DEEBEE’S Teapops Take US by Store

It wasn’t easy setting a date to catch up with Dionne Laslo-Baker – since the launch of her company’s export initiative, the owner of DeeBee’s SpecialTea Foods has embarked on a whirlwind circuit of promotions to grow the U.S. market for her BC-based line of unique frozen treats.

Concerned over the nutritional deficit of most frozen novelties, Dionne was determined to tap into the multimillion dollar North American industry with an unprecedented product.

DeeBee’s Organic TeaPops represent the first certified non-GMO, organic, kosher, vegan, tea-based treat that are also gluten, dairy and soy free.

As a product that caters to a growing consumer base seeking healthier, allergy-friendly alternatives, TeaPops have earned acclaim from editors for World Tea Media, the Wall Street Journal and Good Morning America, to name a few.

Help from the Export program

While eager to build on this momentum, Dionne needed some help for the next critical steps. As a funding recipient of the BC Agrifood & Seafood Export Program, matching funding helped her pursue her target market by developing new promotional materials, traveling to international events and networking with retailers and media.

Exhibiting at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California proved a pivotal turning point for the young company.

“Natural Products Expo West is the biggest food show in North America for the natural and organic market,” explains Dionne. “Having support to participate really meant breaking into the natural and organic market and accessing buyers for the West Coast … this is the show you really want to have a presence at.”

Coast to Coast

The event was so successful that Dionne reapplied for funding to attend Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, Maryland.

The two shows combined have generated a total of 150 retail leads, which Dionne and her growing team are currently pursuing.

“We’re now listed in Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco and Sprouts stores in 12 states, thanks to Export funding,” says Dionne. “I’ve really been blown away at how much support is available that continues to help us to launch into the US.”

What’s next for the jet-setting scientist and CEO?

“We’re looking to expand our presence within the Whole Foods Market chain and anticipate we’ll reach $2 million in export sales in 2015,” she reports.

With interest growing internationally from countries like England, India, Sweden, Israel and Mexico, she may even surpass herself.

Funding: $23,817 through the BC Agrifood & Seafood Export Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. (EX027, EX027.02)

Assisting with New Product Commercialization

Three years and three projects after first connecting with IAF, Abbotsford-based Vitalus Nutrition has successfully developed and commercialized two new product lines under the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program!

Vitalus makes specialty dairy proteins, primarily milk protein used as ingredients in a wide variety of food products, from cheese and yogurt to infant formulas, soups, sports drinks and protein bars.

In 2011, they received funding under the Growing Forward Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program to develop a lactose-free milk protein concentrate. Focusing on one product line – a concentrate with a protein level of 85 per cent (MPC 85) – they were able to identify the best technology for their operation that would allow them to commercialize production of the product.


“With all the work done in developing the process to produce lactose-free MPC 85, we now offer this as part of our portfolio,” says Pamela Ambriz, the manager for new product development at Vitalus, noting that it is providing new market opportunities for the company.

Building on this success, Vitalus began focusing on developing a prebiotic from milk permeate, a by-product of the ultrafiltration of skim milk production. Most milk permeate goes into animal feed, which doesn’t generate any revenue. But as a prebiotic that can enhance infant formulas, meal replacement drinks, energy drinks and desserts, the company could offer more value to consumers while creating a new profit stream.

Growing Once, Growing Twice…

In 2013, through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program under Growing Forward 2, Vitalus was able to access two additional contributions. The first enabled them to conduct a pilot production trial of the prebiotic, giving them valuable information on process development to match the desired product specifications.

The second helped them tackle the next stage of development, including designing the process and layout for production of the prebiotic.

Almost There

For Ambriz, funding that supports the continuum of new product development – from research to piloting and then commercialization – will help Vitalus maintain a leading edge in the very competitive value-added dairy processing industry.

“Our next step is to develop a market opportunity,” adds Ambriz. “This is a new market for us, and it will require significant resources.”

Funding: $147,600 through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program under Growing Forward and Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. (INN048, INN102, INN188)

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