Local startup food processor partners with RRC research chef to win Best New Product award

Canadian Prairie Garden Puree (CPGP) has just been awarded Manitoba’s Best New Product at the Manitoba Food Processor’s Association’s (MFPA’s) annual awards Gala.  Red River College’s lead research chef, Brad Gray, created the innovative dishes incorporating CPGP’s ingredients that won over the judges’ hearts, minds, and taste buds.

“I’m absolutely thrilled with the result,” said Kelly Beaulieu, Founder of CPGP. “There were a lot of large established producers in the competition and the validation that comes with this award really means a lot to our early-stage business. Chef Gray played an critical role and he was able to answer the judges’ questions intelligently and with a genuine passion for the product.”

CPGP uses innovative technology and processes to transform high-quality, non-GMO and Manitoba-sourced crops, into additive- and preservative-free purees with a shelf life of 2 years.

“I think the judges were most impressed with the versatility of vegetable purees,” said Chef Gray. “When you think vegetable puree, tasty mac n’ cheese and chocolate cake aren’t typically the first things to come to mind.”

But those are exactly the dishes Chef Gray created to showcase the versatility, quality and flavours of CPGP’s purees: a gingered carrot mac n’ cheese and a beet chocolate cake parfait with carrot sabayon, Saskatoon sauce and milk chocolate ganache.

“This is an excellent demonstration the role the College plays in Manitoba’s food research and development ecosystem,” said Ray Hoemsen, Director of Applied Research & Commercialization (AR&C) at Red River College. “We challenge our research chefs and students to showcase the commercial potential of food products created by innovative local producers.”

Red River College only recently established its food research program in its School of Hospitality and Culinary at the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute in 2012 with research infrastructure support from Western Economic Diversification. Since then, it has been working to communicate the College’s capabilities and form relationships with producers.

It was through those networking efforts that the College started working with CPGP’s products.

“Chef Gray and I met with Kelly and toured the manufacturing facility in November 2014. We were excited about the variety of products and came back with several samples to experiment with,” said Mavis McRae, AR&C research manager.

Only one month later, CPGP’s purees were featured in two of Chef Gray’s dishes at the MFPA’s annual holiday reception.  The navy bean and Saskatoon puree crème brûlée and a beet and goat cheese crostini were a huge hit as six RRC students served up samples to over 500 guests at RRC’s booth.

“Based on feedback from the reception, CPGP asked if I could help them present for the New Product Award at the MFPA gala,” said Chef Gray.

“I believe the industry is taking note,” said Chef Gray. “I’ve already received a few more requests and invitations. They are seeing the value of having a research chef involved in the product development and commercialization process.”

RRC and CPGP are now in the midst of developing more formal research initiatives. “We are very excited about what’s ahead,” said Beaulieu. “The College is great to work with and they know how to tap into applied research resources – a potentially critical element to our commercial success.”

Another outcome is that Chef Gray will be one of three chefs competing at Agriculture Awareness day on Mar. 17, 2015 at the Legislative Building; he will develop a new dessert recipe using CPGP’s purees, along with other Manitoba ingredients, which a catering company will then prepare for 80 people who will vote for their favourite dish.

“Having innovative companies like CPGP bring new ingredients to the food service industry allows access to healthy, locally grown and processed ingredients throughout the year,” said McRae.  “We congratulate CPGP for their vision and look forward to watching them expand their success.”

It’s definitely exciting times for food product research in Manitoba, and Red River College is just getting started in helping bring Manitoba food innovations to market.


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