CHICAGO — Slated to debut in the coming weeks is Avoke Spoonables, a line of packaged smoothie bowls containing a blend of avocado and fruits and vegetables with probiotics. The New York-based startup behind the products has received a major boost from Ganeden, a manufacturer of probiotic ingredients, which on July 18 declared Avoke the winner of its inaugural Probiotic Innovation Jumpstart program. Avoke has been awarded $25,000 in support to use the patented GanedenBC30 probiotic in the product, plus guidance and expertise in developing and launching the line.
Back in February, Cleveland-based Ganeden launched the competition, inviting scientists, entrepreneurs and inventors to submit ideas for a new product concept featuring probiotics. After receiving a number of entries spanning a variety of applications from baked foods and breakfast foods to baby products and frozen snacks, Ganeden selected three finalists to travel to Chicago and present the product concepts to a panel of industry experts during the Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting and Food Expo.
|Andy Lefkowitz, c.e.o. of Ganeden|
“We were open to receiving entries for any new probiotic foods or beverages and received many extremely impressive submissions,” said Andy Lefkowitz, chief executive officer of Ganeden. “It was a difficult choice for the team to choose finalists, but we ultimately selected the three products that we felt would resonate the most with consumers, impress retailers and fill a specific need in the marketplace that may not have been met yet.”
Founded by a pair of mothers and speech pathologists, Avoke Spoonables are dairy-free, vegan and cold-processed in four flavors: Berry Mint, Spicy Carrot, Ginger Greens & Coconut Curry.
“The lid of our unique half-avocado shaped cup contains a toasted quinoa crunchy topping and an eco-friendly spoon,” said Daniel Karsevar, consulting chief operating officer for the company, in an interview with Food Business News. “Avoke will be the first avocado-based food to include probiotics, which makes it stand out. Our customer base is concerned with their health and will benefit from the addition of probiotics.”
The company is finalizing its packaging and plans to launch in New York City this August.
|Daniel Karsevar, consulting c.e.o. for Avoke|
“It means a lot to have industry recognition from experts,” Mr. Karsevar said. “This is a huge help for us, and the recognition is amazing.”
He said the company plans to expand beyond smoothie bowls while continuing to use avocado as the star ingredient.
“Avoke isn’t just about Avoke Spoonables,” he said. “We can roll out spreadables and other things as a bigger brand. We have a lot of ideas.”
Avoke joins more than 500 products brought to market with GanedenBC30 probiotics, which last year in total exceeded $1 billion in retail sales. At I.F.T., Ganeden unveiled dozens of new products featuring the patented probiotic, including protein powders, cold-pressed juices and a frozen dessert.
As the winner of the Probiotic Innovation Jumpstart program, Avoke will meet with representatives from Ganeden to discuss next steps for launching the concept, Mr. Lefkowitz said.
“They will go through the traditional process that all of our partners go through when launching probiotic products, including probiotic formulation, product testing, packaging review, etc.,” he said.
Judges on the panel for the competition said the scores were close among the three finalists, which included simplyFUEL Protein Balls developed by Mitzi Dulan, a Kansas City-based nutrition and wellness expert. The protein balls are made with organic peanut butter, oats, organic coconut, non-bioengineered whey protein, honey, chocolate chips, almonds, dried tart cherries and probiotics.
Ms. Dulan has been the team sports nutritionist for the Kansas City Royals for 11 seasons. She first shared her protein-rich snack with the team toward the end of the regular baseball season last year.
|Mitzi Dulan, nutrition and wellness expert|
“The players loved them, and two games later, they clinched the division for the first time in 30 years,” Ms. Dulan told Food Business News. “The media went crazy about my protein ball story, including sports radio, and they began gaining awareness. There is a lot of superstition in baseball, so I kept making the same protein ball recipe for the players throughout the playoffs and then the World Series.
“Ultimately, we ended up becoming the 2015 MLB World Champions. After that, I had people all over Kansas City asking me to make them protein balls — moms, families, athletes. That’s how my food start-up company, simplyFUEL, was born.”
The other finalist was Red Lotus Foods, which makes a vegan creamy cashew spread with roasted garlic and herbs.
|Jeanne Petrus-Rivera, founder of Red Lotus Foods|
“It is a delicious dairy alternative that mimics the rich creamy and tangy taste of cream cheese,” said Jeanne Petrus-Rivera, founder of Cleveland-based Red Lotus Foods. “We blend raw organic cashews with a culture and allow them to ferment for 24 hours, a process that allows the cashews to thicken and achieve that tanginess of cream cheese. We then add organic roasted garlic, organic herbs, and nutritional yeast to give it a cheesier quality.”
Since Red Lotus Foods launched two years ago, Ms. Petrus-Rivera said she has been interested in working with Ganeden.
“Even though our product is fermented, we don't make claims about the probiotic content since it has never been tested,” Ms. Petrus-Rivera said. “But with the addition of GanedenBC30, we will be able to use it as a marketing tool to highlight the healthy aspect of Creamy Cashew Spread.”
Based on strong interest in its first year, Ganeden may continue the Probiotic Innovation Jumpstart program in the future, Mr. Lefkowitz said.“We will continue to drive innovation in the probiotic space, whether through this program or others that we have in the works,” he said. “The Probiotic Innovation Jumpstart program has been extremely well-received, so we are definitely open to continuing it in the future and will evaluate it once it is complete.”