Sofija is entrepreneur through and through, so it is not a surprise that she got a Master´s degree in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In her first start-up, which it is still running, she and her team developed an innovative food-tech process for increasing the freezing point of wine to 0℃, to solve the challenge of the two different freezing points of wine and ice cream. The result: wine ice cream.
Sofija (third from left) presented her second successful start-up, called WISE.
Her second startup, WISE Group Ltd., is just gaining traction. WISE aims to transform the supply chain of wineries into a circular economy in order to reduce waste. Therefore, they produce an additive made from grape pomace.
A fateful travel to a winery
One of the travels for her wine ice cream business took Sofija to a winery in North Macedonia. Upon her visit, she was astounded to see giant piles of a darkish substance – grape pomace, the remains of the pressed grapes. Grape pomace is a mixture of grape skins and seeds, which is usually treated as a waste product from the wine production. Since winery’s cannot use the pomace, they dispose of it unused.
Sofija’s curiosity was piqued. She asked herself whether it could be used in the wine ice cream and took a sample. But everything turned out completely different when she found out that the grape pomace contains lots of fibre, vitamins and antioxidants – very healthy characteristics.
With their innovative technological process, Sofija and her team found a way to extract the remaining nutrients out of the grape pomace. The result is a grape pomace additive: WISE additive.
From wine ice cream (left) to grape pomace additive (middle) – Sofija is entrepreneur through and through
Turning waste into nutrients
This additive helps food manufacturers easily adding a natural source of dietary fibre, vitamins and antioxidants to their product while keeping costs for ingredients low. Moreover, it is a natural food colour. At the same time the winery reduces waste generated by wine and moves one step further to a circular supply chain.
“Although this company is still in R&D phase, I am very passionate about it, mainly because of the positive environmental and social impact that it contributes towards the society and our planet”, says Sofija.
WISE is gaining traction
For Sofija, the most exciting aspect of her work is the amount of grape pomace they recycle from wineries: In 2021, they used more than 15,000 kg of grape pomace for their multifunctional grape pomace additive.
“By doing this we not only help wineries in the process of transforming their conventional supply chains into circular, but also contribute to food manufacturers to create more clean label products for their customers”, says Sofija.
Their next envisaged milestone is to double the number of grape pomace processed in 2023 and to continue R&D activities in the dairy and confectionary industry. There is still a lot to come!
Sofija (second from right) and the other five RIS LEADERS finalists.
“Give your career in manufacturing a chance, as you can make a change”
The manufacturing industry is still dominated by men. When people hear about manufacturing, they often have heavy-duty workmen doing repetitive and unchallenging line-work in mind. But today, robots and machines can most of this work. So, the manufacturing industry is much more than doing hard physical work: Knowledge work, problem-solving, innovation, product development and much more, contributing towards society and environment.