A few twists of fate and a whole load of curiosity have taken ‘shitty little company’ Arc Aroma Pure from Lund to Shanghai – with a few pit stops along the way
“Every five years I sit down to assess what I am doing with my life. I ask myself what I want to do and if this is it. Maybe I want to start growing cucumbers instead,” says Arc Aroma Pure founder Pär Henriksson and laughs.
It was after one of these soul searching moments that Pär decided to explore a new idea. Not quite sure how to go about it, he put his thoughts in print and sent the business proposal to the startup competition Venture Cup.
“And I received the prize for best business idea.
“So I figured it must be a decent idea, after all.”
With a background as a technician and experience from product development, Pär started his first company in the early 1970s. It was to be the first of many and after receiving his prize at Venture Cup, he founded Arc Aroma Pure in 2008. In total, Pär has founded around 15 companies – on his own as well as with partners.
“Although I am financially successful in my endeavours, what really drives me is curiosity. I enjoy coming up with fun and simple solutions to problems – even better if they work, too!”
Pär’s idea originally entailed finding a method to pasteurise foods without using heat in the pasteurisation process as heat affects the flavour, aroma, and texture of the food.
“We can all agree that freshly squeezed orange juice tastes amazing, while the yellow liquid you get in the chilled section of your local supermarket can barely qualify as juice.”
The concept was to use high voltage pulses to eliminate bacteria in the juice and pasteurise the product while doing so. It provided a more efficient and cheaper solution to traditional pasteurising and, more importantly, the final product was significantly improved.
But when approaching the food industry with their standard heat based method of pasteurising, the newly founded company was soon faced with a conservative mindset and strict regulatory requirements.
“It was a very difficult industry to get into as you have to guarantee a lot,” remembers Pär.
As a twist of fate, Pär happened to come across an article on biogas one day. Although he knew nothing about it, it captured his attention.
“I read about the issues of biogas sludge. It is heavily contaminated as it consists of animal carcases. After boiling it for three hours, you can make biogas from the sludge.
“Bizarrely, when making biogas – which is a completely natural product – you often use fossil fuels. I figured my method could work perfectly for this as it would kill the bacteria in the sludge. In addition, it would offer a more environmentally friendly and more cost efficient option to using fossil fuels.”
When presenting his idea to some of the major players in the energy industry, Pär soon realised they were already considering similar methods.
“But I could offer a solution.”
Working with the concept led to a new discovery: the method enhances the biogas production by exploding cells and structures and thus releasing nutrients, nutrients that feed the gas producing microorganisms. The biogas plant could produce more biogas – and at a faster pace.
“I left trying to kill bacteria and focused on efficiency instead.”
One of the worst things you can do as an entrepreneur is to surround yourself with people you like and who are like you. Instead, you should look for people who complement you and who can bring other skills to the table.-Pär Henriksson
A joint venture
Finances were however scarce for Arc Aroma Pure. In another twist of fate, just as the company was about to declare itself as bankrupt, Pär received another sign that he was on the right path.
“I received an unexpected tax refund. It just about covered the office rent.”
Pär started to look for investments. Over a pint at a railway station, he tried to convince an investor about the potential of the new concept.
“All he had to show at that stage was his pitch, a few plastic pipes and some duct tape. I guess you’d have to be a bit of a visionary to see the potential”, says P.O. Rosenqvist.
“It did sound too good to be true. I was quite sceptical in the beginning but when I realised that it worked, I was keen to invest.”
Together Pär and P.O. scaled up Arc Aroma Pure. Business Developer Johan Möllerström (now CEO) joined in early 2017. It has been a friendly battle of wills but they all agree that it has helped the company to grow to what it is today.
“One of the worst things you can do as an entrepreneur is to surround yourself with people you like and who are like you. Instead, you should look for people who complement you and who can bring other skills to the table”, says Pär.
“It can be hard at times and conflicts may arise. But from disagreements and having different opinions, new ideas are born.”
Their high voltage generator can be used for several different purposes, but Arc Aroma Pure has chosen to pursue three areas of application.
bioCEPT®; which enhances biogas production, dynaCEPT®; an environmentally friendly and financially profitable way to produce biogas from solid particles in waste water, and finally oliveCEPT®; a method to enhance olive oil extraction both in terms of volume and quality, without any heat involved in the process. oliveCEPT® has taken the small company to Spain, Italy and most recently Argentina.
In addition, Arc Aroma Pure’s method of high voltage pulses can be used in cancer treatment – in particular for cases of inoperable brain tumours. The pulses break down the barriers of the cancerous cells, causing the patient’s immune system to spot the damaged, usually well-hidden, cells and attack them. The result is an efficient autovaccination where the immune system reacts to and attacks other malignant tumours as well.
“It is clinically used now and truly has an amazing effect,” says Pär.
As with any start-up company, IP has been a crucial part of Arc Aroma Pure’s business model.
“Our first patent was an important milestone for us”, says Pär.
“Together with our IP partner Awapatent, we modernised an existing technique and managed to find a concept which was completely different from previous methods.
“The patent is based on how the high voltage pulses are determined and controlled by optical fibres. It is a basic technique but carried out with advanced machinery which is more efficient and arguable safer than other solutions on the market.”
It has been a tough journey with trials and errors along the way for Arc Aroma Pure.
“What makes a successful company? Blood, sweat, tears and a brilliant idea. It feels like we are on the right path but it has been hard getting here”, says Pär.
“Here we are, a shitty little company in Lund, and we have an office in Shanghai, we have plants in China and Argentina. We have been to Italy and Spain. We are heading to England. The people we previously tried to convince to collaborate with us in the future are on our pay roll today. It is complete madness – but a great feeling.”
Although they might have come a long way, it is an ongoing journey for Pär and his team.
“Life is a journey, not a destination. And we are in the middle of ours.”
“I want to see this works. When I see that my invention works and is accepted by the market, I get bored and move on to the next thing. A new application or a completely new challenge.”
Photo: WE Communicate
Arc Aroma Pure
For more information on Arc Aroma Pure, please visit their website arcaromapure.se