Since working with the Business & Commercialization Solutions (BCS) team on go-to-market research and strategies, a health-wellness snack company has found success with a dozen retailers and is working on a new product to launch.
Toronto-based Heartsease Nutrition began as a farmers’ market bakery in 2019. But when the pandemic hit, owner Tatiana Jankowski was forced to pivot her business and looked to enter the retail market by wholesaling her high-protein cookie products.
Jankowski, a former raw vegan pastry chef who has worked for plant-based restaurants in the United States, developed a hand-crafted cookie line made with clean ingredients in a biodegradable package. Heartsease offers dairy-free, vegan and keto options with added nutritive ingredients such as collagen.
“I’ve always loved the challenge of being limited to only a limited number of non-traditional ingredients without the use of any grains, flours or sugars, to make healthy treats that rival traditional desserts,” she says.
Yet, transitioning from a farmers’ market to the retail space meant having to develop new business strategies. Unsure of how to market and scale her new product, Jankowski sought help from the marketing and business experts at Research & Innovation’s BCS team.
“I did not have a marketing or distribution plan; I had no idea who my target customers were and had been struggling with social media,” she says. “It’s difficult when you are doing everything solo, so I was so thrilled to hear I could have a team of students to help me with this.”
Besides getting her cookies into stores, Jankowski had a list of challenges: Creating a brand identity, understanding the target audience and then marketing to that audience. She needed to stand out from other brands and a pricing strategy for her product, given the cost of the premium quality ingredients and the fact each cookie is made and packaged by hand.
“Launching a new product is scary…I felt lucky to have a team of people knowledgeable in marketing to help with the research. I felt strained to find time to do it myself and to do it well.”
~ Tatiana Jankowsk, owner, Heartsease Nutrition
Working alongside expert staff, the BCS students first conducted a comprehensive scan of the industry to uncover key trends; a competitive analysis of four leading competitors in the keto space and defined the target customers for Heartsease Nutrition.
“Launching a new product is scary, especially on your own without experience and having a team helping me,” she says. “I felt lucky to have a team of people knowledgeable in marketing to help with the research. I felt strained to find time to do it myself and to do it well.”
The report also included distribution strategies – and a list of recommended distributors – for the company’s current business stage, and strategies for future growth while scaling. The research also helped clarify the pricing strategy, concluding the current price point for Heartsease’s cookies was on target compared to competitors.
“I could sense the kindness and positive attitude of everyone,” Jankowski notes. “I felt that the team truly cared about the work they were doing and wanted to help me grow my small business.”
Since working with the BCS team last year, Heartsease Nutrition’s cookies are now in a dozen Toronto retailers.
“I’m now working towards the launch of a new product, but this time with a lot more knowledge from having worked with Niagara College,” adds Jankowski.
The project received funding through the RBC Future Launch Program – a $500-million Canadian initiative aimed at helping young people access meaningful employment through practical work experience, skills development, networking and access to mental well-being supports and services.
In addition to working with Research & Innovation’s BCS team, Heartsease Nutrition was one of five entrepreneurial ventures chosen to participate in last year’s Niagara College virtual Sustainability Hackathon. The initiative involved more than 130 students in teams from various College programs that were given one week to develop sustainable solutions strategies for the businesses.
“A lot of their ideas were things I was already striving to achieve, so it helped me feel like I was on the right path towards running my business in a sustainable fashion and helped clarify the importance of it,” explains Jankowski.
“As a small business owner I actually care about how much waste we are producing day-to-day and strive to source from and partner with like-minded partners.
Visit the Business & Commercialization Solutions website to learn more about the capabilities offered by the team or discover how initial feasibility research is helpful prior to engaging with Research & Innovation for applied research projects.