MEDICAL nutrition startup SilverConnect on Monday said it has closed a seed funding round led by Heritas Capital Management.
Seeds Capital, the investment arm of Enterprise Singapore, also participated in the round.
SilverConnect creates specialised food solutions for people who have difficulty in swallowing, or dysphagia. Under the brand of GentleFoods, the firm modifies local Singapore food into softer, smoother or pureed versions suitable for people with dysphagia.
Dysphagia is a condition which becomes more prevalent with age, affecting up to one in five older adults, and up to 40 per cent in institutionalised settings such as nursing homes.
Undiagnosed or poorly managed dysphagia increases the risk of choking, dehydration and malnutrition, said SilverConnect.
The texture of the meals from GentleFoods are in line with the framework set out by the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI), which helps to ensure that meals are safely prepared to the right consistency, and suitable for those who have difficulty swallowing.
GentleFoods currently offers ready-to-eat frozen meals that are suitable for patients requiring IDDSI level four food consistency - or pureed meals - that taste like familiar local dishes such as sweet and sour fish, chicken rice and rendang fish. The frozen meals have been moulded into different food shapes, can be easily reheated, and are made from natural ingredients, said SilverConnect.
Jeannie Ong, co-founder and director of operations at SilverConnect added: “All of our menu items have been carefully co-developed with a passionate team of speech therapists, dieticians and food technologists to ensure that the food has the appropriate consistency and uniform texture even after reheating.”
Fresh funds from the seed round will be used to “fast-track the commercialisation and rollout of GentleFoods to both consumers and elderly care institutions,” the company said in a statement.
Shen Yiru, founder and chief executive of SilverConnect said: “We hope that elderly and other patients with swallowing difficulties will now be able to enjoy a wide variety of safe and tasty meals with their loved ones, while reducing the amount of time their caregivers currently spend on preparing such meals.”
GentleFoods aims to create familiar, safe and nutritious meals that stimulate the appetite, in hopes of bringing the joy of food back into the lives of people with swallowing difficulties, the company said.
“My world changed when I saw my demented grandma rejecting all pureed foods because it was all so unfamiliar to her. The emotional impact inspired me to begin a journey to find out how other people with such challenges cope,” said Dr Shen.
Chik Wai Chiew, chief executive and executive director of Heritas Capital Management, said: “We believe SilverConnect’s creative and impactful offering will enhance patients’ appetite and joy of consuming local favourites, leading to better nutrition, health and immunity which are especially important during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Ted Tan, chairman of Seeds Capital and deputy chief executive of Enterprise Singapore, agreed, adding: “SilverConnect’s focus to address an unmet local and global need in the elderly and dysphagic population exemplifies the spirit of innovation. It aligns with the Food for Elders initiative under FoodInnovate, a multi-agency initiative led by Enterprise Singapore to drive innovation and position Singapore as a leading food and nutrition hub in Asia. We hope that Seeds Capital’s investment will help SilverConnect scale up its operations more quickly and connect them to strategic partners in the region.”
Over the last two years, Enterprise Singapore provided grant support to SilverConnect for the co-development of three popular local snacks with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital under the Food for Elders initiative, as well as a corporate branding project to help them develop a global brand strategy and establish presence in key overseas markets.