INNOVATORS by leader6


                                         PASSION AND PURPOSE
   To be an entrepreneur takes more than just a great idea and a support system to back it up. It means having the
   passion and the drive to see that idea through to fruition – something that separates the true innovators from,
   well, the rest of us. • This year, in researching the companies we would feature in our annual Top 10 Innovators
   report, we came across a select number of operators we felt captured the spirit of what it meant to be an entre-
   preneur. To be an entrepreneur means being committed to achieving your goals. It means spending long hours
   researching and developing prototype products, conducting consumer studies, and working with manufacturers
   and designers until your formulations and packaging are just right. And finally, it means tirelessly promoting
   your products at industry trade shows and in retail markets. • Regardless of the differences in their products, all
   of the entrepreneurs profiled in this year’s Top 10 are true originals – trailblazers in their respective sectors and
   product categories – and all have a genuine passion for their product, their company and their vision.

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                                                                                  M aya I n di a n G o u r m e t

                                                                                          M i l t o n , O n t.

                                                                                  Exotic Flavours
                                                                                       BY CAROLYN COOPER

                                           nita Saini is the first to admit                                                   launched last April at the Good Food
                                           she has a tendency to leap into      Anita Saini                                   Festival, and I’ve been off to the races
                                               projects without thinking                                                      ever since,” she laughs. This time, Saini
                                    of the consequences. “I’m a very                                                          drew up a comprehensive business
                                    impulsive, fly by the seat of your                                                        plan and invested in creative, shrink-
                                    pants type of person,” she says. “But                                                     wrapped packaging with the help of
                                    a lot of the time I have to go with                                                       Parveen Dhupar at Mississauga, Ont.’s
                                    my gut instinct, and jump on it right                                                     Byte This Inc. The colourful, 375-mL
                                    away.” Judging by the runaway suc-                                                        bottles also feature mouth-watering
                                    cess of her line of certified-organic                                                     photography of prepared dishes, giv-
                                    Indian cooking sauces, Maya Indian                                                        ing them shelf appeal compared to
                                    Gourmet, Saini obviously has great                                                        other products in the category. Maya’s
                                    instincts.                                                                                four flavours now include three sim-
                                        Four years ago Saini was working                                                      mer sauces, Butter Chicken, Vegetable
                                    for a media company specializing in                                                       Curry and Channa Masala, as well as
                                    in-store marketing. It was during the                                                     Tandoori Chicken marinade. All four
                                    course of her work that the fledg-                                                        sauces are certified organic, are trans
                                    ling entrepreneur first turned her                                                        fat and gluten free, and the simmer
                                    thoughts to setting up her own busi-                                                      sauces are vegan. As the only organic
                                    ness. “I met a lot of great people with                                                   Indian sauce on the market, Maya’s
                                    great products, and I really admired                    “For me, being                   successfully caters to both the natural
                                    them,” she recalls. “They were really inspiring.”         innovative,          food and ethnic food enthusiast, offering some-
                                    In deciding what to bring to market, Saini turned         being first          thing unique for retailers and consumers.
                                    to her own cultural heritage. “At the time I was           to market              Today, Maya Indian Gourmet is available at
                                    working long hours, and I didn’t have time to                is a key          160 independent retailers across Canada, includ-
                                    work a full day and spend the rest of the evening           priority.”         ing all major health and natural-food retailers,
                                    in the kitchen,” she says. “But at the same time                               as well as B.C.’s Fairway Markets, Choices and
                                    I wanted to still enjoy the Indian food that I grew up on.         Capers, and is in the process of entering Metro stores in
                                    And I saw that a lot of first generation Indo-Canadians            Quebec (retailing for between $5.99 to $6.99). The prod-
                                    were in the same boat.” Not satisfied with what she saw on         ucts retail in the U.S. through the Ahold Group of grocery
                                    the market, she realized the need for an authentic, easy-to-       chains in the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions.
                                    use, high-quality Indian sauce.                                       Saini herself continues to be the products’ most enthusi-
                                        Armed with her mother Maya’s traditional recipes, Saini        astic advocate, tirelessly attending more than a dozen trade
                                    launched Maya Indian Gourmet in 2003, a line of three              shows each year to promote her line. Next on the agenda
                                    all-natural simmer sauces. It was then that the enthusiastic       are foodservice-size packaging, and a line of organic papa-
                                    innovator started running into roadblocks. “As soon as I           dums. “For me, being innovative, being first to market is
Photo: Gibson & Smith Photography

                                    went to a medium-size chain, shelf space became an issue. I        a key priority,” she says. “I’m not interested in duplicating
                                    was being told ‘You’re an unknown brand, how can I justify         what’s already out there.” This fall the company will also be
                                    putting your product on the shelf?’ So I thought, how do           rebranded as Devya Indian Gourmet, a move Saini says will
                                    I get around this? I’ve got a great product, but I need to         help more strongly identify the brand as Indian.
                                    grow, I need distribution.”                                           So does Saini have any regrets about jumping head-long
                                        Again, Saini followed her instincts, and after researching     into business? “Some,” she laughs, “I made a lot of costly
                                    the growing popularity of both ethnic and organic catego-          mistakes in the beginning. But I’ve had so much fun – that’s
                                    ries, decided to take a chance and reformulate her products        why I get so excited when I talk about my sauce. So yes, I’d
                                    as certified-organic sauces. The gamble worked. “Literally I       do it again in a heartbeat.” FC

                                    30   • M AY   2007                                                                                 WWW.FOODI NC ANADA.COM
                                                 Mrs. McGarrigle’s

                                                M e r r i c k v i l l e , O n t.

                                     The Mustard Mistress
                                                    BY CAROLYN GREEN

j  anet Campbell didn’t set out to
   become the master mustard mis-
   tress of Merrickville, Ont. In fact,
she studied child psychology at uni-
                                                                      Janet Campbell,
                                                                        owner of Mrs.
                                                                                         of mustard a day. Each batch, depend-
                                                                                         ing on the size of the container, fills
                                                                                         between 100 and 200 bottles. Unlike
                                                                                         many processors who make their mus-
versity, and later worked in the graph-                                                  tard with mustard powder or mustard
ic arts field in Ottawa. It was there in                                                 flour, Campbell uses whole mustard
1988, shortly after the birth of her                                                     seeds to produce a stronger bite and
first child, that Mrs. McGarrigle’s was                                                  flavour. “We crush the seed, soak it in
conceived.                                                                               different vinegars or alcohol such as
    “I knew I wanted to start a business                                                 whisky or wine for three hours, then
but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted                                                    add fresh local ingredients like honey
to get into,” she recalls. An avid cook                                                  or maple syrup, and then we blend it,”
since she was a young girl, with a pen-                                                  she explains.
chant for making preserves, Campbell                                                         Campbell admits that owning the
teamed up with a friend, Angela                                                          business hasn’t always been smooth
Walker, who had admired her hot                                                          sailing. “Initially, the greatest chal-
whisky mustard recipe, and launched                                                      lenge was starting a brand with zero
Mrs. McGarrigle’s. After operating the                                                   product recognition,” she says, adding
business for two years in Ottawa, in                                                     that her first three products – Hot
1990 Campbell bought Walker’s share                                                      Whiskey mustard, Apple Rum chut-
and moved to Merrickville, a picturesque village             "the            ney and a Cajun seasoning which she no longer
less than an hour’s drive from Ottawa.                    greatest           makes – were in different categories and got lost
    Initially making her mustard and a growing challenge was on grocery store shelves. But by adding new prod-
repertoire of products from her home, Campbell          starting a           ucts each year in the same categories, and offering
opened her first store in 1994. But it wasn’t until    brand with            samples in the store, the Mrs. McGarrigle’s brand
2000 when the store relocated for the second time zero product eventually gained recognition. A three-year con-
that Mrs. McGarrigle’s took off. The new store recognition.” tract with a major bank to provide 23,000 jars
had a better kitchen that facilitated production,                            annually for the bank’s gift baskets also helped.
while allowing Campbell to showcase more products. That          Today, with more than 300 gourmet food shops and cafés
same year Campbell won the first of four medals at the           in seven provinces selling her products, sales are flourishing.
World Mustard Competition, a major event at California’s            Looking to the future, Campbell is clearly optimistic.
Napa Valley Mustard Festival.                                    After several years of 100 per cent and 50 per cent annu-
    Today, the company makes 14 mustards, two chutneys,          al sales increases, Campbell conservatively estimates that
one peppercorn blend, three savories, three sea salts and        2007 sales will be at least 20 per cent higher than last
four kinds of preserves. Last year, Campbell estimates she       year. In addition to adding at least two new products a
produced about 150,000 bottles of goodies, a 50-per-cent         year, her ambitious five-year plan calls for the introduction
increase since 2005. Everything Mrs. McGarrigle’s produces       of new product lines – including tapenades and dressings/
is handmade in a 540-sq.-ft. kitchen in the retail outlet, a     marinades – an expanded base of retail outlets, growth in
former two-storey general store that has been renovated to       sales to the foodservice sector, the addition of one or two
portray its past. And while most of her competitors mass         seasonal retail stores in high tourist-traffic areas, the expan-
produce their products, it’s an option Campbell won’t con-       sion of online sales, and distribution to the U.S. and possibly
sider. Noting that her offerings taste better because they’re    Europe.
handmade, Campbell also believes her production method              Perhaps Campbell sums it up best when she notes: “It’s so
distinguishes Mrs. McGarrigle’s from the rest of the pack.       much fun, you get to do all the things you want to do and
    Four days a week, five employees make four to six batches    there’s no end to the possibilities.” FC

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                                                      Décacer Inc.
                                        S a i n t - A n t o i n e - d e - T i l l y, Q u e .

                                            Something Flaky
                                                      BY HÉLÈNA KATZ

   ouis Turenne, director of Sales for Quebec-based Décacer
   Inc., is a perpetual target for searches at airport security
      whenever he travels abroad to promote his company’s
maple flakes. An item in his carry-on luggage is what draws
the attention of agents. “The maple flake mill looks like a
dangerous object,” he explains of the packaging that resembles
a pepper mill. Satisfied with Turenne’s explanation, agents
let him go on his merry way. Turenne knew the innovative
product, launched last September, was beginning to make
inroads when he popped open his suitcase in December for
yet another search. “When I opened it, one of the agents said
‘I know what this is, I bought one recently!’”
    Headquartered in Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly, Que., Décacer
was launched in 2000 by brothers Eliott and Clermont
Levasseur to package maple syrup. The company became
one of the province’s five biggest maple syrup processors,                                                 Louis Turenne, director of
with annual sales of between $15 million and $20 million.                                                     Sales for Décacer Inc.
But the Levasseur brothers soon thought it was time for
some innovation in the industry. “Maple syrup was a bit of          flakes allow people to control the quantity of sugar they
a folkloric product from Quebec,” says Turenne. “Marketing          consume. “Instead of buying pre-sweetened yogurt or
was focused on the traditional – using images such as               porridge, [people can] buy plain products and add maple
horses.” The types of derivative products, such as maple            flakes as a sweetener,” says Turenne. “It adds less sugar than
sugar and taffy, hadn’t changed much either.                        you would have in a commercial product.”
    So in 2004 the family owned business invested $7                    The maple flakes were introduced at consumer shows,
million on research and development in an effort to find            such as the Fancy Food Show in New York, and during in-
a way to dehydrate maple syrup to produce a dry product             store tastings at Métro and IGA supermarkets in Quebec. So
that wouldn’t cake over time. The company built a plant at          far the reception has been extremely positive. The product
Dégelis in Quebec’s Lower St. Lawrence region, and in June          is also available at health food stores and in the health food
2006 began processing maple syrup into flakes. The new              sections of grocery chains Métro, IGA, Sobeys and Loblaws
product hit the market three months later.                          in Quebec, at Whole Foods in Toronto, and even in New
    The plant’s unique vacuum dehydration process makes             York, Chicago and Texas, with ever-expanding points of
maple sugar crystals for the retail, foodservice and industrial     sale. Maple flakes are also being exported to France and
markets. The product line is marketed under the Equinox             Japan. “For each market to develop, you have to have an
label and includes Organic Maple Flakes and Organic                 awareness strategy; putting it on store shelves isn’t enough,”
Cranberry Maple Flakes made from maple syrup and                    says Turenne.
cranberry juice concentrate. “Dehydration [of maple syrup]              Yet awareness of the product is growing, and sales are
can give it a unique texture that’s crunchy but melts in your       increasing. At the SIAL Montreal tradeshow in March,
mouth,” explains Turenne.                                           Decacer was awarded the first-ever Prix Novitas for product
    But, says Turenne, the product’s innovative qualities have      innovation. The award was particularly sweet for the
made it a challenge to launch. “Maple syrup is a well-known         company of 55 employees. “You have to take lots of risks in
product and people don’t necessarily look at brands. With           marketing and strategy. Winning the prize over companies
flakes, the marketing is different. You have to do everything       which have bigger budgets than us encourages us to keep
starting at zero. There’s no comparable product.” For this          going,” says Turenne. “The first step was to develop a
reason, marketing of the natural sweetener has focused              marketing strategy to sell the flakes. The Prix Novitas
primarily on the product’s health qualities and taste. Maple        confirms that we made the right choices.” FC

32   • M AY   2007                                                                                 WWW.FOODI NC ANADA.COM
                                                     Crannóg Ales
                                                     Sorrento, B.C.

                                             Farm Fresh Beer
                                                   BY CAROL NESHEVICH

      fter 15 years away from farming Rebecca Kneen, who
        grew up on a farm in Nova Scotia, was desperate
         to return to it. Her husband, Brian MacIsaac, was a
dedicated home brewer with aspirations of owning his own
microbrewery. So in the late 1990s, the couple decided to
bring their two dreams together. The result was Sorrento,
B.C.’s Crannóg Ales — Canada’s first certified organic farm-
house microbrewery.
   “Crannóg Ales was born out of a desire for sustainability:
in our lives, economically and ecologically,” says Kneen,
a long-time advocate of the organic food movement. The                                                                (Left to right)
ingredients in their beer are all certified organic, and many                                                         Crannóg Ale’s
are grown on the farm itself. For those ingredients that can’t                                                  Brian MacIsaac and
be grown on the farm, Kneen and MacIsaac try wherever                                                                Rebecca Kneen
possible to use local products. “We created an inter-related
system, where the farm feeds us and grows crops for the
brewery. The brewery provides feed and compost material           ers too,” adds Kneen, noting that many of these customers
for the farm,” explains Kneen. “The goal is balance: the          tend to buy the smallest keg size, called the “party pig.” It’s
brewery is sized to fit the farm, so endless growth is not an     an 8.5-L refillable, re-usable container, available only at the
option, but achieving a sustainable size is the target. If one    farm ($45 per “pig,” plus a $30 refundable deposit).
piece is out of balance, the whole will not work. In practical        The company currently produces around 1,000 hecta-
terms, this means that the farm provides only some of the         litres of beer a year. “In general, our beers are styled after
inputs for the brewery. We grow hops, but not all the hops        traditional Old-World ales,” says Kneen, adding that there
we need for the brewery, and work with other farmers to           are no chemicals, rice, corn or refined sugars in Crannóg
grow more. We grow cherries, raspberries and currants for         ales, which feature only barley, hops, yeast, water and fruit in
seasonal ales as well. Malt barley comes from off-farm.” The      the seasonal ales. There’s a basic stable of five beer varieties:
farm also absorbs all the brewery by-products, according to       Beyond the Pale Ale, Red Branch Irish Ale, Back Hand of
Kneen: “Spent grain is used for pig and sheep feed and for        God Stout, Hell’s Kitchen Ale and the Bogtrotter Brown Ale.
compost; spent hops make compost and mulch; yeast and             Crannóg also brews a number of seasonal ales. Some are one-
gray water are used to moisten the compost and provide            offs, but others return every year, like the Pooka Cherry Ale
extra material; and excess water is used for irrigation.”         that comes at the end of cherry season (usually the beginning
   Kneen and MacIsaac bought the 10-acre farm in 1999             of August) and a winter ale called Old Puddin’ Head. Aside
and opened the brewery in 2000. “It took off fairly rapidly,      from the party pig, there are two keg sizes available: 18.5 L
partly because what we were doing was so different,” says         ($70 to $75 retail) and 58.7 L ($202 retail).
Kneen. “People were initially interested in it because it was         Crannóg’s core consumer base is always expanding, says
an interesting story...but none of that would have made any       Kneen. “When we started, it was primarily a higher-income
difference if the quality wasn’t there. People don’t drink what   bracket, people concerned with organic food who wanted
they don’t like.” And people clearly liked it. Since opening in   a premium product,” she explains. “Now, as more and more
2000, Crannóg has won numerous awards at events such as           people are becoming aware of what they put in their bodies,
the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale, B.C.’s Organic Harvest Awards,          we’re reaching a wider audience. People’s taste in beer is
and Brews and Blues.                                              maturing as well, with more people willing to be challenged
   Currently Crannóg’s beer is only available in B.C., and        and to try new things. People drink our beer because
only in draft form. Available in more than 40 restaurants and     it’s really high quality — being organic and local is a
pubs across the province, most of its product is sold via the     great bonus, and one that people identify with in the long
foodservice industry. “We do have quite a few home custom-        run.” FC

WWW.FOODI NC ANADA.COM                                                                              FO OD IN CA NA DA •         33
                                                    K o ol l De s s e rts
                                                S t. H y a c y n t h e , Q u e .

                                  Hot Company, Cool Idea
                                                    BY MARK CARDWELL

        nleash your taste buds. That’s the                                              for the product suggests. “But beware!
        advertising slogan the makers of                                                They’re not puddings.” Not by a long
        Kooll Desserts use for all three                                president
                                                                                        shot. With more than 80 per cent
lines of the creamy-rich dairy products                                   of Kooll      pure chocolate and more than 85 per
they’ve been selling on the refrigerated                                 Desserts       cent pure vanilla and caramel (retailing
shelves of grocery stores across Ontario,                                               for $3.99 for a four-dessert pack), the
Quebec and the Maritimes since last fall.                                               product also provides a solid dose of
“Get a ‘crème brûlée for the price of a                                                 vitamin D and calcium, yet contains
chocolate bar’ was too long,” jokes Alain                                               only 90 and 120 calories per 100 g.
Bracchi, vice-president of Marketing and                                                The Mooss line of chocolate, strawberry
Sales and a co-owner of Kooll Desserts.                                                 and caramel mousses, targeted to active
“‘Unleash your taste buds’ is better any-                                               women in search of a tasty but calorie-
way. Our products are all about taste.”                                                 conscious snack, relies heavily on the
   A start-up backed by big money and                                                   fact that in addition to tasting great, the
run by a small team of food-industry                                                    desserts contain only 60 to 80 calories
veterans, Kooll makes nine dairy des-                                                   per serving.
serts that deliver full-bodied flavour in                                                  Then there’s the Kookk line, which
a single-size serving. An alternative to                                                is comprised of three decadent dessert
yogurt, which is made with fermented                                                    varieties – caramel cream, burnt cream
milk, the desserts are made from fresh                                                  and chocolate fondue – that Bracchi
whole milk, cream and eggs, yet use less                                              says are inspired by “the finest white
sugar because of the quality of the ingre-                                            tablecloth restaurants of Europe.” Made
dients. “The result,” says Bracchi, who used                                        mostly of fresh milk, cream and eggs, the
to work in sales and marketing at Parmalat, “is a                              two 100-g creams (one of which is ready to eat;
rich dessert with a creamy texture, but with an eye    “People say         the other requires a few minutes under the broiler)
on health.”                                             the dairy          deliver more than double the calories of the other
   Already popular in Europe, where dairy desserts    desserts are         product lines, but with more calcium and vitamin
– also called “cochon” or “pig” (meaning gourmet)     like a fresh         D. Similarly, the 90-g chocolate fondue, which
desserts – are a $2-billion industry, the concept       breeze on          must be cooked a few seconds in a microwave
was unheard of in Canada in 2005 when Bracchi store shelves.” or up to eight minutes in a conventional oven, is
and his partner, former Nestle Europe sales and                            hailed as an excellent source of iron, thanks to the
marketing man Lionel Ettedgui, began planning                              high quality of cocoa it contains.
to introduce it in Canada. With $15 million in                                 Despite a low-key marketing campaign that
private financing from various investors, most                             includes initiatives like the sponsorship of local
notably the giant pension fund of Quebec’s big-                            sports clubs and participation in parades, Bracchi
gest union, the FTQ, the pair built a 28,000-                                      says that all nine of his company’s products
sq.-ft. dairy and pastry facility last spring in St.                                have been moving well since they hit the
Hyacynthe, Que. There they developed three new                                      major grocery chains in October. “We’re
and unique product lines of funky-named dairy                                   very happy with the way things are going,” he
desserts: Creemm, Mooss and Kookk.                                      says. “We’ve had great feedback from our focus
   According to Bracchi, the three brands are being            groups and from customers.” He adds that most comments
marketed to different audiences. The vanilla, caramel and      tend to laud the combination of great taste and few calories.
chocolate varieties of Creemm, for example, are geared to      “People say the dairy desserts are like a fresh breeze on store
children and teenagers. “Eat them with a spoon, dip or pour    shelves,” says Bracchi. “We offer a great-tasting alternative to
them on fresh fruits or cookies,” the company’s publicity      yogurt or ice cream at an affordable price.” FC

34   • M AY   2007                                                                                 WWW.FOODI NC ANADA.COM
                                                     Nut ’N Budder
                                                       O t t a w a , O n t.

                                                  He’s No Nut
                                                   BY CAROL NESHEVICH

               hen Howard Goldenberg used Howard                                      Goldenberg. “People tell me it’s addictive.”
               to hear stories about people Goldenberg                                He says it also has a nice consistency, and
               who risked everything to fol-                                          doesn’t suffer from the “wrist-breaking”
low their dreams, he always thought,                                                  problem that many natural peanut butters
“Why on earth would anyone do that?”                                                  have. Admittedly, Nut ’N Butter is a little
Today Goldenberg understands. He’s put                                                liquidy because it doesn’t have any addi-
everything — including all of his savings                                             tives or preservatives. “But you just need
— into bringing his new peanut butter                                                 to put it in the fridge and let it chill up a
to the market. Called Nut ’N Budder, his                                              bit, and it thickens up to a nice, spreadable
product isn’t a household name yet, but                                               peanut butter,” says Goldenberg.
it’s definitely starting to show commercial                                              While Goldenberg had some experience
promise. And Goldenberg is thrilled with                                              in the foodservice industry, he knew little
his decision to make that tough leap into                                             about the food production business. So a
the entrepreneurial world. “You just have                                             year and a half ago he made the wise move
to persevere,” he says. “If there’s a road-                                           of getting involved with the Guelph Food
block, move that roadblock.”                                                          Technology Centre (GFTC) in Guelph,
     It all began at the gym a couple of years ago. Goldenberg’s   Ont. “They took my recipe and helped me commercialize
brother is a strength training coach in Ottawa with a              it,” says Goldenberg, noting that the GFTC helped with
number of professional hockey players as clients. One day          everything from tweaking the recipe for mass production, to
Goldenberg noticed a player putting peanut butter in his           designing packaging and labels, and developing a marketing
protein shake after a workout. “He started telling me that         strategy. “Everyone there was great,” he gushes. The GFTC
peanut butter is very high in protein,” says Goldenberg.           also gave him credibility with certain retailers who wouldn’t
“He said it gave him a quick burst of energy. But he didn’t        have given him the time of day prior to his affiliation with
like the natural stuff.” Goldenberg was surprised to see this      the centre.
professional athlete – who is typically quite concerned with           Under the company name Pro Butter Inc., Goldenberg
what he puts into his body – using peanut butter containing        finally had a product that was ready to hit the stores about
additives and preservatives. “It got me thinking that there’s      a year ago. Sobey’s stores across Ontario now carry Nut ’N
got to be a better way of doing this.”                             Budder, as do numerous health food stores in Ottawa and
     So Goldenberg, who was then – and continues to be             throughout Quebec (retailing for $7.99 a jar). In the past
– a full-time systems specialist at IBM in Ottawa, began to        year, sales have reached the $15,000 mark, and Goldenberg
devote all his free time to developing a healthy peanut butter.    is projecting approximately $125,000 in sales for 2007 as
Aiming to create a great-tasting product with no additives,        the product reaches more stores and he begins his full-scale
preservatives or salt, the entrepreneur spoke to myriad peanut     marketing efforts. The entrepreneur isn’t content to stop at
butter fans across the continent, uncovering what they liked       just the one recipe either, and is already toying with other
and disliked about most natural peanut butters. The main           flavours, including a dark chocolate peanut butter. “It’s still
complaints he heard were that the taste is often bland, and        healthy, because dark chocolate is good for you,” he says.
                                                                                                                                      Photo: Pat McGrath, Ottawa Citizen

that the oil separates from the peanut butter, leaving a rock-         Despite the fact that many schools are now banning pea-
hard centre that “breaks your wrist when you try to stir it.”      nut products due to allergies, Goldenberg has no worries
     Armed with this feedback, Goldenberg began tirelessly         about the future of peanut butter. Based on his own exten-
experimenting with recipes, and eventually came up with            sive research throughout North America, he found that most
the perfect – albeit unusual – blend, which includes peanuts,      households still consume a great deal of peanut butter.
almonds, honey, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, without preserva-       Besides, Goldenberg’s enthusiasm for Nut ’N Budder is con-
tives or salt. Everyone who taste-tested it began urging him to    tagious, driven by a zeal equal to any of the professional
sell it. “What everyone likes about my product is its unique       athletes his brother works with. “It’s go hard or go home,” he
flavour. Nobody’s ever tasted anything like it before,” says       says with a laugh. FC

WWW.FOODI NC ANADA.COM                                                                               FO OD IN CA NA DA •      35
                                            Prairie Orchard farms
                                                   Winnipeg, Man.

                                 Nutritious and Delicious
                                                      BY MYRON LOVE

        rairie Orchard Farms has a simple goal – “to produce
        delicious and nutritious pork and other meat products                                                      Willy Hoffman,
        for today’s healthy lifestyle.” Now, Prairie Orchard                                                          president of
founder and president Willy Hoffman is about to do for                                                                     Prairie
chicken what he has already done for pork and bacon.
    “I was looking for a way to add value to meat,” says the
Winnipeg-based entrepreneur. “I looked into organic and
natural products, and I decided that I wanted to do some-
thing a little different.” Hoffman chose to start a business
selling designer meat – a premium, value-added cut contain-
ing omega-3 and sold under the name Just Pork. The pork
products, including the first federally approved omega-3
bacon, are processed from hogs raised on a diet rich in
minerals and vitamins (particularly vitamin
E), and feed containing omega-3 fatty acid.
Omega-3 is vital to heart health, and helps
prevent platelets from clotting or sticking to
artery walls. One source of omega-3 is plants                                       Selenium, as Hoffman points out, is an anti-
such as flaxseed. Not only does this nutri-                                         oxidant, and as such is thought to improve
tionally enhanced diet produce a healthier                                          the immune system, reduce the risk of con-
pork, it also improves colour, texture and                                          tracting certain cancers and ameliorate the
taste, reduces meat drip loss and extends                                           effects of Alzheimer’s Disease.
shelf life.                                              “I looked               In late February, Hoffman brought his latest
    Starting the new venture in the summer of into organic product – omega-3-enhanced broiler chickens
2004, Hoffman first established a working relation- and natural – to the annual Canadian Food and Beverage
ship with Springhill Farms, a western Manitoba           products,            Show in Toronto. Already Hoffman says there’s
hog producer, then set up random samplings. and I decided significant interest in the new product, and notes
The operation received Canadian Food Inspection that I wanted that the omega-3 broilers have received USDA
Agency (CFIA) approval in April 2005 to go ahead            to do             and CFIA approval. The company began doing
with marketing and distribution. While Hoffman          something             research on omega-3, selenium and chickens last
initially established a market for Just Pork in west-     a little            summer, and completed their trials in December.
ern Canada, he has recently launched his omega-3         different.”          “The chickens have turned out to be an excellent
enhanced pork in Ontario, and now has a represen-                             source of selenium,” says Hoffman. “In the trials,
tative in California, where it is marketed under the company    we found that the chickens provided between 80 and 105
name Verdancia Farms. “We intend to expand our marketing        per cent of the daily requirement for selenium. Also, there
in the U.S.,” says Hoffman, “but we want to find the right      is 1.5 g of omega-3 in every 100-g serving.” Hoffman also
agents – representatives who are already marketing other        notes that: “The interesting thing about chicken is that there
healthy meats such as buffalo and ostrich.” The product has     is little fat content. Meat from chicken is already considered
also been approved for sale in Japan, but, says Hoffman,        healthy and lean.”
it takes time to establish working relationships with Asian         With Prairie Orchard’s nutritionally enhanced chickens
partners.                                                       soon to go to market, Hoffman is already planning his
    Last year, Prairie Orchard further enhanced the health      company’s next move. And, he says, the next category he
benefits of its pork by adding the mineral selenium to the      targets may be the seafood sector. Already Hoffman has
hog diets, a dietary change which has been approved by both     begun working with a Manitoba fish farm to try to design
the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the CFIA.         value-added features in that category. FC

36   • M AY   2 00 7                                                                              WWW.FOODI NC ANADA.COM
                                                  UrbanZen Tea Inc.
                                                   M i s s i s s a u g a , O n t.

                                             Balanced Blends
                                                       BY GAIL POWELL

             hen John Palacios tried to sell bottled bever-
             ages to a freshly squeezed fruit and veggie vender
             named Alice Yu, little did they know that this was
the beginning of a “juicy” partnership.
    The couple first created Planet E Beverages in 2001 as a
beverage distributor in Toronto. “Alice and I started off dis-
tributing various products throughout the GTA and realized
that there was a need for a premium all-natural green tea iced
tea line,” says Palacios. After speaking with a vegetarian man-
ufacturing group in Taiwan about their green tea plantation
and researching the touted health benefits of antioxidants in
green tea, Yu and Palacios strengthened their East meets West
bond with the Taiwanese manufacturing group, and created
UrbanZen Tea Inc. in 2004.
    Palacios and Yu source all of their green tea from the
company’s own tea plantation in Taiwan. The “Urban” part
                                                                      (Left to right)
of UrbanZen comes from “our plan to take the tea to the
                                                                      UrbanZen Tea’s Alice
city,” explains Palacios. “The ‘Zen’ part comes from the              Yu and John Palacios
zen-like state you feel when you experience a high-
quality tea house in Taiwan,” he adds. “The tea
masters will sit with you to discuss the conditions         “Our goal            like to open a case that’s about seven months old,
of the crop and have a relaxed chat with you too.           is to have           as all of the flavour profiles have steeped together
The high altitude of the crop and the plantation’s         up to eight           over the course of time. We think that our product
exposure to the sun in the daytime along with the           different            tastes better at this point.”
right amount of moisture in the evening sets the             flavour                 Along with foodservice accounts in Quebec and
best growing conditions for our tea.” He adds:               profiles            specialty fine-food stores nationwide, UrbanZen
“Because the tea leaves are hand selected, we get a          for the             Tea is available at any Shoppers Drugmart across
‘two-leaf-one-heart’ tea leaf, the choice leaves for       green tea."           Canada. The beverages are also sold regionally at
making high-quality tea.”                                                        Longo’s and Whole Foods, and, adds Palacios, “we
    Softening green tea’s bitterness by infusing the light         are close to going into 85 A&P stores.”
sweetness of cane sugar, UrbanZen has created a low-calo-               The duo have plans to open up a North American manu-
rie, low-carbohydrate product line of four flavours: Honey         facturing facility in Canada within the next two years, and
Jasmine, Lemon, Green Apple and Ginger. The real-brewed            Palacios says they’re currently looking at the cost of machin-
tea contains no artificial colours or flavours and has no pre-     ery and what it will take to operate a plant in this country.
servatives. “Consumers want to reap the benefits of green          “We want to bring over our vacuum-seal packaging technol-
tea (as a metabolism booster), so we paired it up with either      ogy because we haven’t been able to find it anywhere else.
fruit or herbal blends to reach a broad consumer base,”            And besides, we’ll be able to save money on importing as it
explains Palacios. Even though UrbanZen’s best-seller is the       costs us more in duties to import the finished product than
Green Apple flavour, Palacios says they’ve had an “amazing         it would if we were to import the raw ingredients.”
response” to their Ginger offering.                                     Meanwhile, UrbanZen’s portfolio continues to grow.
    The thermoplastic and airtight vacuum-sealed, 500-mL           “Once we establish our green tea line we’ll be looking at
bottle has a shelf life of one year, and says Palacios, “like a    other teas such as Oolong and white tea,” says Palacios. “Our
fine wine” the beverages get better with age. “We just tested      goal is to have up to eight different flavour profiles for the
our first batch of Green Apple from 2005 and it actually           green tea, plus we are working on a few other innovations as
tasted great,” he laughs. “When we’re sampling batches, we         well.” FC

WWW.FOODI NC ANADA.COM                                                                                 FO OD IN CA NA DA •      37
                                                 O Z E RY ’S PI TA B R E A K
                                                    T O R O N T O , O N T.

                                                  Lucky Break
                                               BY NATALIE LOCKE MILNE

      reaking into the pita market                                                         out of the ability to produce enough
      was a breeze for the Ozery fam-                                                      on the one automated line that we
      ily. With a passion for healthy                                                      had.” After a year of planning, in 2003
food and a love of pitas, father-and-                                                      Pita Break moved into a renovated
son team Al and Alon Ozery made                                                            40,000-sq.-ft. facility and added a
their foray into the food industry                                                         second production line. A year and a
with the opening of Toronto-based                                                          half ago the facility became HACCP
restaurant Pita Break in 1996.                                                             accredited through the Guelph Food
    “The concept was to have a                                                             Technology Centre.
healthy, quick lunch place,” says                                                             “Before we moved into this build-
Guy Ozery. “We baked the pitas                                                             ing we doubled our sales for three
onsite and offered a number of                                      (Left to right) Alon   straight years,” says Ozery. “When
fillings, which were all fresh and                                       and Guy Ozery     we moved things slowed down a bit
made-to-order.” After two years, and                                                       to between 10- to 20-per-cent growth
the addition of brother Guy to the                                                         per year.” But the family has been
business, the family decided that they wanted Pita        “We looked            working on a number of initiatives to drive sales.
Break to grow. “It was either catering or wholesale,     for innova-            “We sort of saturated the market in Ontario
so we decided to produce our pitas for wholesale,” tive twists on and Quebec, but because the products are fresh
says Ozery. The family hooked up with suppliers, existing prod- and have a short shelf life since we don’t use
arranged equipment and began doing everything ucts, without any preservatives, we couldn’t grow any more.
by hand. “We would bake one day and deliver              going head             That’s why we were looking for ways to grow
the next,” recalls Ozery. Because the pitas were an to head with the market.”
expensive product made with wholesome ingredi-           stuff that is             Pita Break launched its Lavash Crackers into
ents, the Ozerys’ approached high-end specialty          already out            the U.S. market about a year and half ago, and
stores. “We thought we were making a higher-end             there,”             has had success in natural retailer Wild Oates
product for people that were health conscious,                                  and other small U.S. chains. It takes time,
but it turned out to be a mainstream product.”                   Ozery concedes, because it’s a vastly different market from
    Pita Break slowly expanded its product lineup by rein-       Canada, and when going through traditional routes of
venting old classics. “We looked for innovative twists on        distribution in the U.S. companies tend to lose control
existing products, without going head to head with stuff         over their product and how it is displayed and marketed.
that is already out there,” says Ozery. Pitas have long been a   While the family has decided to deal with chains directly,
staple in Canadian homes, but “we created the multi-grain        “taking the hard way in the beginning,” Ozery is confidant
pita, the flax pita and things that didn’t exist on the market   that it will pay off. Pita Break is also producing a frozen
before. Then we created a taster-friendly size breakfast line    line for its first co-packing client. And while Ozery remains
and put in ingredients like museli, apple cinnamon and           mum about the contract, he will say that the first order will
orange cranberry,” says Ozery. “And the line of Lavash           increase sales by 50 per cent.
Crackers, which includes flavours Organic Spelt and Apple            Pita Break prides itself on being a trailblazer in the
and Honey, didn’t exist in this format before us.”               healthy food category, using only wholesome ingredients
    As the business grew the Ozery’s sold the restaurant to      and shunning shortcuts. For example, the company uses
focus their attention on the wholesale business. “We started     honey to sweeten products instead of sugar, and is cur-
to build a clientele and got into Longos and Loblaws,” says      rently switching a number of its products to white whole-
Ozery. With the addition of a 4,000-sq.-ft. unit connected       wheat flour. “The whole industry is becoming more health-
to their original building, Pita Break became a thriving         oriented by using whole grains in products where white was
wholesale bakery. “When we created the breakfast products        once a staple,” says Ozery. “We like to see ourselves as lead-
things really started exploding and we saw we were running       ers [in this movement].” FC

38   • M AY   2007                                                                                 WWW.FOODI NC ANADA.COM
                                VA N D Y K ’ S H E A LT H J U I C E P R O D U C T S LT D .
                                                Q U E E N ’ S C O U N T Y, N . S .

                                                    Berry Good
                                                BY NATALIE LOCKE MILNE

            o one knows more                             (Left to right) Case and Riek Van Dyk   World Juice Congress in Madrid,
            about the nutrient                                                                   Spain.
            power of the blueberry                                                                   Despite their international
than the Van Dyk family. Riek                                                                    acclaim Van Dyk’s has retained
and Case Van Dyk immigrated                                                                      its connection to the local com-
to Nova Scotia during the 1950s                                                                  munity and land. “We are a small
from Holland and began com-                                                                      company, we work to produce a
mercially growing fields of low-                                                                 high-quality product and we like
bush wild blueberries in Queen’s                                                                 to support the rural community
County, N.S during the 1960s.                                                                    in Nova Scotia,” says MacDonald.
The wild blueberries, native to                                                                  The Van Dyk blueberries are
Eastern Canada and the Eastern                                                                   grown with respect for the envi-
U.S., became a thriving business                                                                 ronment using ecologically sound
for the Van Dyk family and in                                                                    field management, harvesting and
1998, with the farm left in the                                                                  processing practices. The juice,
capable hands of his children,                                                                   however, is not eligible for organ-
Case Van Dyk embarked on what he coined                  “We have              ic certification, explains MacDonald, because a
his “retirement project,” Van Dyk’s Health Juice        more of a              single herbicide is sometimes used on the biennial
Products Ltd.                                          whole-food crops to prevent grass and weed encroachment the
    Based on the growing market for health foods philosophy year between harvests.
and antioxidants, Van Dyk “felt there was an oppor- as opposed                     Van Dyk’s Health Juice sales have grown sub-
tunity to value-add a portion of his wild blueberry to pills and stantially since its initial launch. Today the com-
crop and produce a wild blueberry juice,” explains       a bottle.”            pany has distribution throughout Canada and
business manager Randy MacDonald. “A collab-                                   into the mid-West United States, and recently sent
orative research effort was initiated between the Van Dyk’s,        some small orders into the Asian market. With growth in
Agriculture Agri-Food Canada and the National Research              excess of 40 per cent in the last two years, Van Dyk’s has
Council to process and develop this product.”                       plans to add equipment to its processing line to increase
    The approach was completely unique from traditional             capacity. “However, the bulk of our business remains
juice making. “We chose to work with Grade A- quality               through traditional distribution into independent health
fruit and to assess the various processing parameters to            food stores, specialty food stores and also some mainstream
measure the amount of antioxidants that ended up in our             grocery,” says MacDonald. “We do sell directly to some
product,” says MacDonald. The process took four years of            consumers, but we don’t pursue that aggressively because of
research to optimize the process once the test marketing            the fact that we package in glass bottles so transportation
began. The results are a truly remarkable product, says             charges and breakage are an issue.” This becomes especially
MacDonald, particularly because it is a single juice, rather        problematic in the harsh Canadian winters when heated
than a blend, and is not made from concentrate. “We put             courier services are not available, he explains.
an emphasis on quality and taste,” he adds. The 100-per-                While the company is always looking for innovative
cent pure wild blueberry juice is made from only top-qual-          ways to update its product, the Van Dyks are still unsure
ity fruit, and has no water, sugar or preservatives added.          which direction they will take in the face of all the fortified-
    The company first successfully test-marketed the juice          products now available to the health food beverage sector.
in Halifax in 2000, and ever since consumers have been              Says MacDonald: “We have more of a whole-food philoso-
happily shelling out the $12.95 to $13.95 for a 500-mL              phy as opposed to pills and a bottle. Obviously juice is a
bottle. The company received international recognition in           processed product versus whole food, but we choose to
the fall of 2005 when the blueberry juice was awarded the           minimize the product as much as possible so that we retain
2005 World Juice Innovation Award at the International              as much of the health benefits of the original fruit.” FC

WWW.FOODI NC ANADA.COM                                                                                F O OD I N C A N A DA •   39

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