Anandakumar (Anan) Palanichamy, an agricultural engineer by profession completed his master’s in food processing from University of Manitoba. He worked for few years in the corporate before finding his calling in developing specialty food products primarily from beetroot and founding a company, Dr Beetroot Canada dedicated towards commercialization of the concept.
Having grown up in a family of naturopaths and a decade long personal experiments with superfood ‘beetroot’ and being ‘food processor’ by profession, it was easy for Anan to identify products which have high natural medicinal properties and nutrients. After months of brainstorming, market research and applying his knowledge of products nutrients, he decided to go for specialty food products. Anan realized the medicinal properties and potential benefits of beetroot were under-utilized, so decided to dedicate himself towards commercial product development from beetroot.
Prior to initiating the business, Anan underwent a business training program at YMCA, Winnipeg to equip himself on small business development. Anan originally tried to develop Nutritional Supplements primarily from beetroot and approached the University of Manitoba for their contract manufacturing service. But the ‘indemnification clause’ favouring the service provider in the agreement triggered him to think twice to end up in dropping this idea. He then switched his idea to develop specialty food products development. As per the advice from Industrial Technology Advisors from federal government, he approached the ‘Food Development Centre’ in Manitoba. They advised him to wait for more than six months as they had backlogged projects to complete. Anan then decided to develop the products on his own. He then founded a commercial kitchen at ‘Knox United Church’ just 100 metres away from his place. He bought the required equipment and obtained the provincial license for his food products development and production. In three months, he developed 4 products; Candied beets, Beet Dip, Beet Ketchup and Beet Sauce.
Where there is a will, there is a way
After the initial phase of product development, Anan test-market his products on the taste; packaging; pricing; and marketability. He took his products to farmer’s market in downtown Winnipeg. where beet products received huge positive response and the buyers felt beet products were novel, nutritious, natural, chemical free, and most importantly local. The learning from first year were: ‘people were interested in such beet products’ and ‘the initiative ended up in a $35,000 credit card balance’!
The second-year goals were to develop few more beet products and test-market and to see if the credit card loan could be paid off. The products were made available in St. Norbert market and some stores in Manitoba and in some grand shows in Ottawa and Saskatoon. The company received tremendous response for the products, however the credit card balance increased to $55,000. It took 2 more years for Dr Beetroot to payoff then initial investment and breakeven. Anan clearly defined his product development process. Each product had to go through five stages: Conceptualization (3 months); Prototype development (3 months); Pilot manufacturing (3 months); Test-marketing (1 to 2 years); and Commercialization to retail stores (3 months). Anan had to drop first two of his products as they did not pass the test-marketing. It was only after 5 years of exploration phase, that the initiative became a commercial success. Currently 5 products are commercially selling across 4 dozen stores in Manitoba. The chain stores like Co-op, Sobeys, Safeways, Save on Foods and some independent specialty/grocery stores in Manitoba currently retail Dr Beetroot products. Six more products have now completed the test-marketing phase and are ready to hit the retail stores soon. After being the business tenant for few years in ‘Richardson Centre for Functional Foods & Nutraceuticals at University of Manitoba, Dr Beetroot bought and moved to a own 6500 sq. ft. commercial facility space in St. Leon Manitoba. Now Dr Beetroot is federally licensed and ready to supply their products beyond Manitoba.
Benefits of Beetroot
Taking cues from his past, Anan told “the benefits of beetroot are countless. I remember my mother curing my heatstroke by giving me beetroot to consume. Based on my advice, my wife Revathi also cured her anaemia issues”. One of the greatest benefits of beetroot is that it helps in lowering blood pressure by improving blood flow in the human body. Nitric Oxide in beetroot that simply widens the blood vessels also helps to increase oxygen supply in blood thereby leading to increased exercise performance and activeness in body.
What lies in Future?
Dr Beetroot has been recently named as ‘Most Unique Specialty Food Producers – Canada’ by LuxLife Magazine under their Food and Drinks Award 2019 category. The mission of Dr Beetroot is ‘beetrootifying food habits’ and vision is ‘bringing out more than 60 specialty beet products’ in next one decade to Grocery; Animal feed; Cosmetics; and Construction industries. The company is now looking to expand its reach across Canada and beyond through distributors as well as through reginal and territory franchise models.