When innovation meets diversity: African dishes made in Montreal

Innovation has a lot to do with diversity. Today, we are presenting an exotic, promising startup: Sagafrika, by Sandra Muaka, a Montreal-based frozen African dishes maker. Between working with food industry giants and entrepreneurship, Sandra made her choice.

We met with Sandra Muaka from Sagafrikaat Montreal Inc. “Grand Messe” last month (read our full article on that great event). Here is the story of her new venture, started in May 2017 with her sister Aicha, and her own fascinating story, from Africa to cold Canada.

From Healthcare to Food Transformation

sandra muaka

Sandra was training to become a doctor in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) when she got the opportunity to continue her studies in Canada. She flew halfway through the world and decided to study Food Science and Technology as it had a health-oriented component. With a Bachelor from Laval University, she could start building her experience in Food Quality Assurance. For 10 years, Sandra worked in Quebec and Alberta in various food companies such as Old Dutch Foods, Kraft Foods, Olymel Red Deer, and O Sole Mio

She definitely drove her entrepreneurial inspiration from her last job experience, more focused on ready-to-eat meals. As an immigrant, she knew the challenges that diaspora face when living abroad. She decided to create Sagafrika to offer a convenient, tasty, and accessible alternative to cooking African dishes. Offering frozen food products to African populations in Quebec was a new innovative way of answering a real need.

Quality Assurance is critical in the food industry. I wanted to use my expertise in that area to offer an innovative product.

From food scientist to entrepreneur

 

To fine-tune her concept, Sandra organised focus groups and tastings. Today, products are specifically targeted towards immigrants living in Montreal – students and families.

sauches.pngSagafrika offers six recipes all inspired by her home country – DR Congo. Saka saka is the most famous one: a sauce made out of cassava leaves. Among other choices: a sauce with fish and sorrel, another with eru leaves and smoked fish or a more traditional spinach sauce.

Sandra currently cooks her products herself by renting a spot in an industrial kitchen, in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Cuisine des pays d’en haut.

Frozen dishes bring a real security when launching a food startup: they can be sold within a year.

Sagafrika is focused on expanding its product line to the rest of African dishes and towards offering spiced side dishes like cassava or sweet potato fries.

For now you can order these delicious dishes here.

5 Montreal social innovation startups in urban agriculture

Last Friday we got to discover truly innovative startups at a 5@7 organized by Quintus, a communication agency dedicated to sustainable projects. This edition of Quintus@7 was dedicated to urban agriculture.

Quintus@7 are free networking events organized throughout the year by Quintus marketing. They highlight best practices in sustainable living. In 2018, five events will be organized focusing on how can we become change catalysts.

Stefany Chevalier, CEO of Quintus defined change catalysts as entities that work towards changing society with a social or environmental impact and that encourage consumption patterns that are innovative and sustainable. Quintus helps change catalyst to promote their activities through accessible communication tools – videos, events, communication campaigns.

“Our intention is not to get people to consume more but to consume more sustainably.”

Among the great initiatives that we discovered last Friday were: 

Crickstart & La Mexicoise, two startups that are changing eating habits by promoting the use of insect-based products. Crickstart’s mission is to open people’s minds with flavourful products made out of crickets. Yes this is pretty unusual but it is also one of the most sustainable – crickets are used in their entirety with zero waste, unlike in traditional livestock farming and meat processing, and healthy ingredient – the protein in crickets is rich with amino acids.

31328679_2116862581877674_2507138355326615552_o
Daniel from Crickstart and Christelle from La Mexicoise © Quintus

Chicza, a 100% natural, certified organic, biodegradable and sustainable chewing gum ever made. It is made out of chicle, a natural gum extracted from tall Chicozapote tree followingMayan traditions. This is truly innovative as most gums on the market carry no more than 5-7% of gum base, if any at all – the rest is plastics (artificial, petrol-based polymers). If you really want to get scared, you can watch “The Dark Side of the Chew” a TEDx talk by Andrew Nisker on the subject. We tasted the mint flavoured Chicza and really liked it. Other flavours include Lime, Cinnamon and Mixed Berries.

31230138_2116863185210947_1123853548199608320_o
Chicza team © Quintus

Mamie Clafoutis– to be fair, we already knew Mamie Clafoutis’s products (traditional French bakery) but it was very inspiring to listen to its co-founder Joseph Sabatier talking about organic flour and organic bakeries in Quebec. Did you know that only 2% of Quebec bread is made out of organic flour? And Mamie Clafoutis is part of that small figure. As such, it is a real innovator and pioneer in the sustainable food industry in Canada.

31289759_2116864001877532_4679822144115310592_o
Joseph. Founder of Mamie Clafoutis © Quintus

Vrac sur Roues, a zero waste online grocery store with bike delivery. Launched by ambitious 21-year old Simon, this new player in the sustainable urban market allows you to buy dry and liquid goods delivered by bike to your door and poured in your containers. Simon is a carpenter but he wants to bring more than wood furniture to society – as the sole manager and employee in his startup, he takes care of all aspects (website, order preparation, delivery) and has assumed all cost with his job as a carpenter, not relying on subsidies or loans. We found his passion and mission truly inspiring.

31189673_2116863421877590_4790402124464783360_o
Simon, Founder of Vrac sur Roues © Quintus

The next Quintus@7 will be held on June 8 and focus on eco-living and ecotourism. You can already get free tickets.

 

Cook, eat and do not leave any crumb with A dévorer!

Montreal is thriving with innovative ideas to fight against food waste. A dévorer is the new player in town. It offers special food kits to buy at your local supermarket to prevent products from perishing.

Chloe, an electrical engineer, did not plan on becoming an entrepreneur in the food industry and yet, after her MBA, she decided that she wanted to do something useful. Knowing that every Canadian family throws $28 worth of food every day (yes, that’s $1500 per year), food waste was a perfect challenge to tackle. But A dévorer has another social aspect: it helps retailers avoid losses while strengthening the link between retailers and consumers.

Chloe a devorer

After improving her project in startup incubators (Entreprism 2016 at HEC Montreal) and pitching it in entrepreneurship competitions (Mouvement Novae 2018), A dévorer was ready to conquer Montreal.

Not just another meal kit

Yes, meal kits have become quite trendy but most of them are based on a delivery model: you order a kit of fresh vegetables or fresh products and get delivered every week. A dévorer sells kits in supermarkets so that retailers can benefit from the deal.

It’s not a meal kit, it’s an “anti-food-waste kit”.

The process is very simple: when doing your grocery at your local supermarket, you can find A dévorer kits with all the products required to cook a specific meal in less than 30 minutes. Kits are packed in a minimalist environment-friendly recycled material.

a devorerRecipes are focused towards healthier eating habits. They will change regularly and adapt to consumers’ preferences and feedback. Kits are offered for a recipe for 4 people and always include a vegetarian option.

Changing perceptions, innovating habits

“We want to get consumers involved in the process: they can solve a real environmental problem in a recreational way.”

It is common to consider perishable products that are close to the expiration date as “old” and less fresh. But they are just ready to eat and even better: they are discounted!  The kit system allows to make these products more attractive and to show how cooking can be a fun, quick and easy process.

Instead of choosing ready-to-eat meals, you can eat fresh products and spend 30 minutes of your time in your kitchen, discovering a new recipe.

A pilot project in Montreal

A dévorer has managed to secure a partnership with one of the leaders in Canada food retail: Provigo. As of April 23, you can find the first line of kits at Provigo Eric Boivin, near metro Crémazie.

 

5 exciting findings from Grand Messe startup invasion

Last Thursday, if you were walking on Monk boulevard in Montreal and passed by the beautiful church on number 5959, you would never have imagined what was happening inside… 100 Montreal startups were presenting their products and services to media, corporations, influencers and the general public.

In an old church transformed into Theatre Paradoxe, you could discover various innovative ventures in the food, travel, services, marketing, design or fashion industry. This 3rd edition of the Grand Messe was organized by Montréal inc and presented by Bell. Startups were pitching their ideas in confessionals to the media who symbolically awarded a benediction to their favorite emerging startup.

Innovation Montreal’s team was on the ground and discovered 5 innovative products:

Brwski, the first in-store digital beerologist that simplifies how grocery customers discover beer in-store. They invented a unique machine to help beginners and beer geeks look for the perfect beer in store.

Sagafrika, offering the first range of African frozen dishes cooked in Quebec. We met with Sandra, the founder, and tasted a delicious cassava leaves sauce from Congo.

Perla Paletas, bringing typical healthy Mexican ice-cream and Popsicle to Canada. Made with real fruits and no additive, they offer an original healthy snack for summer days. We tasted their lime and cucumber Popsicle and their chocolat and raspberry frozen yogurt. Perla has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Ulule to extend her product line.

With the same healthy concerns in mind, we got to admire a bicycle made of wood, Picolo Velo. The wooden bike frames have been designed and built in Montreal with social, environmental concerns. We also discovered that the same sustainable concern was shared by corporations : Reunion D Sens offers companies two innovative locations in the heart of Montreal to organise meetings. These locations offer a unique experience that stimulates creation and helps to lower stress levels and increase confidence.

Stay tuned for more in depth stories on some of these innovative startups!

Cooking to end food waste with Coriandr

There will never be too many startups to find against food waste in a city like Montreal. Coriandr is a website that provides you with recipes to use what you have in your fridge and maximise food utilisation, i.e. giving a second life to that last tomato and half broccoli.

Not just another culinary search engine

On Coriandr you will be able to enter every ingredient you have in your fridge, add search options (preferences, dietary restrictions) and find the optimal recipe to cook. The Coriandr database offers 8000 recipes from partners. This is the purely technical part of the innovation.

However, there is more: Coriandr wants to provide a tool that helps every key actor of the food industry. This is why an interactive map will be added to geolocate the nearest grocery store. And if you really do not want to use an ingredient, instead of throwing it, you can make a good action. Coriandr has partnered with the Food Banks of Quebec to facilitate donations of food or cash to the Food Banks of Quebec to support heir activities.

From traditional retail to tech innovation

David B Potvin - photo .jpgHow did this all happen? Initially, David worked as a Business Developer in the wine and spirits retail in Montreal. He did not have any background or particular interest in cooking or technology and yet he decided to become an entrepreneur. His experience volunteering at the Youth Chamber of Commerce of Montreal (JCCM) clearly triggered his interest in entrepreneurship. and gave him the confidence and methodology to structure his idea:

You have to be a little crazy to launch a business but also lucid: it is important to put money aside and question the viability of your project

David started by learning IT basics. He took part in the Lab 12 program, an initiative from Les Pitonneux, a non-profited hosted by Notman House. During 12 weeks, this bootcamp program gives learners an opportunity to become proficient programmers and developers and access to mentors and networking opportunities.

Financed by the people

food waste.jpg

Now that he had the skills, he had to finance his project and decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign in January 2018.

It was a real challenge to raise money on a crowdfunding campaign when I was not selling a concrete product, only an experience

Using La Ruche, a crowdfunding tool dedicated to supporting new projects that have a social impact in Quebec, Coriandr raised $5,290 from 89 contributors from Canada, the USA, France and Italy in 45 days. Even better, it got selected by the Fonds ADM / 375 Idées of the JCCM and received 3,750$ in microdonations.

Supported by a community

After less than a year, David has already built a lot. Through the Youth Chamber of Commerce (JCCM), La Ruche and Montreal Network against Food Waste (REGAL), Coriandr is part of a community dedicated to growth, innovation and social impact. David draws inspiration from role models and best practices like Hardbacon or Smarthalo. He has many other ideas to make Coriandr a smart tool for food inventory purposes. For now, the official launch of Coriandr is set for Spring 2018. 

Follow Coriandr on Facebook and Instagram and register on their website to find out about the official launch.

A social impact story: creating value out of food waste

If your mission goes beyond selling your product, you will sell more products. That was the first lesson learnt from listening to David Côté, VP of Loop Juice. He discussed entrepreneurship, alive food, fermentation, health, circular economy and innovation at HEC Montréal…

Trekking, traveling, food experimenting

David has always been interested in health, nature and plants. When his father wanted him to follow his footsteps and become a doctor, David was yearning for more – more passion.

appalachians

He had a revelation when trekking the Appalachian mountains and eating candy bars to get his daily dose of energy. He was surrounded by natural beauty but he was eating unhealthy transformed products. He decided to travel and test all kinds of food habits from fasting in a cave in Hawaii, to experimenting raw food habits. Eventually, after 8 years of traveling and working on organic farms throughout the world, he came back to Montreal with the goal of changing the world.

Entrepreneurship, a way to change the world

“I learned to be an entrepreneur. Starting a venture was not my original idea, but it became the most relevant means to deal with the issue of healthy food and eco-friendly products.”

With his friend Mathieu Gallant, David was experimenting with new food habits taken from his travels in Hawaii and California: making vegan no-bake energy balls and brewing Kombucha in the kitchen. He started delivering lunch boxes made exclusively with raw food to companies and decided to create two startups – a restaurant to promote raw-foodism (Crudessence) and the first Quebec Kombucha company (RISE Kombucha)

rise facebook
(c) RISE Kombucha

“With Crudessence, we wanted to innovate eating habits and give back to people the ability of better feeding themselves.”

In 2016, after 8 years of managing two impact-driven ventures, David decided to sell his shares. His mission was accomplished. He had democratised the fundamentals of raw-foodism and provided an alternative to traditional soft drinks.

More than a serial entrepreneur, a serial world-changer

What other challenge could David address? And what innovation to tackle? For his new venture, David decided to partner with his girlfriend Julie Poitras-Saulnier. They wanted to focus on food waste after getting goosebumps from alarming figures (check this very interesting video from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations):

45% of all the fruits and vegetables produced in the world are wasted

team 1David and Julie decided to open a cold-pressed juice company to fight against food waste. They met Frédéric Monette from Courchesne Larose, a historical player in the Canadian fruits and vegetables industry. When they found out that the company was throwing 16 tons of fruits and vegetables every day, their mind was set and LOOP Juices was born.

Looping around a circular economy

Some might say that it is a project “dans l’air du temps”, that circular economy is nothing but a green washing concept. Maybe. But what David wants to prove that it is possible to provide valuable solutions to a problem.

SYL_1285

Everything in LOOP is targeted towards recycling and reusing food waste: one bottle of juice is made out of 1.5 kg of unused fruits and vegetables. But the circular process goes even further: The residual but still nutritious high-fiber pulp is then reused by a pet food company, Wilder & Harrier.

Loop is revolutionizing the value chain by making it circular. It is also providing a model for conscious capitalism.

Limitless innovation possibilities 

Starting next week, LOOP is launching a partnership with Sobeys to blend cold-press juices exclusively with products from the giant food retailers. In two months, they will launch their first beer, brewed with dry unsold bread. They are also thinking of making milk out of brewers’ spent grain and flavored water out of leftover essential oils…

 

Kombucha is disrupting drinks industry with fermentation

Sebastien Bureau was with RISE Kombucha, the first Kombucha producing company in Quebec, since their first steps as VP of Research and Development. Today, he is spreading the word about this new innovative drink and creating fermented products through a unique food science consulting startup – Mannanova.

The challenge of creating a new market

With a BA in microbiology and biochemistry, Sebastien Bureau is a natural born innovator. He started home brewing Kombucha in the early 2000s when it was still completely unknown in Canada.

By the way do you know what kombucha is? Kombucha is a type of fermented tea that is lightly sweetened, flavored and fizzy. It is produced through the fermentation of tea using Scoby, a “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”.

This fermentation process was what fascinated Sebastien the most. Co-founder of the first Quebec Kombucha company, RISE Kombucha as VP of Research and Development, he decided, after 6 years, to focus on a new mission: developing innovative procedures and helping other in the development, preparation and execution of Kombucha and other fermented products. Mannanova was born.

Spreading the word about fermentation

Sebastien wanted to educate the general public throughout the world. He started on his own back in 2014 and created a team in 2016 with Eduardo and Thomas, Debora and Nathaly.

mannanova team

What makes this entrepreneurial adventure promising is that it answers a current interest throughout the western world: “From sauerkraut to kefir, miso to jun, the world of fermented food is rich and varied – and increasingly popular” (interesting article on the subject). Often associated with health benefits, fermented food is on the rise.

Eduardo, Vice President and business developer, is convinced that there are true opportunities in Quebec and British Columbia but also in emerging markets like Brazil (where people are already health conscious and curious about fermented food) or even in Africa. Kombucha making can even be a social development tool in countries like Haiti: the process is simple and easily accessible to economically disadvantaged populations.

A community-centered venture 

Another scope of Mannanova’s mission is to experiment with Kombucha production. Their partnership with MaBrasserie, a cooperative brewery, since Spring 2017 is one way of implementing innovations: every week, Mannanova team creates a new innovative flavor of Kombucha, served on tap in the microbrewery. Flavors are inspired by the season: on the menu this Winter you might have tasted the Pine & Christmas tree flavor (brewed with actual fir branches), Apple and Cinnamon or more recently the Kombucha Fuego, a balanced mix of spicy and sour.

infographic kombucha

Beer lovers also find an interest in Kombucha because the brewing processes are very similar. Sour ales and brett beers. In fact, brett is short for Brettanomyces, which is the yeast used in Kombucha fermentation. In smaller doses, it is considered as a “beer sourer” and can produce wet hay “horse blanket” notes.

The team has also developed a new base material called Manna-K: this highly concentrated Kombucha is an ingredient that solves most of the problems kombucha producers face every day: alcohol control, lack of space, time and money:

Discover their consultation, education and production activities and go to MaBrasserie to taste one of their latest inventions.