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This article was published 17/8/2016 (1615 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Two Winnipeg brothers have set out to improve the health of convenience-food lovers around the world with a new vending machine that dispenses all-natural protein shakes.
Bryce and Graham Folster hope to see their machines installed in schools, offices, gyms, arenas, hotels, airports and other high-traffic locations around the world. After just a few months in business, their company — Protein My Way — has already sold some of the machines in markets as far away as the Middle East.
The brothers are hoping to tap into a global trend in which consumers are looking for healthier alternatives when it comes to convenience foods, and they’re willing to pay a premium to get them.
'We truly believe any child in sport has a way better chance (of) growing up to be a more confident and healthier-minded individual. This is where my brother and I knew we could make a difference' ‐ Protein My Way's Bryce Folster
In a bid to address these changing customer demands, the vending-machine industry has been developing new technologies that enable machines to offer healthier alternatives to the standard vending-machine fare of chips, candy and soft drinks.
"There are a lot of bumps that came up that we didn’t expect, and it took longer for us to come to market, and we had less money to market (the machines) than we had hoped," said Graham Folster.
"But I’m glad we didn’t (have more money to spend on marketing) because the response we’ve had in two months has been overwhelming," he added. "So if we’d had thousands and thousands of dollars to spend, we might have been even more overwhelmed."
Although the two brothers are the driving force behind the new venture, they’ve had help along the way from fellow Charleswood resident Derek Penner, who they describe as a local expert on protein. They said Penner will also become a partner in the business once sales reach a certain level. Bryce’s wife, Erin, also plays a role, handling the company’s bookkeeping duties.
The brothers, who grew up playing hockey and a variety of other sports, came up with the idea for their new business after noticing what they see as a lack of healthy convenience-food items in many of the city’s fitness facilities.
"We truly believe any child in sport has a way better chance (of) growing up to be a more confident and healthier-minded individual," Bryce said. "This is where my brother and I knew we could make a difference."
Graham said when they first pitched the idea to Penner about two years ago, he told them there was no one else with a product like that in the North American market. Since then, two similar startup companies have emerged, although both are small operations, Graham said.
They found a company in Europe to manufacture the specialty vending machines for them, and they developed their own protein powder for the shakes. The vending machine mixes the powder with chilled Brita-filtered water to create a 12-ounce shake within 35 to 40 seconds. The shakes currently come in six flavours, but there are plans to add more flavours in the near future.
Locally, the brothers plan to sell their machines directly to end users — fitness facilities, schools, school boards, universities, offices, hotels and the like. In out-of-province or export markets, they’ll likely sell the machines or the distribution rights to the machines to other like-minded entrepreneurs who will market them in their area.
They said an entrepreneur in Kuwait has already purchased the rights to sell and distribute the machines in a number of Middle Eastern countries. They’ve also sold 15 machines to a Vancouver entrepreneur, and one to a Florida entrepreneur, and are in talks with two Texas investors who want to buy 20 machines.
"We’ve also got a couple of guys in Mexico who are looking to do the same," Bryce added.
Although they’re starting out with a larger-sized vending machine, the brothers hope to introduce a table-top version that can be installed in smaller venues such as convenience stores and school, office and warehouse cafeterias.
For competitive reasons, the brothers wouldn’t say how much the vending machines cost. They said prospective customers can contact them through the company’s website (proteinmyway.com) for more information.
Although this isn’t Graham’s first business venture — he also owns a local cleaning company (Certified Green Cleaning) — it’s been the most challenging.
"This is an international business... and it hasn’t been as easy as I thought," said Graham. "It’s been a challenge, but it’s been fun."