society.

Said Lee: “I aim to make a meaningful difference in the world by offering products and services that contribute to a healthier environment and enhance the well-being of individuals.”

Both Lee and Tan also expressed their wish to address the stigma against “cosmetically defective” fruits and vegetables, while at the same time encouraging people to reduce food waste.

Added Lee: “After participating in the Youth Action Challenge, I was truly alarmed by the staggering numbers of food wastage, especially fruits and vegetables. There are more than 900 million kilograms of food waste generated in Singapore alone, and half of it comes from fruits and vegetables.”

Photo courtesy of Noshinom

It’s a topic which is meaningful to Tan as well:

“When I was younger, my parents would always say not to waste food even if it is a single grain of rice and I would simply ignore them. However, it was only when I grew up that I realised how food security in Singapore is very important as we lack the natural resources to sustain ourselves without the help of other countries.”

“I feel that much more needs to be done to ensure our stability and provide a comfortable future for the next generation. Simply by reducing the food waste, not only does it reduce the carbon footprint but also improves Singapore’s food security.”

The Youth Action Challenge is a programme organised by the National Youth Council which provides opportunities for youths to turn their ideas into reality. This is done in partnership with the government and the community through a series of workshops as well as guidance from mentors and industry experts.

Always wanted to be a changemaker for good but apprehensive about what to do or how to take that first step? Find out more and register for Season 5 of the Youth Action Challenge here.

This is a sponsored article by the National Youth Council.

Top image via Noshinom