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The Globe And Mail: Flourish

The Globe And Mail recently featured Flourish and our founder, Andrew, in an article! Here’s what they said...

How this exporting entrepreneur is building a pancake empire

Andrew Maida’s drive-thru addiction planted the seed for Flourish Pancakes.

The young entrepreneur was running another business, eating frozen waffles for breakfast and fast food for lunch, when he realized his diet was not doing him any favours.

“I was just eating out of a wrapper, going through the drive-thru and eating junk food all the time, trying to get a quick fix so I could stay at my desk,” says the 27-year-old founder and CEO of Toronto-based Flourish Pancakes.

Mr. Maida asked his brother Peter, a chef, to make him a healthier version of his go-to breakfast. The pancakes were good, and he saw the opportunity for a better-for-you version of the convenient food available in grocery stores.

Flourish Pancakes launched in May, 2018: “Online because I knew nothing about grocery,” Mr. Maida says. It caught the eye of District Ventures Capital, founded by entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den cast member Arlene Dickinson. With a mission to accelerate Canadian companies to global success, a member of the District Ventures team reached out to Mr. Maida.

“I went into their accelerator program, which changed the course of my business and I guess also the course of my life.”

In 2019, Flourish Pancakes was one of five successful applicants out of 100, receiving $150,000 for a minority stake, along with mentoring and advisory services. Mr. Maida shut down his other companies to focus on his pancake empire.

A year and a half ago, the company began exporting its various high-protein, low-carb and plant-based pancake and waffle mixes to the United States.

Today, Flourish Pancakes has annual revenue “over seven figures,” and Mr. Maida is projecting exponential growth over the next four years, largely south of the border where there are 330 million people compared with around 35 million in Canada. The U.S. market accounts for about 10 per cent of the company’s overall sales and 14 per cent of online sales.

“We’re still getting started there,” Mr. Maida says. “We expect the U.S. to overtake Canadian sales over the next two years but, for at least for the next 18 months, we’ll still be mostly in Canada and we’ll always have a focus on selling here.”

 

Like Canada, U.S. sales began online and expanded into grocery stores a year ago. Flourish Pancakes is available in about 1,000 American grocery stores, including many Central Market, United Supermarkets, Bristol Farms, AGV Foods, Lowes Foods, Price Chopper Supermarkets and Key Foods groceries, mainly in New York, Texas and California.

Flourish Pancakes sources most ingredients in Canada and, if not here, in the U.S. whenever possible, and contracts its manufacturing in Canada. During the pandemic, getting its products across the border became difficult, and supply chain setbacks also posed a challenge, Mr. Maida says.

“We have no idea how much it’s going to cost and we have no idea when it’s going to arrive. We don’t have a lot of experience with some of these things. I haven’t seen wars and market crashes and pandemics ever in my lifetime, so we’re learning how to deal with these things every day.”

Flourish is part of a growing Canadian agri-food and seafood export sector worth $82.3-billion last year, a record high, representing 7.8 per cent of all merchandise exported from Canada. The U.S. accounts for 55.5 per cent of those exports, with China coming in a distant second at 11.7 per cent, Japan (6.3), the European Union (4.9) and Mexico (3.3) rounding out the top five.

Over the past decade, Canadian exports of agri-food and fish-and-seafood products have grown by 72.3 per cent, according to James Voldock, a spokesman for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. There are myriad challenges for small and medium-sized companies interested in exporting agri-food products, Mr. Voldock says.

Market access can be a time-consuming negotiation between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and authorities in the target market. Then, he says, once export certificates are in place, the exporter’s responsibility is to meet all requirements and have all necessary documentation.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) may face additional hurdles in understanding the destination market and the various regulations for packaging, labelling and food safety, as well as a lack of contacts and brand awareness, Mr. Voldock adds.

Agri-Food Canada, along with other federal, provincial and territorial departments, have several services available to help SMEs, he explains. They include access to market intelligence reports, funding for market development and promotional activities, free access to promotional material, support to attend international trade shows, and on-the-ground support from trade commissioners worldwide.

In recognition of the financial costs and risk associated with exporting agri-food products, Global Affairs Canada offers the CanExport program that provides up to $50,000 to help SMEs break into new international markets.

Since 2018, the five-year, $1.75-million In-Market Partnership Fund has worked to develop priority international markets, including the United States, Mexico, the European Union, India, Greater China, Japan, South Korea, Southeast Asia and the Gulf, Mr. Voldock says.

The federal government has also invested heavily in agriculture and agri-food innovation through its $128-million AgriInnovate and $338-million AgriScience programs, as well as the Protein Industries Canada supercluster aimed at increasing the value of Canadian crops by accelerating innovation and competitiveness in the country’s plant protein sector.

“Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector is one of the most innovative, productive and sustainable in the world,” Mr. Voldock says.

For Flourish Pancakes, the Asian market is enticing, but for now, export markets beyond the United States are on the back burner, Mr. Maida says.

“We really want to have North America figured out,” he says. “There’s a lot of work to do in Canada still. We’re trying to really push the pace here … and the same in the U.S.”

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