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Startup profile: Souji

Have you ever wondered what happens to the oil leftover from cooking? Unsatisfied with the conventional answer, Souji has created a novel liquid compound that transforms this household waste stream into a sustainable cleaning product. 

What happens to leftover cooking oil?

Souji was founded in 2015 by Catalina Trujillo and Sergio Fernandez. Frustrated by the wastage of cooking oil, and the environmental damage it causes, Fernandez set out to find a solution. Now, the company is on a mission to share its innovation with the rest of the world. 

The problem of used cooking oil is not one we often consider in our everyday lives, but a quick look at the figures suggests that maybe we should. A single litre of oil can contaminate up to a million litres of water while causing around 90% of pipe blockages. 

According to Souji’s research, around 150 million tons of used cooking oil is generated per year in its home country of Spain. Currently, only 10% is effectively managed while the rest is channelled into local sewage and wastewater systems, causing issues with sanitation, pests and diseases while placing an economic burden on treatment operators. 

From waste to value in sixty seconds

Souji’s simple solution enables its customers to transform their used cooking oil into an environmentally friendly detergent. The liquid formulation is shaken with its waste feedstock for approximately one minute before turning into a multipurpose cleaning product that can be used on everything from clothes and soft furnishings to dishes and floors. 

The founders describe Souji’s detergent as having a creamy texture and a “pleasant formal aroma”. Unlike most household cleaning products, it is entirely non-toxic and non-corrosive. As the hypoallergenic formula removes the need to buy new bottles and sprays, it displaces the ecologically destructive production and packaging of conventional products. 

“It’s the first product in the world that achieves this transformation in just one minute,” Fernandez enthuses. “It is inexpensive, easy to use and fast acting, giving a second sustainable life to waste that would otherwise be polluting, while reducing the impact of common detergents and traditional packaging.” 

Breaking into an unaware market

Having started its journey in Spain, Souji’s formula has now been patented in more than 40 separate countries. Its product is sold straight to consumers, or to wholesale retailers via its B2B partners. 

The company has identified consumer education as its most pressing challenge to date. Trujillo explains that most people are unaware of the ingredients in conventional cleaning products, so may struggle to understand Souji’s efficacy.  

“We have the challenges of all small and innovative companies,” Trujillo continues. “Since they don’t know you, they don’t consume you, but since they don’t consume you, you don’t have money to make yourself known.” 

“The same happens with costs and economies of scale, you can’t lower prices because you produce little, but they don’t use you because you don’t lower prices. It is the fish that bites the tail.” 

It is a problem to which many relate, but Trujillo’s words are somewhat modest. Souji has already secured 35 local distributors and partnered with several marketplaces in Europe. The company has sold more than 65,000 litres of product through its own website, gaining a body of positive customer feedback. 

Paving the way for future expansion 

Souji’s ambitions do not end there. The company is currently working on a new version of its product for caterers, hotels, cruise ships, restaurants and cafes. At the same time, it continues to expand its domestic solution in the hope of penetrating new markets worldwide. 

“We need capital and support to be able to scale and internationalize the solution,” Trujillo says. “Of course, we are open to all collaborations that help us grow and achieve our goals. We work on continuous improvement and we are very open to growing with the market and the needs and opportunities that arise. 

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