A Cape Town start-up company which produces edible food bowls has grabbed international attention, netting funding from the organisers of the 2020 World Expo set to be held in Dubai.

Munch Bowls offers an alternative to single-use plastics or polystyrene containers, in a shift from waste-generating materials. The company is among a selection of African companies to have benefited from Expo Live, an initiative of the upcoming Dubai Expo, which supports innovative enterprises making a difference.

The company in 2017 won a grant from Expo Live programme, following an application process opened to innovators from around the world. Munch Bowls founder and co-director, Georgina de Kock, told Fin24 that the grant allowed the company to mechanise – and upgrade from a slow manual production process.

“We had to design our own prototype machine, as there is currently no machine on the market to produce such bowls,” said De Kock.

The crisp bowls, which can hold soups and salads, can be eaten with the meals, in the same way as ice cream cones. They are made from stone-ground, unbleached flour, using preservative-free and non-GMO products.

“Munch Bowls has attracted clients in different parts of the world, and the exposure we have received from Expo Live 2020 can never be underestimated,” said De Kock.

“We have requests to set up plants in countries such as Belgium, Moscow and Hong Kong.”

Prior to acquiring a production machine, the painstaking manual manufacturing process was slow, but the company now produces 800 bowls per hour.

De Kock, who is running the business with Neeraj Mannie, said being recognised and supported as a Global Innovator with other companies from around the world for Expo Live 2020 was an honour, as the company would have a chance of showcasing its solution to millions of visitors and potential investors at the Expo 2020.

Variants of the bowl include a plain cracker-like taste as well as a mildly sweetened flavor suitable for desserts.

“We endeavor to add spoons and more eco-friendly green complementary products to help minimise even more wasteful products,” said De Kock, adding that the company, which currently employs seven people, hopes to add more sustainable job opportunities.

“We are currently focusing on exporting and wish to create more local awareness soon.”

‘Real changemaker’

The company, established in 2014, will be showcasing among global companies at the Dubai Expo 2020, which runs from October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021 and is expected to draw companies from around the world.

South Africa is among the 192 countries set to participate in the mega event, according to the Department of Trade and Industry.

Expo Live Vice-President, Yousuf Caires described Munch Bowls as “real change makers” in addressing the pressing challenges of reducing global carbon footprint and waste.

“Munch Bowls have found an innovative way to cut down the waste created by fast food and catering to large number of visitors at major events.”

The $100m Expo Live fund was launched in January 2017,  as part of the legacy project of the 2020 Expo. Officials in Dubai expect the event to add some $35bn (R517bn) to the economy of the emirate over the subsequent decade.