Innovative snacks get help to the market

As a busy health professional and a new father, chiropractor Colin Swala started to recognize the challenges in the eating habits of families. He noticed that people were skipping important meals and tended to grab unhealthy snacks on the go.  

“This meant that important nutrition was missing from their diets, leading to low energy and many of the symptoms we associate with stress,” notes Swala. 

This realization led him to create a new company called 3S Foods Inc. and develop B.A.R.E. Creations, an innovative snack company that offers a line of dry granola snack mixes that can be made into no-bake bites, snack bars or baked granola. Further, they can be customized by the consumer by supplementing with their own ingredients. 

“By simply removing one step from a completed product, we enable families to customize their fresh bars, bites, or granola to suit one’s dietary needs,” he says, adding the goal was creating a mix with a balanced proportion of healthy ingredients, and boosted with foods that help the body adapt to stress. 

Getting the product from idea to reality needed the help of food experts for recipe development. Swala turned to Niagara College’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre to optimize formulations of the dry mixtures and source key ingredients for six different SKUs. 

“Niagara College has a great reputation for food innovation, and I thought there would be no better place to get help at this stage,” he says. “Considering our product is a dry mix of ingredients, it wouldn’t seem like it would be difficult to formulate; however, it was critical to us that the finished (prepared) product was chewy yet crispy and had enough flavour without making the product unhealthy.” 

He says this required working backwards from the prepared product, considering the ingredients that the consumer would add, in addition to the dry mix ingredients. 

The dry mixes use plant-based proteins in flavours like Power Berry, Double Chocolate, Apple Spice, White Chocolate Mint, White Chocolate & Green Tea and Coffee Toffee. 

“The research team at Niagara College was able to save us an unbelievable amount of time, considering we had so many SKUs we wanted to launch. Each required careful analysis and taste-testing to perfect,” says Swala. “Considering we wanted to include some special health ingredients, there were also challenges that they helped to work out to mask any off-flavours that would come from adding those special ingredients.” 

“Our company’s partners are health professionals with full-time responsibilities so taking a brand-new food product from idea to something you can hold was hardly possible without working with this team.” 

While the pandemic delayed the project considerably, things are now opening up, and the company is preparing for its first production run to start selling the product on its website.  

“It’s been a very long ride to get to this stage, but we are very excited to see it finally come together,” says Swala, adding that the experience working with the Research & Innovation team “exceeded all expectations.”  

“Our company’s partners are health professionals with full-time responsibilities so taking a brand-new food product from idea to something you can hold was hardly possible without working with this team,” adds Swala. “We were involved in helping direct them on our vision of the product, and they were able to do the rest.” 

This project received funding through the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) – Interactive Visits, which provides up to 20 hours of access to the equipment, facilities, and expertise of a Technology Access Centre (TAC) to solve a specific business or technical challenge. 

This is one example of the technical services offered by the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre. To learn more about the full suite of services to support industry innovation and commercialization of new products and processes, visit the website.