The straw that's more than flavour of month

By Maurice de Jong

Entrepreneur Andrew Robinson is sipping his way to success with a straw that flavours milk as you drink it. The Sipahh straw was developed in Australia and hit South African stores this month, having been brought into the country by Robinson's company, Straw Tech.

The straw contains either banana, strawberry, chocolate or caramel-flavoured "magic beads". The product reportedly contains no preservatives or artificial colourants.

Robinson, 28, stumbled on the concept about 18 months while working for an investment bank in London.

A group of Australians involved with Peter Baron, who had invented the straw, were applying for a loan to market the product.

They eventually launched it in Australia in October and have already sold 14 million straws.

Robinson saw his chance to make money and visited Australia to buy the the rights to market the straws in southern Africa.

Once back home he started Straw Tech to put the product, produced in China, on the local market.

By then he had put all his savings into the venture and financed the balance through private investors.

"Everything I own is in this business," said Robinson, who lives in Johannesburg.

His "magic" straws hit the shelves at selected shops this month.

"We are in a unique position. Most companies who just start out take four or five years to reach success," said Robinson.

But he believes that in six months Sipahh will be a global name.

The product has been introduced in Germany only days before the Soccer World Cup, and the rest of Europe should follow soon, said Robinson.

Plans include designing a nutrition straw that will make it easier for HIV and Aids and tuberculosis sufferers to take in their necessary nutrients daily, as well as vitamin and soda straws.

"This will change the way people consume beverages globally," said Robinson, who believes the straws could also make it easier for young children to take tablets.

But consumers who end up loving the Sipahh will have to drink up quickly. The straw's beads dissolve after five minutes in milk.

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