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Stellenbosch University Student's Edible Straws Win Big

A 19- year-old Chemical Engineering student at Stellenbosch University has won R50 000 for her invention of edible straws.

Stellenbosch University, Stefan Els
Edible Straws | House and Leisure
Founder and creator of Eat Me Straws, Leila Siljeur.


Leila Siljeur, a second-year student at the University of Stellenbosch, has won acclaim for her invention of tasty edible straws at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation National Jamboree.  

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation National Jamboree hosted over 800 South African young people this year, and aims to bring entrepreneurship into action and to encourage participants to continue to add value and generate change within their space.

Siljeur explains in a Facebook post – illustrated with a photograph of plastic lodged in the nose of a turtle – that the image showcases the impact of plastic on the environment and marine life, and inspired her to create her award-winning edible straws. 'Even though companies are producing biodegradable straws, some still end up in the ocean posing a threat to marine life,' she says. 

Eat Me Straws are different from other biodegradable straws on the market in that they do not turn soft when exposed to a drink and have a pleasant taste when bitten into. The edible straws are available in three ranges; regular, healthy and vegan with a texture that is a mixture between liquorice and dry fruit.

Expanding on the process of her creation, Siljeur says that she experimented with various emulsifying, binding and deglazing agents in order to ensure that the flavour of the straws did not affect the taste of the drink. 

'The straws can be coloured and flavoured as per customer specifications,' she says. 'We use different bases for the three ranges – gelatine for regular straws, plants for vegan straws and fruit for the health variety.' 

Her best seller is the vegan mix berry-flavoured straws with other flavours including raspberry and chocolate.

In order to test her product, Siljeur and her team sold small batches of 10 to 20 edible straws to Stellenbosch University Students and saw a positive response, prompting her to take the product further. 'The feedback from the students who have bought the straws was positive. They love the straws!'

The eco-conscious young business mogul-in-training has big plans for her brand of edible straws and intends to sell them in businesses across the country.

'We want to sell a massive batch to different businesses. We ideally would like to roll out in fast food chains like KFC, McDonalds and health shops. We would like to sell it to these types of stores so that they can distribute them. Then it doesn't come directly out of the consumer's pocket,' explains Siljeur.

The R50000 won at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation National Jamboree will be put to good use as Siljeur expands her company. 

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