Flexibility in innovation key to new product development

Plant Veda CEO and Founder Sunny Gurnani (centre) and members of the Plant Veda team. Photo provided by Plant Veda.

When Plant Veda and their partners began their Protein Industries Canada project, they had a particular goal in mind: Develop and commercialize oat milk concentrates for use in a variety of new products, such as beverages and yogurts. While successful in this endeavour, the partners also discovered a common result of innovative work.

What you set out to achieve isn’t always your end result.

“We were at the last part of the project. We were going to get into [the original] direction, because that's what we had initially planned for, to get membrane filtration equipment,” Plant Veda CEO and Founder Sunny Gurnani said. “Then we did some R&D about freeze drying. And then we thought, no, actually, it's much better to go into this direction. And we went into that, and we really got very good results out of it. So that's where we are going next.”

The Plant Veda team was driven to develop an oat milk concentrate after having trouble sourcing a reliable, bulk supply of oat milk for their product development. Instead of a bulk supply, the team was forced to steadily purchase one-litre containers of oat milk high in water content.

It wasn’t a sustainable method, both in regards to water use and container waste. For Gurnani, the solution wasn’t to find a new supply. It was to create one.

That’s where Plant Veda’s partnership with Avena Foods, HPP Canada and Thirstea Beverages came in. Together, the companies could create an oat milk concentrate using Avena Foods’ gluten-free Oats, extend their shelf life using HPP Canada’s technology, and use them in products developed by Plant Veda and Thirstea. Plant Veda, in particular, focused on an oat milk available in 10-litre bags, as well as ice cream alternatives, yogurt alternatives, lassie and coffee creamer.

“Collaboration was very critical,” Gurnani said. “Having a collaborative team which we were having open communication between each other, and there was a vested interest for everyone to have this a successful project, it sped up the development efforts.”

While the collaboration and the product developments that came out of it made the project a success, it brought Gurnani to a realization: The products, and the oat milk concentrate as it is, aren’t entirely what the sector or consumers need. What is needed is an oat concentrate that’s shelf stable, with a much longer expiration date.

“Before the project began, it was more about using that oat ingredient,” Gurnani said. “After this project, we did add in some products … and just at the end of the project we started looking into the freeze-drying of these concepts so that we can create a long shelf-life product [two-plus years] without sacrificing nutrition, taste and probiotic content.”

With a new goal on their list, the Plant Veda team is looking forward to reigniting their collaborative work on oat ingredient and product development. In the meantime, they’ll be celebrating the success of their first Protein Industries Canada project, with their products already on store shelves throughout British Columbia and the prairie provinces. For more information on Plant Veda, including where to find their products, visit www.plantveda.com.