Due to its diverse ecosystem, Peru is home to myriad foods that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Typically, these powerhouse foods – now commonly called ‘superfoods’ for their nutrient-rich properties – are freeze-dried and ground into a powder as to not dilute their health benefits.
In expanding its own line of healthy products, which combines Peruvian superfoods with local Canadian-grown ingredients, Miski Organics needed marketing assistance to position it in the larger consumer goods marketplace.
“As our company is still quite small and we don’t have a marketing team in-house, we needed advice in the marketing aspect,” says Miski president Ricardo Irivarren.
Miski Organics, a family-owned Burlington, Ont. company, was interested in adding to its superfoods product line with products like a cookie mix, a pancake mix, a smoothie mix and a sacha inchi butter, all using foods from their Peruvian sources.
The Business & Commercialization team at Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division was asked to look at competitors in the superfoods industry, provide recommendations on branding, and to compile a list of distributors on the West coast.
“This was particularly difficult as superfood ingredients are still not mainstream, and most consumers are typically familiar with just chia or quinoa,” says Andrea Lopez, research assistant with the Business & Commercialization team and a student with NC’s Bachelor of Business Administration (International Commerce and Global Development) program.
However, thanks to her South American roots, Lopez was able to do specialized research in Spanish to discover companies that were making creative food products with Peruvian superfoods.
The Peru link has been the backbone of the company, says Irivarren, whose wife Mariella and her sister, Lia (both Peru natives) founded the company in 2015. Lia, who still lives in Peru, deals with farmers and producers at her end, and Mariella and Ricardo take care of packaging and selling in Canada.
“Having a presence in both countries has been a key factor,” says Irivarren.
The company is dedicated to the import and distribution of premium organic superfoods, with its product line of Andean grains and seeds, raw dried superfoods and raw cacao derivatives, both in bulk and packaged for retail.
“Our clients include health and wellness consumers, retailers, distributors, and food and beverage companies in Canada and the U.S.A.,” notes Irivarren.
While the company has recently worked with the research team at R&I’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre in developing more products to add to their line, they were also in search of expertise in both adding to their distribution, especially in Western Canada, and where to focus their marketing efforts.
“The report we received from Niagara College has been very useful and has given us a better picture of what we need to do and where we need to focus.”
In her research and analysis, Lopez developed a list of competitors who currently sell superfood products similar to those that Miski Organics intends to bring to the market. She also gave recommendations on branding and promotional strategies.
“This was my first project where I learned the importance of using influencers on social media to promote a company’s brand, and I found this very interesting,” she says.
It was all extremely valuable information for Miski Organics, says Irivarren.
“The report we received from Niagara College has been very useful and has given us a better picture of what we need to do and where we need to focus,” he says. “The staff is very knowledgeable and professional, and it’s been a pleasure working with the team.”
He says his team is currently in the process of preparing the strategy for implementation of the recommendations.
More recently, the company was granted a licence under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). “We are proud to say that we are now ready to commercialize all across Canada and abroad,” notes Irivarren.
Miski Organics currently has a network of mainly health food stores in the Burlington and GTA area, through Amazon.ca, Penguin Fresh and AllGoodShop. They also garner good sales online from their own website.
“We currently work with a well-established distributor, but it’s been a challenge for us to connect with larger distributors, so we’re working with a broker to introduce us,” adds Irivarren. “It is our intention to expand operations across Canada and beyond.”
This project was carried out with funding support through the National Research Council’s (NRC) Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP).
As for the name of the company, Miski means “sweet” or “honey” in Quechua, one of the official languages in Peru, which was spoken by the Incas and is still used by many people in the Andean regions of Peru, explains Irivarren.
“Our goal is to develop new value-added products that become healthier alternatives to conventional products that will offer a gluten-free, vegan, sulphite-free, allergen-free options,” adds Irivarren. “We will be introducing some new products soon, so stay tuned.”
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