Some people say that inventors – not those who work in-house for companies but independent Archimedes-types – belong to two groups. Those who make money and those who remain life-long dreamers, who design wonderful machines which, for some reason, don’t appeal to the market. Some console themselves with the thought that Leonardo Da Vinci wasn’t fully understood either, while others become veritable pains in the neck, misunderstood geniuses ready to rant and rave every time they see a new product in a shop window, which obviously they had already invented twenty or thirty years ago. Franca Leo belongs to the first creative group. Those who are commercially successful. Of her numerous inventions - she holds a total of 45 international patents - the most successful is a bone for dogs which she has called GRANDOSSO: “I sell 23 million pieces every year in the USA and the same number in the other continents, mainly concentrated in Japan. On the subject of dog chews, my companies are absolute market leaders”. Naturally she has added a range of doggy cakes and snacks to accompany her bones and even carrots, acorns and nuts for rodents and imitation cuttlefish for birds.
In addition to these bones, available in a variety of colours and sizes, which prevent the need to take your dog to have his teeth cleaned, the lady has created all kinds of other inventions, some of which are really quite bizarre. One that has made her famous in the USA is a dog “carrier” with handles and shoulder strap, enabling the animal to exercise. She has also perfected a range of garlic treats for cats and dogs and has developed the Dulcamera, a pastille for human consumption containing all the properties of this vegetable. At last, we now have “Garlic without the smell, that can be used to make a fabulous “Bagna Caôda” (Piedmontese hot garlic dip) or spaghetti dressed with garlic and oil: I can guarantee all the benefits of garlic, while keeping your mouth fresh.” Her secret is a dual passion: for animals and chemistry, which has pursued for all her life. She never attained a university degree, but was given an honorary degree from Rome University last year. “I cultivated by passion for chemistry in laboratories I paid to attend until I had the means to build one of my own”. The first inventions were for cats and were biodegradable dishes and a gold four-poster for cats, a sort of deluxe bed which was all the rage among actors and actresses all over the world. What about the bone? “It’s made of corn starch. I invented and patented it starting with a bag created by Montedison in an attempt to distribute biodegradable bags throughout the market.” This was followed by the setting up of the companies of which she is Chairman: Leofood and Ciuffogatto, with just one plant at number 44 Via Pittara. “Although my products are manufactured by other companies, this plant houses the laboratories where they are created”. She is 65 and is a whirlwind of projects. Not one but one hundred ideas, which she tries to make tangible in person, carrying out her own personal research and hard work. Her latest research focuses on smoking. “I’m trying to create a cigarette made of real tobacco but without all the cancerous elements. This means eliminating all the poisons without affecting the taste and aroma. I’m almost there. I’d like to sell the patent to Philip Morris and have already had some contacts. They are extremely interested”. Who knows? Maybe one day, Franca’s cigarette could be on sale in tobacconists all over the world.
Franca Leo, a volcano of projects.