Three University of Manitoba alumni are hoping to become the next big thing on the Manitoba food market.
Garry Tang, Ocean Nenadov and Nutchaphol Chaivorapongsa, who were students in the faculties of agriculture/food sciences and human ecology, created Deka Treats, a healthy treats company, as part of a project for their food product development course.
As part of the project, the group had to create a flagship product for their company. They came up with was Fro-Yo JAM frozen yogurt dessert. The yogurt is loaded with probiotics, fibre and antioxidants from fruit and chocolate.
A stipulation for the project was that the product had to be produced with 50% Manitoba-made products.
"We were encouraged to try and use dairy, so that’s how we started," Nenadov said.
The group had to plan for the product from beginning to end, including everything from design and marketing to packaging and transportation.
"We wanted to do something different…and decided on frozen yogurt," Nenadov said.
The Fro-Yo JAM dessert is made with an oat crust, yogurt (which is made in the U of M’s dairy), and antioxidant syrup and is topped with dark chocolate.
The trio’s company and its Fro-Yo JAM product won them the recognition of top innovators at Innovative Manitoba’s inaugural PitchDay on Nov. 28. The event allowed individuals with a business idea to present pitches to an expert panel of judges and an audience of Winnipeg entrepreneurs.
The judges awarded Deka Treats second place from among 27 entries, and the partners received a prize of $2,500 and six months free banking from the Royal Bank of Canada. The group members say they’re going to use the prize money to further develop their company.
Although the group members didn’t know each other prior to the project, they’ve remained tight-knit since and are preparing to launch Fro-Yo JAM into local food service and retail markets.
"We’re going to start with restaurants first. We’re thinking of offering them a few batches … and if they like it we can ask them if they want to order more," Tang said.
The classmates said they never expected their in-class assignment to grow into something so big.
"I think the fact that it’s Manitoba-made has helped us," Nenadov said.