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TMF                                                                   Cargo & James
                                                                        Imports Inc.

                              Leaders of the Pack
W      hen we sat down to consider some of the truly innovative products and companies that have emerged on the Canadian
       food scene in the past few years, we were again struck by the fact that true entrepreneurs are generally ahead of their time.
   As well as producing high-quality, well-targeted products, supported with good business organization, creative packaging
and effective marketing, this year’s Top 10 innovators are truly visionary companies. Each of the innovators we chose to
profile has spent the past few years developing or growing products that, as well as being unique, cater to one of today’s most
significant consumer trends, in this case either the demand for convenience, the desire for delicious yet healthy and affordable indul-
gences, or the need for foods that satisfy a nutritional or dietary requirement. Ten years ago these products, and their categories,
would have been considered niche markets. And indeed many of them still are. Yet they are also burgeoning food categories.
   By recognizing the potential and taking a chance on investing in these young markets, and by backing that commitment
with a unique, top-quality product, each company is poised to be at the forefront of these growing categories. So while each
of our Top 10 innovators may be small now, they are undoubtedly leaders of the pack.

W W W. F O O D I N C A N A D A . C O M                                                                  FOOD IN CANADA •           33

                                                       Stoney Creek, Ont.

TEN In the winners’ circle
                                                       By Valerie Ward

       fter two decades of supplying                                                       and university students. People don’t
       fresh and fully prepared meats                                                      have a lot of time for food prepara-
       to the foodservice industry,                                                        tion these days, but they want to
TMF (formerly The Meat Factory)                                                            take pride in what they put on the
of Stoney Creek, Ont., exploded                                                            table for family and friends. Our
onto the retail scene in 2001 with a                                                       products allow them to do that, and
line of restaurant-style entrées that                                                      at a fraction of the time required to
have won it four Grand Prix new                                                            prepare something from scratch.”
product awards and helped it rack                                                             Sold at every major retailer across
up double-digit growth figures.                                                            Canada, the Lou’s brand boasts nine
   Despite its youth in the cooked                                                         cooked entrées, from French-style
meat sector, and its comparatively (Left to right) CEO                                     beef short ribs and shaved pork loin,
small size, TMF competes head-to- Lou Albanese and                                         to pot roast, osso bucco and Atlantic
head with some of the major players president                                              salmon, each retailing for about $8.
in the meat processing industry. Lou Andrew Thompson                                       An original barbecue sauce rounds
Albanese, TMF chairman and CEO,                                                            out the line. According to Albanese,
attributes the company’s success to its ability to  “People don’t have a no other producer in the category offers the
provide top-quality, innovative products at a rea-   lot of time for food      same variety or quality.
sonable price. “The consumer seems to benefit,”       preparation these            TMF makes quality a top priority for all of
he says. “The many positive e-mails we receive                                 its brands, investing in the latest equipment and
                                                     days, but they want
from customers each week tell us we’re getting it                              automated processes, and ensuring that prod-
right.”                                                to take pride in        ucts meet the most exacting standards. In an
   TMF’s growth figures support this view. Sales      what they put on         independent HAACP audit last year, Albanese
rose by 18.6 per cent in 2005 and are forecast to         the table.”          says TMF was one of only three plants, and the
climb another 12.3 per cent this year. In addi-                                only meat producer, to score more than 95 per
tion to the Lou’s brand of cooked entrées, the company is         cent. The company also invests in its people, providing
Canada’s largest producer of peameal bacon (including             employees with a full pension plan and profit sharing. “We
Lou’s Peameal Bacon of Canada and private-label brands),          take care of our staff,” he stresses. “Our people are our
and supplies portion-controlled steaks to foodservice             biggest resource.”
providers. As customer demand has steadily grown, TMF                 Given the strengths of its people and its products,
has expanded its plant seven times in the past two decades,       Albanese believes TMF is well-positioned to take advantage
and today employs 120 people at its 80,000-sq.-ft. ultra-         of the 10- to 15-per-cent annual growth in the cooked meat
modern facility.                                                  category. “There’s more value-add in cooked products,” he
   Albanese started the business in 1978, running it from         says. “What started out as a $10-million category runs as
the basement of his home for two-and-a-half years before          high as $30 to $40 million today, and there are estimates it
opening a retail butcher shop. He soon began targeting the        could go as high as $70 to $100 million.” The challenge will
foodservice sector in Hamilton, a segment of the business         be to find enough space in stores, although he notes that
that quickly outpaced the retail side. Although TMF was           retailers are starting to make changes on this front, relocat-
dabbling in retail again by 1990, it was the launch of            ing cooked products to more defined sections, for example.
the Lou’s brand more than a decade later that really put              TMF’s plans for the future include continued diversifi-
it on consumers’ radar. “At first, we were aiming the             cation and aggressive growth, with the possibility of a new
brand at busy young families,” says Albanese. “But based          plant in another location. “There are great opportunities in
on customer feedback, we realized there was demand from           good cooked products,” say Albanese. “We plan to remain
many other consumers, such as mature couples and college          there.”

34   • M AY   2006                                                                               W W W. F O O D I N C A N A D A . C O M
                                                          BOBOBABY Inc.

                                                          Richmond, B.C.

                                                Baby steps                                                       TEN
                                                        By Carolyn Green

    t was an act of maternal love that                                                    of grains such as lentils, millet, oats and
    inspired Kalpna Solanki to create a                                                   quinoa, a South American grain high in
    new line of frozen organic baby food                                                  protein.
that in less than a year is now being sold                                                    Although other companies manufac-
at more than 250 supermarkets across                                                      ture frozen baby food, Solanki’s products
Canada. In fact, says Solanki, BOBOB-                                                     are unique because they’ve been devel-
ABY Inc., the first company to manu-                                                      oped for three different age groups.
facture frozen organic baby food in                                                       Based on the belief that babies should
Canada, can’t keep up with the demand.                                                    not ingest solids before they reach six
    A former B.C. public health inspec-                                                   months, the six-month-plus products are
tor who says she and husband Martin                                                       single-ingredient purées such as carrot
Mroz have been organic food aficiona-                                                     and pear. At seven months a few grains
dos for the past 15 years, Solanki first                                                  are added to the formula for protein and
considered making organic baby food                                                       texture. And for the final stage – nine
when she became pregnant in 2003.                                                         months plus – a little pizzazz has been
“My husband and I talked about what             Kalpna Solanki                            included. For example, one product – a
kinds of foods we were going to have for                                                  vegetable medley – includes garlic, while
her,” recalls Solanki. “Right off the bat…we              “In terms of growth a chickpea and tomato dish is tarted up with
said she’s going to have everything organic.”              [of the company],       herb de Provence. The products, which sell for
    Solanki, who has an undergraduate degree             I think the sky is the $5.99 for 12 cubes, are kosher, free of the top
in biology and a master’s degree in business,                                      nine allergens, are certified organic and contain
started reading about homemade baby food.                                          no additives.
Because she had made meals from scratch for                                           Although Solanki developed all the recipes
some time, she started developing recipes taking fresh                 based on research gathered from a variety of nutritionists
organic fruits and vegetables and organic grains and purée-            and pediatricians, she fine-tuned each one with the help of
ing them in a blender. She’d make large batches, put                   a nutritionist who sits on her advisory board, ensuring that
the majority in ice-cube trays lined with plastic wrap and             BOBOBABY products meet proper nutritional guidelines.
freeze them. The next day, she’d pop the cubes out of                  With a staff of three, all products are manufactured at a
the trays, place them in freezer bags and kept them in                 facility in Burnaby, B.C.
the freezer until they were needed. When she didn’t have                  Solanki says the target parent is a woman between the
time to prepare food or was travelling, she occasionally pur-          ages of 30 and 40, higher income, educated and conscious
chased jarred organic products. “I was disgusted with the              about the environment and healthy eating. In addition to
quality of it,” she says. “It was really runny and the flavour         a website, Solanki, who declined to divulge sales figures,
was awful.”                                                            attends various trade and consumer shows to tout her
    And then came an epiphany of sorts: “In 2004, I said               wares. At a recent show, she met parents of a child with a
I have to do something about this, and I started doing                 very fussy palate. The child tried the vegetable medley and
market research. In June 2005, we shipped our first order.”            gobbled up her entire supply, which to Solanki was the
From the beginning, the company has manufactured 12                    “ultimate testimonial.”
different products, although Solanki says she hopes to                    Believing that organic foods in general will continue to
introduce several new products in the next six months.                 grow in popularity, Solanki is clearly optimistic about
Because her research indicated that feeding a child a vege-            BOBOBABY’s future. Noting that her personal goal is to
tarian diet for the first 10 to 12 months of its life is health-       become a household name when people think about the
ier, all 12 products are vegetarian. To add protein to                 best-quality baby food, she says: “In terms of growth [of
the diet, some of Solanki’s recipes include different types            the company], I think the sky is the limit.”

W W W. F O O D I N C A N A D A . C O M                                                                 FOOD IN CANADA •          35
                                                           Touché Bakery

                                                           London, Ont.

TEN                                   Premium appeal
                                                         By Valerie Ward

          hen Allan Swartz and Peter                                                            The bakery currently supplies the
          Cuddy bought Touché                                (Left to right) Peter Cuddy McCafé outlets of McDonalds
          Bakery in 2004, they knew                                      and Allan Swartz Restaurants of Canada with biscotti,
they were getting a company with                                                             is the exclusive biscotti supplier for
good nut- and peanut-free products                                                           CountryStyle Restaurants of Canada,
that would give back to consumers                                                            and is in discussion with several U.S.
with food sensitivities. They also                                                           retail chains and foodservice distribu-
knew they had to make some changes                                                           tors about developing biscotti specifi-
to take the business to the next level.                                                      cally for their markets. Touché has
In the months that followed, the new                                                         also successfully sold its meringue
owners re-located the bakery from                                                            cookies to all major supermarkets in
Cornwall to London, Ont., to be                                                              Ontario and is now moving them
closer to major markets, enhanced                                                            into Quebec and the northeastern
the product line, and boosted quality                                                        U.S. A single biscotti retails for $1.15
by obtaining kosher certification.                                                           to $1.49 at a coffee shop, and a six-
   Most importantly, they trans-                                                             pack for about $6.99. A 100-g tub of
formed the company’s business                                                                meringues averages $3.99.
model. Under the previous ownership, Touché                 “We have the              Regardless of the product, a key part of
had produced mini-cakes, biscotti and meringue           capacity to continue Touché’s marketing strategy centres on the
cookies, but focused mainly on meringues – rose- doubling the business growing demand for nut- and peanut-free
shaped, egg-white and sugar concoctions – for a                                    foods. “By focusing on large-scale retailers who
                                                          every year for the
major U.S. retailer. According to president Peter                                  understand the need for these products, we
Cuddy, it was a high-volume, low-margin busi-             next three years.”       build brand recognition as a trusted supplier,”
ness, subject to seasonal and regional ups and                                     says Cuddy. “We also dialogue with anaphylax-
downs. “We turned the model around by making biscotti                 is families through mailings and other activities. While our
the driver,” he explains. “The biscotti market tends to be            products are all natural, the most compelling difference is
more influential and higher income, typically working                 our nut-free commitment.” In fact, he adds, Touché’s
individuals age 18 to 22, as well as 65- to 70-year olds. It          16,000 sq.-ft., semi-automated operation is one of the few
offers the potential for a value-added, premium-price prod-           totally nut-free commercial bakeries in North America.
uct.” While targeting a more elite consumer, Touché also              The importance of maintaining a nut-free facility is dis-
broadened the product’s appeal by adding five new flavours            cussed regularly with employees, and all ingredient and
to the original four, and has over a dozen more waiting in            packaging suppliers must complete allergen reports.
the wings.                                                                They must also sign off on kosher reports, in compli-
   The company has taken this new model and applied it                ance with the bakery’s kosher certification. “This certifica-
to the rest of its products, adding subtle colour and flavours        tion represents even higher standards of cleanliness, sanita-
to the meringues, retiring the mini-cakes, and developing a           tion and inspection,” says Swartz, noting that it has helped
line of high-end traditional cookies that includes chocolate          open other markets to Touché. Besides observant Jewish
chip, chocolate chunk, oatmeal raisin, shortbread and                 customers, religious groups such as Muslims, who have sim-
other varieties, for launch this spring. All Touché products          ilar dietary laws, often turn to kosher products when food
are free of nuts, peanuts and preservatives. Transforming             prepared according to their own codes is not available.
the model has paid off for Touché. “We doubled our busi-                  Going forward, Touché plans to build on its achieve-
ness in the first year and estimate that we’ll do so again over       ments by developing new nut-free, all-natural, kosher prod-
the next two years,” says CEO and chairman Allan Swartz.              ucts that appeal to allergic and non-allergic consumers.
“We have the capacity to continue doubling the business               “This business is a passion shared by all our employees,” says
every year for the next three years.”                                 Cuddy. “Our love for what we do has helped us succeed.”

36   • M AY   2006                                                                                  W W W. F O O D I N C A N A D A . C O M
                                                        Peak of the Market

                                                         Winnipeg, Man.

                                                Soup’s on                                                       TEN
                                                        By Myron Love

      ast year Winnipeg-based veg-                                                             While Peak of the Market is tack-
      etable co-op Peak of the Market                                                       ling a sector of the food business that
      began a new life in the food                                                          has long been dominated by two
industry as a processor, branching                                                          major players, McIntosh is unfazed
out with a line of premium soups.                                                           by the competition. “We don’t see us
“We are always looking for ways                                                             taking away business from anyone
to increase the consumption of                                                              else,” he says. “Our flavours are
Manitoba-grown vegetables,” says                                                            brand new.” According to McIntosh
Larry McIntosh, president and                                                               sales of the soups have so far exceed-
CEO of Peak of the Market. “We                                                              ed expectations. “We have them
thought that a gourmet line of soups                                                        placed with independent retailers
would be an ideal way to do it.”                                                            and one major chain,” he says.
    This is the organization’s first                                                        “We’re still trying to get them on
entry into processed foods. The                                                             shelves across Canada.” The line is
ready-to-serve gourmet soup line                                                            currently available in Manitoba,
was launched at a press conference Larry                                                    Alberta and B.C.
in Winnipeg in December, after McIntosh                                                        To date, Peak of the Market’s pro-
about two years of planning, “It’s                                                          motional efforts have been largely
been worth the wait as the consumer taste test             “We wanted a         focused on the Manitoban market, where
results have been outstanding,” says McIntosh.           high-quality soup      McIntosh is the voice and face of the co-op. The
“We’ve received a lot of customer feedback.              that was healthy       64-year-old organization, led by McIntosh, has
People appreciate that our soups are vegetable                                  in fact shown a real flair for promotion over the
                                                          and that tasted
friendly, gluten-free and low in sodium and                                     past few years. The Winnipeg office, for exam-
calories.”                                                    great.”           ple, offers recipe cards for different vegetables,
    The soups are available in 284-mL and 1-L                                   recipe books on CD for $12 (with half the pro-
resealable containers in four flavours – Carrot, Cheddar &          ceeds going toward cancer research), mugs and travelling
Dill; Tomato, Carrot & Basil; Squash with Apple &                   coffee cups, Mr. Potato dolls, calculators and bottled water
Pumpkin; and Onion & Potato – and were created by chef              all featuring the Peak of the Market logo. There is also
Craig Guenther. “We wanted a high-quality soup that was             research material with details about each of the vegetables
healthy and that tasted great,” says McIntosh. Peak of the          grown by co-op members, including lettuce, cucumbers,
Market Gourmet Soups are all-natural, have no preserva-             onions, rutabagas, radishes, peppers, squash, asparagus,
tives, additives, artificial flavours or colour, and are trans      beets, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and parsnips. All of
fat-free. They are also vegetarian friendly as they contain         the products and information are also available on the co-
no meat or meat-based stock. The carrots, onions and                op website.
potatoes are grown less than five kilometres from where                 Over the last month, Peak of the Market has begun
they are cooked, and only fresh-grated Bothwell Cheddar             launching ads promoting its soups throughout Western
is used.                                                            Canada. “As we get our soups onto more shelves in Eastern
    Peak of the Market’s soups are also the first soups in          Canada, we will expand our advertising in that part of the
Canada to be packaged in Tetra Pak containers. “The Tetra           country as well,” says McIntosh. New soup flavours will
Pak packaging keeps our soups fresh longer without having           also be introduced over the next year, and developing on
to use additives or refrigeration,” explains McIntosh. “We          their success, juices and broths may also be added. But
also took into consideration the fact that there is a Tetra         while the soup sales will hopefully become a significant
Pak operation in Manitoba [at the Food Development                  part of Peak of the Market’s bottom line, McIntosh empha-
Centre in Portage La Prairie].” As a result, the soups have         sizes that marketing fresh vegetables will always be the co-
a “best enjoyed by date” of over six months.                        op’s raison d’être.

W W W. F O O D I N C A N A D A . C O M                                                               FOOD IN CANADA •          37
                                                      Les Aliments SoYummi

                                                          Montreal, Que.

TEN                                As good as it gets
                                                       By Mark Cardwell

J   oanne Hollander only wanted to make a
    nutritious snack for her young lactose-
    intolerant son. But the soy mousse she
whipped up in her blender 24 years ago
                                                                                       “They all loved the flavour and the texture,
                                                                                       but they said there was no market for a soy
                                                                                       product. No one was doing anything with
                                                                                       soy back then,” says Hollander.
was so good that friends pushed her to                                                    When soy milk hit Quebec grocery-
commercialize it. “They were all saying,                                               store shelves in 1997, however, Hollander
‘Joanne, you should do something with                                                  decided to take another shot at selling her
this.’ So I did,” recalls Hollander, president                                         novel product. With $35,000 in private
and founder of Les Aliments SoYummi.                                                   financing, she headed to the Food Research
    Last month, the small Quebec food                                       Joanne and Development Centre/Centre de
company launched the second product in                                    Hollander recherche et de development sur les ali-
its four-year history, SoYummi GoLite.                                                 ments (CRDA) in Saint-Hyacinthe.
Sweetened with chicory syrup instead of                                                Located a half-hour’s drive southeast of
sugar or artificial sweeteners, it is a low-                                           Montreal, the federally funded facility
calorie version of the creamy, soy mousse dessert “I’m very excited about offers technical assistance and the use of pro-
snack Hollander originally made, and which has           this new product.        cessing equipment to food companies trying to
proven to be extremely popular among Quebec               There’s so much         develop new products.
consumers. “I’m very excited about this new                                          With help from food advisers like Roland
                                                          demand now for
product,” says Hollander. “There’s so much                                        Degani, and with the financial backing of
demand now for sugar- and allergy-free prod- sugar- and allergy-free friend Max Druker, Hollander perfected a
ucts. The timing is perfect.”                          products. The timing mousse she dubbed SoYummi. She gave the
    In many ways, that’s been a recurring theme              is perfect.”         same name to the company she founded in
in Hollander’s life. Born in New Jersey but                                       partnership with both men in 2002, when the
raised in a tony Montreal neighbourhood in the 1960s, she            product first appeared on shelves in Metro and IGA gro-
was educated at French schools, a rarity for Anglophones at          cery chains across Quebec. “Creating a mousse for com-
the time. After returning to the U.S. for college, she stud-         mercial production is always a challenge,” CRDA food
ied jewelry design and hung out with a jet-set crowd that            process engineer Petion Roy said at the time. “Many indus-
revolved around world-famous potter Peter Voulkos. She               try giants have attempted it without success. SoYummi
returned to Montreal in the mid-1970s and opened a small             mousse is truly an innovative product.”
jewelry-making factory. It turned out to be the first of                 Since then, Hollander’s business has continued to grow
several money-losing entrepreneurial ventures that left              in lockstep with the organic natural foods category,
Hollander broke and disillusioned by the mid-1990s.                  now one of the fastest-growing segments of the North
    After taking a crash course in business management,              American food industry. From a weekly output of 3,000
she decided to revive a project she’d begun a decade earlier.        cups in the four flavours that SoYummi produced at the
A self-taught vegetarian cook, Hollander had toyed with              CRDA, the company now produces some 200,000 cups
soy since 1982 when she tried to make a light, high-protein          a month. With the addition of the GoLite product line,
snack food for her two-year-old son. “Aaron was complete-            which also features four flavours, Hollander thinks her
ly intolerant to dairy,” she says. “It gave him bad headaches        company will quickly reach new heights. “The original
and eczema.” Eventually she came up with a delicious                 product was aimed at baby boomer women going through
mousse that was an instant hit with her son, as well as              life changes, and lactose intolerant consumers. But there’s a
anyone else who tried it. In 1987, on the urging of friends,         huge demand for a low-cal version,” she says. “GoLite is
she paid a McGill University food science professor $2,000           ideal for diabetics and people on restricted diets. But there’s
to help her develop a way of stabilizing the product to              also an appeal for a healthy dessert/snack among students
give it a shelf life. She then took samples to several               and kids, as well as calorie-conscious adults. We’ve got the
Montreal-area dairy and wholesale food distributors.                 right product at the right time.”

38   • M AY   2006                                                                                 W W W. F O O D I N C A N A D A . C O M
                                                    Garden Protein International

                                                          Richmond, B.C.

                                Welcome to the garden TEN
                                                        By Carolyn Green

    f it looks like chicken and it tastes like                                         make mock chicken and beef. In 2001 he
    chicken, then it must be chicken. Right?                                           sold Yves Veggie Cuisine and a year later
    Not if you ask Yves Potvin, founder and                                            founded Garden Protein. While the for-
president of Richmond, B.C.’s Garden                                                   mula to make Gardein is proprietary,
Protein International. In fact, Potvin’s                                               Potvin says “it’s a unique process, like
chicken and beef have absolutely no meat                                               a mix of making bread and pasta. It’s
in them, and are made from IP non-GMO                                                  baked, steamed and cooled. It’s extrusion
soy protein and wheat, plus a number of                                                technology.”
other ingredients including carrot fibre,                                                  By 2003, Potvin began showing off
minerals and vitamins. They’re also fully                                              Gardein to other food manufacturers.
cooked, cholesterol-free and low in fat and                                            Morningstar Farms, a division of Kellogg
carbohydrates.                                                                         Co. of Battle Creek, Mich., liked what it
    The two meat alternatives may sound                                                saw, and was one of Garden Protein’s first
too good to be true, but based on annual                                               clients. This fall Gardein will also be a key
sales of $10 million in its first year, ending                                         ingredient in one of Loblaw’s President’s
March 31, consumers obviously have faith                                               Choice Blue Menu products. Because of a
in the product. Potvin, a native of                                                    non-competition agreement he signed
Sherbrooke, Que., who has been in food                                                 with Hain Celestial, current owners of
production in B.C. since the mid-1980s, is                                             Yves Veggie Cuisine, Potvin cannot put
certainly no stranger to ingredient manipu-                                            Gardein in the marketplace as a stand-
lation. Trained as an architectural designer                                           alone product until later this year. By fall,
and later as a chef in Quebec, the 50-year-                                            he hopes to have four Garden Protein
old decided to pick up stakes in the early                                             products in grocery stores: chicken and
1980s, travelling to Vancouver by bicycle                                              beef strips that can be used in recipes such
                                                 Yves Potvin
and eating a lot of fast food en route.                                                as fajitas or stir fries, and a chicken and
    After reaching the West Coast and deciding                                    beef dish in a sauce. The price will likely be
that he didn’t want to continue to work as a chef,        “This could be          about $3.99 for 250 g.
“I had the idea that if I came up with a healthy        a business that’s a          While still in the early stages, Potvin believes
fast food, there would be a market for it,” recalls       billion in sales        Garden Protein has a robust future. In addition
Potvin. His research indicated that 50 million                                    to satisfying consumers concerned with meat
hotdogs were consumed each day in North                 because there are         safety, Gardein is appealing because of its
America. But traditional manufacturing tech-           so many points that        health benefits. More importantly, “in the next
niques and ingredients produced high-choles-               are positive.”         40 years, there will be 10 billion people living
terol wieners. Knowing vegetable proteins were                                    on this planet, so the way we manufacture food
easy to digest, plentiful and affordable, Potvin’s first            must be changed,” he says.
company – called Yves Fine Foods and later Yves Veggie                  But Potvin isn’t waiting 40 years. He believes that
Cuisine – developed a veggie dog, later expanding its               because Gardein is tasty, as much as 40 per cent of the pop-
repertoire to include vegetable luncheon meats and burg-            ulation will buy his product. “It’s great for people who
ers. In 1985, his first year of operation, the company saw          want to give their families good nutrition – professional,
$235,000 in sales, growing on average 50 per cent annual-           educated, health-conscious people who like meat but want
ly for several years.                                               to diversify their protein intake,” he says. “This could be
    In the early 1990s, Potvin began considering the next           a business that’s a billion in sales because there are so many
generation of meat alternatives. Using the example of suri-         points that are positive. It’s easy to digest, it’s tasty, it’s
mi, a crab-like product made from Pollock, he developed             versatile, it’s safe because it’s pre-cooked and it has no
what he calls Gardein, a high-protein soy substance used to         hormones.”

W W W. F O O D I N C A N A D A . C O M                                                                 FOOD IN CANADA •          39
                                                      Wellness Functional Foods

                                                              Surrey, B.C.

TEN                             Food with a function
                                                        By Deanna Rosolen

       onsumers today, it seems, want                                                        lar in yogurts – contain the good bacte-
       food to offer them more than just                                                     ria necessary for us to digest food,
       sustenance. This was never so clear                                                   prebiotics stimulate our bodies to create
until the meteoric rise in popularity of                                                     the good bacteria ourselves. “Gut health
omega-3 and antioxidant-rich products                                                        has become a major issue in North
such as pomegranate juice. It also                                                           America because we realize that unless
explains the increasing interest in func-                                                    we can digest our food properly, we’re
tional foods and the benefits they offer                                                     going to be sick,” he says. “A lot of ill-
other than simple nutrition. That’s also                                                     nesses, whether it’s headaches or heart
why Karl Eibensteiner, who cares about                                                       disease, start with our gut health.” The
and knows a lot about good gut health,                                                       Wellness line of products is aimed at
took such an interest in inulin. “I’m a                                                      people who want to be proactive about
trained baker and I have a passion for                                                       their health, in particular baby boomers
baking,” he says. “Out of that passion                                                       who are concerned with what they eat.
was born the idea that I wanted to com-                                                          Eibensteiner uses inulin that is
bine functional ingredients with an                                                          sourced from chicory and comes from
everyday food that everybody eats – and                                                      the Belgium-based Orafti Group. While
most people eat bread.”                                                                      it’s a totally natural ingredient, there
    Eibensteiner is president of Surrey,                                                     were some minor challenges when
B.C.-based Wellness Functional Foods, a                                Karl Eibensteiner     Wellness Functional Foods began for-
company he started about four years ago.                                                     mulating their products. It’s a soluble
In addition to breads, Wellness Functional Foods         “I’m a trained baker      fibre and it’s slightly sweet, says Eibensteiner, “so
sells muffins, English muffins and bagels, all          and I have a passion we had to finagle with the formula.” It took a few
containing inulin. The company also launched                                       months to get the level of inulin correct and to
                                                          for baking. Out of
tortillas in April. The products are available in                                  test how it would react during the fermentation
select stores in Western Canada and in A&P and            that passion there       and baking processes.
Dominion in Ontario, with retail prices ranging              was born the              A larger challenge right now, he says, is getting
from $2.90 to $3.50. Eibensteiner is also presi-        idea that I wanted to consumers to understand what inulin is in the
dent of Lentia Enterprises Ltd., a company that          combine functional        context of functional ingredients. By compari-
imports ingredients from around the world for            ingredients with an       son, Canadian consumers and manufacturers
the baking industry, with offices in Vancouver and                                 have “jumped on the omega-3 bandwagon,” and
                                                          everyday food that
Toronto. And that’s where Wellness Functional                                      even Wellness Functional Foods has incorporated
Foods started.                                          everybody eats – and it into some of its products. In Europe it’s the
    About five years ago Eibensteiner, who was             most people eat         reverse, he says.
born in Austria and is a trained baker/pastry                   bread.”                But Eibensteiner is sticking to it. There are
chef, was travelling in Europe, something he does                                  plans to expand into other grocery retail chains,
for work several times a year. It was on this trip that he was        possibly into the U.S., as well as plans to branch out into
introduced to inulin. “I saw this new ingredient emerging in          other non-bakery products and maybe more functional
many applications and products, so I became curious,” he              ingredients. “Really our aim is to incorporate as many func-
says. “The more I looked into it, the more intrigued I                tional ingredients as we can into food products,” says
became. I was convinced that this was something we should             Eibensteiner. “Because our philosophy is that if we can
have. Out of that desire was born the idea of creating prod-          incorporate a good functional food ingredient into some-
ucts with this functional ingredient.”                                thing that most people eat on a daily basis then it’s something
    Inulin, explains Eibensteiner, is a prebiotic that occurs         very positive from the point of view of being proactive
naturally in fruits and vegetables. While probiotics – popu-          toward our health.”

40   • M AY   2006                                                                                    W W W. F O O D I N C A N A D A . C O M
                                                      Cargo & James Imports Inc.

                                                            Edmonton, Alta.

                                              Time for Tea                                                          TEN
                                                         By Carolyn Cooper

      pecialty tea retailer Tim Grover is the                                               best before dates are under six months.”
      first to admit he used to be a coffee                                                 Each of the blends involve a proprietary
      addict. “About five years ago I drank                                                 recipe blended to North American prefer-
about two, three pots of coffee a day,” he                                                  ences for more full-flavoured teas.
laughs. “It was my doctor who told me to                                                       The company now has four Edmonton-
look for an alternative beverage for my                                                     area stores, with sales growing between 30
health. That’s when I started looking at tea.”                                              and 35 per cent per year. In 2003 Cargo &
    At the time Grover associated tea with a                                                James acquired Western-based coffee chain
bitter and over-steeped drink. It wasn’t until                                              McBeans from Victoria, B.C.’s Midwest
he tried high-quality Darjeeling tea from                                                   Coffee Systems Inc., primarily, says Grover,
India that he realized its full flavour and                                                 to gain experience in franchising. The
potential. “I was blown away by the flavour                                                 eight-store chain may eventually be
and freshness,” he recalls. “I started looking                                              rebranded as Cargo & James outlets.
for high-quality looseleaf and specialty tea,                                                  Now that the retail concept has already
but I was surprised to find there wasn’t much out          “The interest in          proven its success, Grover is turning his attention
there. And certainly no one had branded it.”           specialty tea is growing to product development and production. “Over
    Through his research Grover learned that so quickly, yet the supply the past four years we’ve been focusing on sup-
70 per cent of Canadians regularly drink tea,                                        plying our stores,” he says. “Now we’ve expanded
                                                       side is still very limited.
and that after water, tea is the most consumed                                       to selling products for retail and looking to
beverage on earth. An entrepreneur with two So we do believe we can expand foodservice distribution and creating
businesses to his name, including an online gro- be one of the dominant more products.” Grover notes that the company
cery delivery business, Grover quickly saw a retail players in that market.” just closed a master franchise agreement that will
opportunity for looseleaf specialty tea. The result                                  likely see the opening of up to 15 new stores in
was Edmonton, Alta.-based Cargo & James Imports Inc., a                 the next two-and-a-half to three years, primarily in B.C. and
high-end retail chain that opened in 2001 serving specialty             Alberta, with plans to eventually move the chain east. “So
teas. “We started with 100 different teas, but really I think           while our master franchisee focuses on expanding the Cargo
the selection confused people,” recalls Grover, who is presi-           & James brand, I’m focusing my efforts on procuring and
dent and co-owner with wife Annick. “My audience is the 90              manufacturing product.”
per cent of the population who doesn’t know much about                      Presentation is a large part of the tea experience, so devel-
tea. Only 10 per cent are the connoisseurs who want all the             oping the right packaging has been key in getting the prod-
different varieties. Most people want only five or six different        uct retail ready. “I spent half a year testing different packages
blends to choose from. That’s when we started to narrow our             in the store, which is the nice part about having the retail
selection.”                                                             shops,” says Grover. He finally settled on a tin for looseleaf
    Now, says Grover, the company’s top-selling teas are the            tea, as well as “old-fashioned, clear candy bags,” which, he
simpler flavours, including Earl Grey, lemon-flavoured rooi-            says, allow customers to fully appreciate the product. “It’s a
bos and strawberry green tea. Each of the Cargo & James                 three-step experience – the first is when you see the interest-
selections are looseleaf teas, producing, according to Grover,          ing blend inside, second is the aroma when you open the
a more flavourful blend than tea bags, and which steep more             package, and third is taste.”
quickly. The company also flavours the teas themselves in                   Grover says the blends are due to appear in foodservice
small batches to ensure its freshness. “Ninety-five per cent of         and on retail shelves within two to three months. “I think the
the flavoured tea we buy in Canada comes from Germany,                  next big challenge will be distribution,” says Grover. “But
which, by the time we get it, could have been made one to               there’s nothing like our teas in the grocery market right now.
two-and-a-half years before. We buy our tea directly from tea           The interest in specialty tea is growing so quickly, yet the
brokers in the countries of origin – China, India, Sri Lanka            supply side is still very limited. So we do believe we can be
and South Africa – and because we flavour it ourselves our              one of the dominant players in that market.”

W W W. F O O D I N C A N A D A . C O M                                                                    FOOD IN CANADA •           41
                                                     Sport Boy Holdings Corp.

                                                     Victoria and Kelowna, B.C.

TEN                                   Bars with a Buzz
                                                       By Deanna Rosolen

         eed some extra energy? It                                                          Bates. “That means it goes into the
         seems many consumers do.                                                           bloodstream slower. It’s not like coffee-
         Increasingly more and more                                                         bean caffeine where you get that jittery
of us are tapping into energy drinks                                                        hit and then crash. It’s a more sus-
for a quick boost for everything from                                                       tained energy.” Clifford adds that
workouts, to late nights at the office                                                      the ingredients also include vitamin
or even exams. And manufacturers                                                            C, hemp for its omega components,
are responding in the form of the                                                           “and a large dose of the best ginseng
dozen or so energy drinks now on the                                                        that’s made: panex ginseng from the
market.                                                                                     Orient…We wanted to make sure that
    About eight months ago two part-                                                        there was a healthier component to it
ners from B.C. – Jocelyn Bates and                                                          so both consumers and retailers could
Mark Clifford – decided to shake the                                                        see the advantages.”
category up a bit. In fact, they may                                                            Since both partners had experience
have created a new category of their                                                        with Rebar, they had little difficulties
own. The two launched what they say                                                         getting MadDog to market. It also
is the first ever energy drink concept                                                      helped that guarana has become more
in a snack bar format. It’s called                                                          of a mainstream ingredient that most
MadDog Kick in the Asspresso                                                                consumers are familiar with. The com-
Mocha Mania. Although it was origi-                                                         pany’s website also offers consumers
nally geared to extreme sports characters, the duo       “We are the only        information on the ingredients.
found that anyone who consumes energy drinks is           energy bar that            However, says Clifford, the fact that MadDog
their audience, including college and university                                 currently has just one sku can be a challenge.
                                                          has this whole
students. The bar is currently sold primarily in                                 “Shelf presentation is important obviously,” he
Western Canada at Macs Milk, Thrifty Foods and            guarana-based          says. “One box on the shelf doesn’t have the same
select health food stores, retailing for about $2.     energy component          impact as four boxes…when consumers go by
    “We know that the energy drink business is              to it, so we         that area in the store they’re more apt to pick out
very saturated,” says Clifford. “At last count there       knew that our         your product because it dominates more shelf
were about 35 different concepts in Canada             retailers would like      space. That’s what skus do for you. They also give
alone. So we knew that most retailers would prob-                                consumers different options.”
                                                          that because it
ably be exhausted if we had brought them another                                     As a result, both Bates and Clifford say line
energy drink. But we are the only energy bar that         offered them a         extensions are in the works, with the possibility of
has this whole guarana-based energy component to             different           four or five new products. They’re also consider-
it, so we knew that our retailers would like that          opportunity.”         ing liquid gel packs “for the more sports-con-
because it offered them a different opportunity.”                                scious group in our demographic,” says Clifford,
    Bates, who has worked in the health food industry for 15         adding that a canned beverage in the MadDog concept is
years, and Clifford, who is from the restaurant industry, first      another option. The pair hopes to have the bars available
partnered up about six years ago to launch Rebar, an organ-          through fitness centres and gyms as well, including in
ic veggie-fruit snack bar. Last June they sold the licensing         Ontario and Quebec.
rights to Rebar and formed Sport Boy Holdings Corp., based               When asked where they see their category going, both
in Victoria and Kelowna, B.C.                                        entrepreneurs say they’d like to think they’re the only ones in
    With MadDog, Bates and Clifford aim to offer a healthi-          it for now. As for energy drinks, it may be full of a lot of the
er alternative to the energy drinks on the market. “The active       same, but it is evolving. “The category is not going away,”
ingredient is guarana, which has fat soluble properties,” says       says Bates. “If anything it’s growing exponentially.”

42   • M AY   2006                                                                                  W W W. F O O D I N C A N A D A . C O M
                                                    Carmen Creek Gourmet Meats

                                                            Calgary, Alta.

                                            Team players                                                          TEN
                                                        By Carolyn Cooper

    n most businesses, who you know is                                                    exposure to hormones and chemicals.
    everything. That’s what Dean Andres                                                   Carmen Creek bison are grass fed but
    discovered when he joined founding                                                    grain-finished, producing a tender, consis-
partners and fellow bison ranchers Pieter                                                 tent product that is more visually appealing
Spinder and Kelly Long in their fledgling                                                 to consumers.
Carmen Creek Gourmet Meats processing                                                         Capitalizing on the health benefits of
company.                                                                                  bison, Carmen Creek offers U.S. consumers
    Established by COO Spinder and                                                        pre-packaged ground bison, steak and burg-
president Long in 2002 in an attempt to                                                   ers under the Carmen Creek label, as well as
build the value chain for bison meat, the                                                 whole muscle cuts to foodservice. The com-
company was still struggling after a year                                                 pany has also recently begun supplying
of operations. “Bison is a very tough mar-                                                bison sausage and pepperoni products to
ket,” says Andres, who is vice-president.                                                 Richmond, B.C.-based Premium Brands
“The margins are thin and competition is (Left to right) Kelly Long,                      for its new line of high-health products
sometimes brutal. Then out of the blue in Pieter Spinder and Dean Andres                  under the Grimms line. “It’s a whole new
2003 we got an e-mail from Whole Foods,                                                   category,” says Andres, “an excellent, lean,
which needed a bison supplier. It really got the            “It’s a whole          guaranteed natural product that’s also listed under
ball rolling.”                                              new category,          the Health Check program.” According to
    The relationship Carmen Creek established               an excellent,          Andres the products will roll out this month in
with the U.S. food retailer put the company                                        Alberta, and across Canada this summer.
                                                          lean, guaranteed
and its products on the map, expanding produc-                                         Because consistency in terms of quality and
tion and opening doors to other markets. Andres            natural product         supply of bison meat has been an industry-wide
explains that Carmen Creek bison is a very                that’s also listed       challenge, Andres says Carmen Creek’s good track
fresh, natural and high-quality product – “as close      under the Health          record has made it a recognizable, high-quality
to organic as possible” – a key reason the U.S.           Check program.”          brand in the U.S. “For 15 years we’ve had a bison
natural foods chain chose the company as a                                         grading system in Canada, but no one used it.
supplier. “We tripled their sales of bison meat because              We started using it, and guaranteed Grade A meat [the highest
of our quality and consistency, so it’s been very successful         quality available], which made a big difference to the U.S. and
for us.”                                                             European markets.” Andres hopes that with a better under-
    Since then growth has remained steady, with sales dou-           standing of the health benefits of bison, as well as a greater
bling in 2005 and already ahead of targets for 2006. “That’s         appreciation for the reasons behind the slightly higher price
mostly spurred by the U.S. – the bison market is going crazy         point, Canadian consumers will also come to recognize the
there right now,” says Andres. The company now supplies              brand.
fresh bison meat to restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday, which has              With approximately 60 bison suppliers, Carmen Creek’s
850 locations throughout the U.S., and 80-unit chain                 biggest challenge right now may be that growth is outstrip-
Montana’s Cookhouse in Canada. “Canada has been a                    ping supply. The latest opportunity for the Calgary company
tougher haul for us,” admits Andres. “Consumers are not as           came through the Alberta government, which, through its
informed about bison meat, and the labelling is harder to            Agriculture, Food and Rural Development Initiative, select-
understand. But the food trends in the U.S. generally follow         ed eight companies producing value-added goods to work
in Canada about five years later.”                                   with a high-profile Seattle food broker to access major U.S.
    Consumers, particularly south of the border, are picking         retailers. “It’s a great opportunity for us,” says Andres. “And
up on the fact that bison is lean, and lower in fat and choles-      it’s another example of us having forged good relationships.
terol than beef. Also, because the animals are primarily grass       Of course you have to have a good product, but it really
fed, there is much less exposure to antibiotics, and almost no       comes down to establishing good relationships.”

W W W. F O O D I N C A N A D A . C O M                                                                 FOOD IN CANADA •           43

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