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Alberta Yield: Passionoat provides dairy alternative in powder form

Calgarian Zachary Champoux said there’s nothing better than a cup of instant coffee in the morning after a wake-up while backcountry camping.

If you have a coffee, many people want to have cream. For Champoux, an animal activist and vegan for the past 12 years, finding something to put in the coffee meant packing a container of oat or soy milk with him.

How about Passionoat?

“I guess it’s been started because I just thought it would be great to give dedicated vegans the opportunity to have a delicious cup of coffee, whether they’re on top of a mountain, or at a gas station in the middle of nowhere,” he said.

“This is like a really easy, convenient accessible way to make a black coffee more delicious.”

While there are liquid oat milk liquid products out there, Passionoat is creating a single-serve, dry-powered coffee creamer. It’s perfect for those not wanting to tote around liquid.

“I don’t think there are any real options there for a vegan unless they want to buy like a UHT container of milk,” Champoux said.

The animal activist in him wants to foster the expansion of the non-dairy industry in Alberta and Canada. Frankly, he’d like to see cows no longer part of the equation.

Market saturation

As Champoux was surveying the market to see what was available, he was hearing from retailers that more people were coming forward with liquid oat milk products.

“I decided that we need to find a different niche in the marketplace,” Champoux said.

One of the advantages is that it’s not necessary to ship something that’s 90 per cent water. Dry powder is efficient to ship, he said.  Another advantage of the powdered version is the long shelf life.

“We noticed during the pandemic that people were trying to buy products that they knew would last for a long time, so they can keep them a pantry, that they won’t have to worry about not being able to find the grocery store in a week or two,” he said.

“And powdered milk can last for months, if not years.”

Finally, it comes down to single-serve packaging. You can use it and you’re done.

Serial entrepreneur – Alberta Yield directed them to listen to customers  

Like many founders, Champoux calls himself a serial entrepreneur. Diving into the agrifood tech world was a bit different. 

Through Platform Calgary’s Alberta Yield program, Champoux said they were able to connect with so many high-quality mentors helping guide them through the process.

He said the most important part, however, was the customer discovery.

“It’s really easy to come up with an idea and think we need to protect this idea until it’s fully fleshed out and you’re ready to bring it to market and sell it,” Champoux said.

“But fundamentally, the idea isn’t worth much, and you really got to talk to your customers to make sure that it’s solving a problem that they actually have.”

Champoux said they’re already working with a processing centre to get the product ready for a full launch this October / November.  They want to develop a marketing base and build strong revenue.

Then they’ll look at bolstering the product line. One of those is a fortified powdered milk product for the developing world. Perhaps even baby formula.

Ultimately, they want to capitalize on the post-dairy era.

“There’s an unstoppable rise of plant-based alternatives,” Champoux said.