Food for a healthy life

2014-03-05 00:00

FUTURELIFE is Paul Anthony Saad’s third business and he intends to keep leading it as long as it continues to provide him with new challenges.

And there are many of those, said Saad in an interview with The Witness at the company’s head office in Morningside, Durban.

FutureLife, barely five years old, has become arguably the leading health food brand in the country, and it was the main nutrition source for four of the five South African athletes who won gold medals in the last Olympics, including Chad le Clos.

The brand has been successful in entering a market that is characterised by particularly well-entrenched cereal companies and brands in this country. The food and packaging regulatory environment is also formidable, and is closely watched by competitors.

Saad (48), as the company’s main founder and financier, and also its chief executive officer, is actively involved in the day-to-day business and heads up brand and product development, manufacturing and operations.

He said the idea of FutureLife was conceived during a period when he was involved in emergency food parcel work and when there was great concern about the importance of healthy eating in the country.

“I wanted to develop something that was nutritionally dense, free from preservatives, gluten and lactose, and I wanted people to be fuller for longer. I also realised that people were also not getting enough protein in their diets.”

He also has a love of sport and outdoor, healthy living. He also has roots in the pharmaceutical industry through working with his brother Steven Saad, the driving force behind Aspen Pharmacare.

As a chartered accountant by training, he sought out the opinions of nutritionists, health professionals and other “people who had the same affinity”, on the possible formulation of such a food.

FutureLife is manufactured in two factories, one in New Germany, where ingredients are mixed, and another in Pretoria, where certain ingredients are cooked under patented processes. Some key ingredients are also imported.

The range has expanded to include, for example, the FutureLife Protein, which has 30% protein content; and FutureLife Zero, which has no cane sugar added. Futurelife is also launching a range of high protein and energy bars. Saad said his biggest challenge of building the brand in manufacturing has been dealing with the huge number of potential variables that might affect the ingredients from nature, that are not over-processed.

FutureLife is South Africa’s first and only low GI cereal that contains clinically tested Moducare, an immune supplement provided under licence from Aspen Pharmacare, and it has 23 vitamins and minerals, 19 amino acids and even Omega 3. FutureLife is available in all the major supermarkets, and the company is busy exploring expansion opportunities in other countries. Saad said “there is big demand” abroad.

During the interview, Saad peppers the conversation with highlights of his brand, such as a recent clinical trial published in the internationally recognised Biomed Journal of Nutrition that found FutureLife supports the immune functions of the body, and that it is good for diabetics and that its ingredients are non-GMO.

Saad graduated from the University of Natal in 1987 with a degree in chartered accounting and also achieved an equivalent qualification from London in associated cost and management accounting.

After seeing out a two-year mandatory internship with Coopers Lybrand, he left the corporate world to start his own business ventures in the pharmaceutical and manufacturing sectors.

Saad said “it is hard” to start businesses from scratch as he has done three times, and he believes FutureLife will probably be his last start-up.

Saad said his business philosophy is not necessarily steeped in material gain, but rather the impact that can be made on other people’s lives.

“I wanted to produce real food that makes a difference,” he said.

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