Campus Spotlight, Student Life

Beanbark: The next big thing in healthy snacking

Although still an up-and-coming brand, reMIXed is attempting to change the healthy snack market. After setting out to enter the food industry, recent alumni Jamie Lee (BSc‘18) and Isabelle Lam (BSc‘18) ultimately founded ReMIXed and concocted their first product BEANBARK, a dark chocolate bark comprised of dehydrated beans and apples.  

Lee and Lam began developing their product in response to the demand that they observed around them. They began developing BEANBARK in a campus kitchen and first sold the product at the annual MacDonald Campus Christmas market.

“We had a Christmas market at the MacDonald campus, and we [made] a cookie jar mix,” Lee said. “[We] thought it was pretty cool […], so, when the Dobson Cup rolled around, we thought this was something we would be interested in. We had a dehydrator at home, so our first idea was to dehydrate fruits and veggies [like] beets, pears, [and] plums and sell it like that.”

However, the final product took time to refine. The pair participated in the 2018 Dobson Cup, a competition in which McGill entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and solicit funding from the National Bank. Leading up to the event, Lee and Lam struggled to present their  product as unique .

“People said that there was nothing special about [our product and that] you see pear and apple chips at the supermarket all the time,” Lee said. “We needed to think of something to [upstage] the market. In our dietetics degree, we learn a lot about how important a plant-based diet is, so we thought of dehydrating beans, [which led to] dehydrated beans and apples in a sort of trail mix clump [as] our first snack product.”

With a more concrete idea in mind, Lee and Lam moved past conceptual stage and proceeded to perfect BEANBARK’s taste.

“Originally, we started giving them out to friends to get a feel for what people thought,” Lam said. “[We got] feedback like, ‘the texture was kind of bland and really hard,’ so we did a lot more [research and development], and that’s where the chocolate came in.”

In 2018, Lee and Lam won both the Food and Agribusiness Convergent Innovation Prize and the Macdonald Innovation & Entrepreneurship Prize, which financed ReMIXed’s growth—specifically the company’s move to a communal kitchen. The founders believe that the combination of healthy benefits, natural ingredients, and satisfying, chocolatey sweetness make the product unique and led to their success.

[We want to make] nutrition simple, so we don’t want to [include] any preservatives,” Lee said. “It’s literally just three ingredients. People want to […] indulge in chocolate, and with something like this, you’re getting the added nutrients and the savoury taste”

Though there is a strong demand for healthy snack alternatives, Lee and Lam have faced challenges in marketing their product. They feel that their lack of business experience made the research and development process harder, as they had to start from scratch and learn along the way. In time, however, they have grown and learned how to create business plans, pitch their ideas effectively, and network with financers. They even presented their product on a recent episode of Dragons’ Den.

“At the end, what you saw on TV was very simple and clean, and it was [the result of] a lot of practicing,” Lam said. “Prior to that experience we had never really watched Dragons’ Den, so we took notes of all the questions that could possibly be asked and practiced in front of our friends and families and got their feedback.”

Lee and Lam are optimistic about the future of their fledgling company. ReMIXed has enjoyed some major successes already, both within the McGill community and in Montreal. Those interested in tasting ReMIXed’s acclaimed product can find BEANBARK at 12 locations in Quebec and Ontario and are sold on-campus at SNAX and some McGill dining halls.

Now that their products have hit the shelves in two provinces, the founders have turned their attention to new aspirations: Expanding their snack menu to satisfy different tastes and extending their reach across the country.

We’re thinking of developing new flavours later in the fall when other fruits come in,” Lee said. “Once this is established, we’ll move onto making a savoury line [….] We’re trying to get the Canadian market first before seeking anywhere else.”

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