Fathom Nickel: Past-producing property containing several of today’s highly sought-after metals is attracting attention for good reason

Fathom Nickel (CSE:FNI) is, first and foremost, a high-grade story.  There is a reason that the company managed to raise $11.5 million last year before going public on the Canadian Securities Exchange in May 2021. That reason is the historic Rottenstone nickel deposit. 

Nestled in northern Saskatchewan, Fathom’s Albert Lake project is home to the formerly producing Rottenstone mine, which yielded eye-popping nickel grades of over 3% during the 1960s. 

Fathom acquired the property in 2015 during the bottom of the nickel cycle and has since expanded its holdings in the area. Today, Albert Lake consists of over 90,100 hectares, of which more than 80,000 remain virtually unexplored. The company plans to apply modern exploration methods on the property in a bid to prove that those historic grades were no fluke.

Chief Executive Officer Brad Van Den Bussche and Vice President Exploration Ian Fraser founded the company in 2015 with the goal of acquiring highly prospective battery metals projects in favourable jurisdictions. They spent time in the US early on, going from conference to conference in the battery technology space to get a feel for which metals were going to be needed as technology advanced. It was nickel that won the day.

“Ian and I both had some experience with Albert Lake and Rottenstone from years ago, so we knew the asset had had very high-grade nickel, copper, PGE’s (platinum group elements)  and cobalt,” Van Den Bussche explains. “And we were able to get it at the bottom of the nickel market for a very good price. Basically, we picked up the core property for some shares and a royalty that we recently bought back.”

According to Van Den Bussche, it was indeed the grades that first attracted them to the project.

“It was a combination of the grades and the mineralogy – the type of minerals that were in the mix. There’s a built-in hedge having nickel, copper, platinum/palladium and cobalt in there,” the CEO says. “It’s one of the highest grade nickel deposits mined in Canada.” 

Globally, there is a handful of very high-grade nickel deposits, such as Norilsk in Russia. Closer to home, the Raglan mine in Quebec and Voisey’s Bay in Newfoundland both stand out. The Rottenstone grade was essentially as good – or even higher – than some of the biggest economic deposits currently in operation. Fathom’s team believes that Albert Lake’s geological setting  supports the thesis that the Rottenstone is one of several variable size, high-grade nickel deposits similar to the multiple deposits that make up the Raglan nickel camp.

Not all nickel deposits are created equally, of course. There are essentially three types of nickel sources: limonite ore, saprolite ore and nickel sulphide ore. Currently, nickel sulphide is the preferred source to develop high purity Class 1 nickel which goes into creating nickel sulphate required for battery production. The pathway to creating Class 1 nickel from limonite and saprolite ores is more costly and typically creates a much larger environmental footprint.

It should come as no surprise that Albert Lake is a sulphide deposit. From the outset, sulphide opportunities were the focus for Fathom’s team.

“From Day One, we were focused on sulphide deposits,” Van Den Bussche says. “Our mandate is to look for electric vehicle battery minerals that are high in grade, particularly nickel. Nickel sulphide deposits are basically the main pathway to Class 1 nickel, which is necessary in the production of stainless steel and the EV/battery components.”

The mineralization of the historic Rottenstone deposit is unique and contains several notable associated metals. Initial sample metallurgy indicates metal recoveries of greater than 90% nickel, copper and cobalt are possible – all essential ingredients for the green economy. Furthermore, initial studies indicate recovery in excess of 80% can be expected from palladium and platinum.

Things look encouraging at the historic Rottenstone deposit, but with 80,000 hectares left to explore, the challenge for Fathom is to find out whether those grades extend throughout the property. The original deposit itself was small, which doesn’t faze Van Den Bussche, but he knows that the team must prove there is more there than just Rottenstone.

“We need to focus on understanding the system,” Van Den Bussche says. “Those kinds of high grades have to come from a very large system. There’s just no way in the geological model concept that you can have those kinds of grades without a large melting pot. The Rottenstone mine has to be one deposit within a much larger system.”

To that end, Fathom is planning an airborne electro magnetic survey and follow-up ground geophysics to zero in on prospective drill targets this year. A key part of its exploration activity is utilizing a portable Vanta XRF Analyzer (pXRF) to provide real-time litho-geochemical, multi-element data on core from current drill holes, and on historical drill core left by previous operators.

The pXRF results confirm the presence of nickel and copper in present and historic drill cores, and assay results will also test for the presence of platinum group elements, a significant component of the historic Rottenstone deposit that is not detectable via the pXRF. 

Saskatchewan may not seem like the first place a company would visit to explore for nickel, but the province is quickly emerging as a leading global mineral jurisdiction. The Fraser Institute’s annual investment attractiveness survey ranked Saskatchewan in third place in 2020, with a particular spotlight on the province’s mineral potential. The prolific Trans-Hudson Corridor runs directly through the province then veers east to cover northern Manitoba, northern Quebec, northern Labrador and across to Greenland. 

What has held Saskatchewan back from developing its own world-class base metal deposits has historically been, in part, the political situation. But that has changed completely in the last 20-plus years, according to Van Den Bussche. 

“During much of the 1970s and 1980s, a Saskatchewan Crown Corporation (SMDC) had the rights to become up to a 50% partner in exploration projects in the province. While a lot of exploration and development was occurring next door in Manitoba, many exploration companies chose not to take on a government partner and explore in Saskatchewan during this period,” Van Den Bussche explains.

“But that has completely changed and now Saskatchewan is a great jurisdiction to work in. There is a lot of opportunity, and it’s getting a lot of interest from many companies, including the majors. Rio Tinto is a major explorer in the province, and BHP is starting to look as well – they already know Saskatchewan because they’re a big player in the potash industry. Saskatchewan is in the right place in the system, and it’s got the potential to have continuations of some of the Manitoba base metal opportunities, including nickel.”

Fathom is operating during a wild time in the nickel industry. The silvery-gray metal is an essential component in electric vehicle batteries, and manufacturers are scrambling to secure safe supplies. As the green energy economy ramps up, so too does nickel demand – so much so that in early 2022, trading was suspended on the London Metals Exchange after nickel prices breached the $100,000 per tonne mark.

For Van Den Bussche, the dynamics of the current nickel market point to the necessity of developing a safe, stable supply of the metal within North America.

“There is definite urgency to try to lock up some supply of nickel from mines that are currently producing, but also to feed the supply chain two, three, four or five years out. Good projects in good jurisdictions that have a pathway to growing a resource and getting into production are essential. I think there’s going to be a huge move to gain control of the raw materials needed for these strategic businesses.”

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Learn more about Fathom Nickel at https://fathomnickel.com/.

Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine: The Mining Issue – Now Live!

Welcome to the latest issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, your source for in-depth stories of entrepreneurs from a wealth of different industries.

The more the world changes, the more entrepreneurs seek out new opportunities to adapt. No industry has shown a capacity for resilience quite like the mining industry has, and the CSE has witnessed firsthand the resurgence in interest in mining and exploration companies going public.

In this issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, we highlight individuals and companies who are helping to provide opportunities in the mining space closer to home. We shine a spotlight on a mining-focused diversity and inclusion expert and six publicly-listed mining companies on the CSE that are putting the pedal to the metal to meet demand. 

The CSE-listed companies featured in this issue include:

Check out Mining Issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine here:

Zoglo’s Incredible Food: Exclusive technology and decades of experience create a foundation for success

The food industry is in the midst of a major shift toward plant-based alternatives, and consumers who already make plant-based foods part of their diet know that their flavour and texture has improved remarkably in the last few years. Some even taste just like meat.

Ontario-based Zoglo’s Incredible Food (CSE:ZOG) pioneered the art of producing plant-based meat substitutes and knows the ins and outs of this fast-growing sector as well as any corporate team, having been in business for nearly 35 years.

The company’s secret to producing top-shelf, plant-based proteins lies in its disruptive technology, which consists of a new extrusion process that builds fibres in vegetable proteins. The technology enables a texture that Zoglo’s Chief Executive Officer Anthony Morello calls “the closest thing to traditional meats that we’ve ever seen.”

Meanwhile, societal trends go hand in hand with Zoglo’s vision to become a global entity.

Studies show that a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diet not only has health and environmental benefits, but also a noteworthy impact on lowering food costs. An Oxford University study revealed that a vegan diet can cost some 29% less than a meat diet, while the flexitarian diet was the next cheapest.

In an early December interview with Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, Morello explained how Zoglo’s leverages decades of experience to distinguish itself in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Zoglo’s has been in business for much longer than most of its competitors. What makes the company unique in the plant-based food market?

When Zoglo’s first began, we didn’t refer to these products as being plant-based, but rather we called them vegetarian. A lot of products were good, but frankly not great, because of the technology available at that time. Over the last five years, there’s been a real technology shift allowing for plant-based products to come closer to the taste and texture of real meat.

What makes Zoglo’s different is our technology. A lot of our technology does not exist in North America yet. We have a distinct advantage over our competitors in the products that we’re making, which allows us to create a much wider assortment of options.

What do you make of the growing attention around the plant-based industry? Do you think it’s a fad or is it here to stay?

This is not a trend or a fad. Through the course of my career, I’ve seen a lot of trends in the food industry, whether it be sugar-free or gluten-free, but this is a complete food shift. It doesn’t hapepn very often. We’re on the cusp of seeing something that is going to change the way people eat. 

There are three distinct groups of people that are looking towards plant-based as a solution for their dietary needs. Younger people, or Gen Z, are looking at it as a need to help the environment, or animal welfare. Older people, like myself, are hearing our doctors tell us that we have to eat less red meat.

In Canada, cultural reasons also play a part: so many people come from different facets of the world, where vegetarianism and veganism are a part of the diet. These three dynamics are making for a perfect storm of food development.

Zoglo’s recently acquired plant-based food producer Monday Swiss UK. What was behind the decision?

We wanted to have its specialized extrusion process at our fingertips. It allows for the production of pea protein or soy protein in a way that will give you a similar experience to meat from a mouthfeel and texture perspective. This is a really distinct advantage because it opens up the category to a much broader audience and attracts flexitarian consumers.

How are you planning to grow the business? Is it going to be organic growth or M&A?

There are going to be a lot of mergers and acquisitions in this space in North America over the next five to 10 years, but I think our growth will be a combination of both. Of all the different competitors we have in our space in North America, there’s a lot of small players that will likely not last. Other large players are going to get into it in a bigger way, and already Kellogg’s is dabbling with Morningstar, and Conagra with Gardein.

They’re all going to need some form of plant-based option within their portfolios. Also, plant-based options are going to appear more in the food service industry with restaurants. There’s great room here for growth and expansion, and certainly for M&A. We want to be the best that we can be in this space and carve out Zoglo’s as a brand that’s recognized globally.

What are the industry trends you’re noticing in the plant-based food market, and how are you attempting to utilize them to the fullest?

Trends are developed by the consumer at the end of the day, and wider acceptance of products is how the trends evolve. There is so much news, attention and awareness around plant-based lifestyles, not only from a food perspective but also from environmental and health perspectives. People are curious, and they’re continuing to evolve and develop their interests.

Our position is a little different than most of our competitors because of the variety that we’re bringing to the market. We’re offering the consumer more options to incorporate plant-based foods into their meals and diets.

Food is more expensive in grocery stores now. Have you found that inflationary pressures have affected your business?

If anything, plant-based food is going to become a more economical way to purchase food. The reality is the resources required to farm animals are getting more expensive. Again, the effect that it has on our climate and our soil is a challenge that we need to deal with.

There is so much more stability in the cost of raw materials with plant-based ingredients. Because plant-based products have a stable pricing structure, consumers can know exactly what they’re going to pay week in and week out for groceries.

Have you had trouble with supply chain disruption, and if so how are you tackling that?

No, we haven’t experienced anything as of yet, which is quite remarkable because we’re currently bringing all of our products from Europe. We’re manufacturing all the products in Europe at Monday Swiss.

Our plan is to open a production facility in North America by the end of 2022, take the technology that we have in Europe and essentially cut and paste it in North America.

That will do two things: it will ease the pressure of capacity in Europe so that we’ve got the capacity to continue to grow there, and it will give us more capacity in North America as we grow our brand and our product SKUs.

With the acquisition of Monday Swiss, we have access to a facility in the northeast US. It’s the right size and the right footprint for what we need. We’re looking at the new facility as a potential location for us, and if not there then somewhere in southeastern Canada.

Finally, are there any misconceptions about plant-based foods among people that you’d like to clear up?

The biggest misconception is that all plant-based food is created equal. We are a perfect example of that. We’ve been in the business for over 30 years. Our green box lineup was made with a different technology than the black box items we recently launched.

If you taste and prepare those products like meals, the food experience is vastly different. It is important to read the ingredient decks, look at the cooking instructions, and make sure that you’re getting what you think you’re getting. There are a lot of counterfeit products out there.

As time evolves, technology has allowed these products to get a lot better. Three years from now, it’s going to be much better again.

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Learn more about Zoglo’s Incredible Food at https://zoglos.com/.

The Yumy Candy Company: Healthy candy becomes a reality thanks to a team that does the right things for the right reasons

In today’s food and beverage marketplace, consumers demand healthy choices in all product segments. Candy is an item defined in many people’s minds by recipes laden with sugar, which is not exactly what one tends to associate with good health. But change is underway, and at the vanguard of this evolution is Erica Williams, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Yumy Candy Company (CSE:TYUM).

Vancouver-based Yumy Candy Company is a leader in better-for-you candy, not only because it is an emerging category ripe for new entrepreneurs, but also because it fits the kinds of goals that Williams and her team are committed to accomplishing.

In a wide-ranging interview with Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine in early December, Williams discussed her strategy for launching The Yumy Candy brand, the market it plays in, and why the company’s products are already segment leaders.

The better-for-you category is self-explanatory on the surface. But how big is this segment of the food and beverage industry and what drives a successful product and brand?

The better-for-you confectionary market is just getting started. It is not a trend. I think that is the number one thing I am asked. We are the first and only vegan and better-for-you confectionary company to go public, which is a huge accomplishment, and it gives investors and opportunity to invest in the future of the confectionary sector.

I think we will see more and more better-for-you candy companies IPO, as this is a growing space and still has lots of upside potential.

The better-for-you space has been growing substantially over the last five years. I’ve seen it with the shift from high-sugar products to low-sugar alternatives, and then it was from meat and dairy to vegan options, with initially the plant-based meat, and now the plant-based dairy industry taking off. I believe the vegan confectionery sector is just at the beginning of its growth.

In 2020, the global health and wellness food market was valued at US$733 billion and projected to increase to $1 trillion by 2026. In 2019, the sugar-free market in the US alone was a $1.88 billion industry. Over 60% of consumers say that working toward a more plant-based diet is the trend they are looking for.

What drives a successful brand is a winning product and a winning team, and I think we have both. At the end of the day, it comes down to what the consumer wants, and listening to what they are looking for. Innovation is key and that’s exactly what we’re doing here at The Yumy Candy Company.

Candy is a large and competitive market segment. What advantages do Yumy Candy products have? How did you decide on these and then develop products based on that insight?

I’ve been in the health and wellness space for a long time and have my finger on the pulse of what people are looking for, and that is essential to give your brand that edge.

One of the biggest competitive advantages is that we are really focused on taste and texture. Not only are Yumy Bears the best tasting, but they are also much softer and don’t get stuck in your teeth like other candies. You no longer have to sacrifice taste and satisfaction when choosing a better-for-you candy.

Going into our launch, we did extensive market research in the confectionery space and it showed that consumers are looking for new vegan and environmentally sustainable options that are better for human health and animal welfare. We realized there was a significant gap on the shelves. Being one of the first better-for-you alternatives in the aisle has given us a huge competitive advantage. Companies like Hershey’s and Haribo are slowly starting to make adaptations to come into the space, but hopefully by that time we have claimed the unclaimed market share.

The second competitive advantage of our products is that we are up to 92% less sugar than traditional candy. There is a huge trend toward low-sugar items. Most people are aware of how overconsumption of high-sugar products has negative impacts on overall health, especially for children.

And the third competitive advantage we identified is the movement away from sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners, because they have been shown to influence blood sugar levels. We cater to the demand for great tasting, naturally sweetened products without using any sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners. And then over the last two years, immunity and health has been at the top of people’s minds. Consumers are becoming more conscious of what they are putting into their body and that is another reason we are seeing people gravitate toward healthier confectionery options.

The distributors you utilize supply many of the largest food and pharmacy retailers in Canada. How extensive do you see distribution of your products becoming in terms of store numbers and over what period?

We wanted to make sure we partnered with distributors that have strong retail partners. We recently partnered with a couple of Canada’s largest distributors of quality health and confectionary products. That will bring us significant growth in sales and increase market share. Working with distributors with all of the major retailers in Canada, such as Whole Foods, Loblaws, Sobeys – they have distribution to over 7,000 vendor locations – we expect to be in thousands of locations in the next 12 months.

One of our distributors has been the main factor in establishing and distributing many great bands and companies in the confectionary space, one of which was recently acquired for US$360 million in our direct better-for-you space. Star Marketing, our other main distributor, has won awards for their relationships with retail chains such as London Drugs. We are excited that The Yumy Candy Company is well on its way to gaining tremendous market share in a relatively short period of time.

Walk us through sales to date and your marketing strategy. How important is brick-and-mortar retail compared to online sales?

Our sales strategy was to go directly to consumers. We wanted to get into the hands of consumers, let them taste the product and then let them decide. We conducted in-store product tastings, attended trade shows, went to local markets – every community event possible to get in front of our target customers. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and we knew we had a winning product.

Our sales strategy was to establish a strong retail presence in a short amount of time and that was really to start with brick-and-mortar retail, and that allowed us to grow across Canada and establish that strong retail presence.

We also launched our e-commerce. Given recent events, people have stayed home and are looking to shop online, so we did them in tandem. We recently scaled into a large nationwide distributor, which allows us access to the large retailers in the country, as well as the largest volume of brick-and-mortar businesses. That has brought us double-digit percentage growth each quarter and we expect to see that well into 2022 and beyond.

Being a young female founder, I knew it was important to be omnipresent throughout our marketing strategy. We engaged in multiple layers of strategy, from influencer marketing with both macro influencers, or people with over a million followers, and micro influencers with more intimate but loyal followings. And we drove traffic through social media advertisements.

We also leveraged tried and true methods such as traditional product tasting teams across the country, in-store print advertising, billboards, and physical guerilla marketing like vehicle wraps. We see both brick-and-mortar and online sales as important, with an obvious trend toward online shopping, which is why we are currently scaling to different online platforms using traditional and new technological methods such as obtaining a large Instagram and Facebook footprint, SEO, online PPC and geotagging. But our product is a convenient grab-and-go snack and will always excel in the grocery, pharmacy, convenience and retail channels which we will continue to expand throughout the leading national retailers.

It would be great to hear some of the feedback from retailers and consumers.

We’ve got a lot of positive feedback, which is amazing. One of our main sources is product tastings on social media and strong relationships with our retail partners. Everyone enjoys the delicious fruity flavours we offer and the soft and squishy texture that does not get stuck in your teeth. People also love the variety of low-sugar candy and that we are 100% vegan. Overall, people love to have healthy treats that they can enjoy and feel good about eating, and that’s what we’re all about at Yumy Candy.

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Learn more about The Yumy Candy Company at https://yumybear.com/. 

Nepra Foods: Innovation and exclusive technology underpin a business strategy achieving rapid sales growth

Nepra Foods (CSE:NPRA) went public in September 2021 in an oversubscribed $7.5 million IPO that underlined the interest in plant-based meat, a market which, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, could top US$162 billion in size by 2030. The company has its roots in the gluten-free ingredients sector and is led by food industry veteran David Wood, whose grandfather started a butchers’ supply business in the 1930s.

Wood and partner Chadwick White, a master baker and now Chief Innovation Officer and Co-Founder of Nepra, were involved in the success of Udi’s Gluten Free Foods and Gluten Free Baking Solutions.

Nepra was born from a desire to create a consumer brand business using the company’s own innovative formulations. Today, it is a vertically integrated group, producing and selling multiple products across four segments: proteins, dairy alternatives, baked snacks, and spreads and ingredients. Sales in the nine months to September 30, 2021, totaled C$4.26 million, up from $1.75 million in the year-earlier period. Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine spoke to Wood, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, to find out what he anticipates the next phase of the Nepra story will look like.

Why do you think there is such a big move toward healthy foods and plant-based meat alternatives?

I think people have different reasons. Obviously, the environment is one big one. A lot of people want to do whatever they can and raising animals in the way we do is not the best for the environment. I also think the pandemic has brought on people’s concern about their personal health and they realize that what they eat is instrumental to how they feel. When people go plant-based, most of them don’t go fully vegetarian or vegan. They just eat more plants and less meat, and I think when they do they find out that they feel better. Their immune system response is better and their digestive systems work a bit better. And then there’s the animal cruelty side that a lot of people are concerned about, and just how we treat animals in general.

Tell us more about your proprietary THP (textured hemp protein). What is it? How did you get into it? Why is it such a game-changer?

When you make a meat alternative, you’re taking the protein from the plant and you have to texturize it to give it a similar texture to an animal product. Mostly it’s done with soy. But now they are texturizing all sorts of things – pea and chickpea and fava bean. But we are texturizing hemp, and as far as we know we’re the only ones currently doing that and we’re having really good luck. 

The biggest advantage is the flavour. Soy has an off flavour so you’ve got to cover that up when you make products out of it, and you end up using a lot of salt and other ingredients. Hemp has a very mild flavour. When we texturize it, the base product actually has a turkey flavour so it’s much easier to formulate meat analogues out of. Soy has some negative health aspects to it, too.

The reason we got into hemp is that our historical business is ingredients in the gluten-free space, so when you take gluten out of a product you have to replace it with something. And that’s how we came across working with hemp and found out that it’s very functional. Not only does it have good flavour, it’s functional when you bake with it or make food products out of it. It has a similar structural quality to eggs. You can take hemp protein and whip it into a meringue, so this really gives us an advantage on the food development side to come up with new products. As we started playing with it more, we found that not only could we use it for baking, but we could also make a lot of other products out of it.

Meat analogues are only one category. New products we’re coming out with include spaghetti and meatballs, a frozen food line and a pasta line. The spaghetti is actually made out of hemp as well because it’s high in protein, high in fibre and very healthy. So, as people eat more plant-based diets, they’ve got to come up with good protein sources. And they don’t necessarily want to eat things that look like meat. We’ve got formulations like pasta that is a good source of protein, or we also came out with snack items like pretzels.

You raised $7.5 million in your IPO. How are you going to use these funds to grow the business?

The company was founded in 2016 and our core business is ingredients. We import and distribute ingredients to all kinds of manufacturers across North America. We’re growing that business and because supply chains are a problem, especially when you’re bringing products in from overseas, we’ve used some of that capital to increase inventory, just so we can weather some of the shipping delays.

We’re also building out our facility in Colorado to produce more of the textured hemp protein and more of our high-protein flour. We’re currently selling hemp flour that is used in baking and that’s about a 55% protein content. And we’re putting in a pilot production line so we can produce the ProPasta meals here in our facility in Colorado to a point. When we really get into big distribution, then we’ll go to a co-manufacturer that has larger lines that can build the ProPasta meals. We’ve also hired a lot of staff. We’ve had to bring on quality control people and commercialization people. So that’s been some of the spend as well.

What other news should investors expect in the short to medium term?

We’ve announced the launch of our ProPasta line. Our big retail push is going to be in March, when there’s a big trade show in the US that is the place to bring your products to market and get in front of all the retailers.

Then we’ve got some new meat alternative products we’re working on. We’re finishing the purchase of the equipment for that. We will have some products coming out probably toward the middle of next year. 

The other thing we’re working on is the egg replacement capability that hemp has. In the food industry, when big food companies use eggs, they usually don’t use liquid eggs, they use egg powder and normally egg white powder. But because it’s an allergen and because it’s an animal product, a lot of food manufacturers want to get rid of it. We’ve developed an egg white powder replacement using hemp that will sell commercially. We use it in our own products, but we’ll also sell it. That’s going to be a game-changer because it will be a unique product. There are very few plant proteins that can mimic eggs so this is going to be a big item for us on the B2B side.

What would you say to investors looking at this space? What makes Nepra Foods stand out?

You look for innovation, you look for companies that are meeting the needs of consumers, and consumers are looking for nutrition and taste and texture. A lot of the plant protein companies are using old ingredients – soy or gluten. It’s not very innovative. I think a lot of companies, too, if you look at small public companies, don’t have revenue, or have very low revenue. We are not a new company. We’ve been around for years and we’ve got existing revenue and we’ve got multiple revenue streams because we sell ingredients B2B. And then we also have our own consumer side. I think it really gives us a leg up for success in the future. 

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Learn more about Nepra Foods at https://neprafoods.com/.

Nabati Foods Global: Reach into retail, food service and international markets fuels expectations for strong growth in 2022

Consumers are making a conscious choice to eat more plant-based foods, both from a personal health perspective and to lessen their impact on the environment. Recently listed Nabati Foods Global (CSE:MEAL) is well positioned to benefit from this trend by providing natural, plant-based, gluten- and soy-free foods for consumers who make healthy eating a priority.

Operating since 2014, the family-founded food technology company has four signature product lines: dairy free cheesecakes, cheese alternatives, plant-based meats and a plant-based liquid egg alternative.

“There are a lot of consumers, so-called flexitarians, that are plant-based-curious and want to dip their toes into the water for the first time,” Nabati Foods interim Chief Executive Officer Michael Aucoin tells Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine. “And for us, that means providing the best experience possible – designing our products with great flavour and providing great product delivery.”

Aucoin brings more than 25 years of consumer packaged goods experience to his role, including as former Vice President of Sales at Hershey Canada. Nabati is relying on Aucoin’s expertise to help the company achieve its next phase of growth.

That growth is being driven by rising consumer demand for plant-based foods. In the United States, the market is valued at US$7 billion and expanded by 27% in 2020, according to the Plant-Based Foods Association. Interestingly, growth topped 25% in all US census regions, underscoring that the shift to healthier food choices is very broad-based in nature.

Nabati has already established first-mover advantage in one part of the Canadian marketplace with its Nabati Plant Eggz, a plant-based egg alternative that is free of all major allergens. The product is gluten-free, soy-free, cholesterol-free, vegan, kosher and made without genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or refined sugar.

Unlike other plant-based food producers that focus solely on the retail consumer, Nabati can also tailor its packaging to meet food service industry needs, a market segment that Aucoin says the company is attracting strong interest from, particularly due to the innovative nature of its products.

“A great example of this is our team being able to develop a cheese product that really mimics pizza cheese in terms of milk quality, which isn’t always the case with plant-based cheese, so we’re pretty excited about that,” Aucoin says.

According to Aucoin, the key to growing the company’s revenue is building a distribution network, and to that end Nabati already has products featured in more than 700 locations across North America. Some of its more recognizable nationwide retailers in Canada include Sobeys, Metro, Safeway, Whole Foods and online at Costco.ca, as well as food service outlets such as Cobs Bread and Mucho Burrito.

“The company has established distribution in South Korea, with other countries about to come on board,” Aucoin adds. In October 2021, Nabati announced that it was partnering with Nanum Foods to distribute Nabati Plant Eggz and dairy-free cheesecakes to retail store in South Korea and Vietnam. The products will be sold in Asia under the brand ITABAN.

Also in October, the company said it was partnering with IMCD Japan, a leading specialty chemicals and food ingredients distributor, to distribute Nabati’s full product line in Japan. The partnership will focus on distribution via food service, industrial and grocery channels.

“It’s about taking those great products and putting them in front of more consumers, building out our marketing plans to be able to communicate the quality of those products, and finding ways to have people sample. I think that’s one of the big opportunities across plant-based products,” Aucoin explains.

Aucoin says that Nabati has an innovative R&D team to determine how the company can evolve its product portfolio beyond the current four categories and capitalize on the next big plant-based food idea.

Over the next year, the interim CEO says he wants to see Nabati deliver “dramatic” revenue growth to a point where gross margin dollars translate all the way to the bottom line. 

“If you look at what our team’s done the last six to nine months, they’ve set up the business from an operational standpoint where we have material availability now to ship significantly more, which is a very good setup,” Aucoin says.

He adds that from a capacity perspective, the Nabati team has also been mindful of securing adequate inventories of strategic ingredients, as there’s been concern within the industry about availability of these crucial inputs.

In the longer term, Aucoin wants the company to continue to understand where the consumer is going and to enhance its brand to become an unquestioned leader in the plant-based space.

“In five to 10 years, we’ll have a material footprint in other major markets around the world, continue to evaluate whitespace opportunities from an R&D perspective to broaden our product line, and build upon our past success,” Aucoin concludes. “We’re very bullish about our future.”

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Learn more about Nabati Foods Global at https://invest.nabatifoods.com/.

Blender Bites takes its delicious blend of nutrition and convenience across North America

As with many a budding food-focused entrepreneur before her, it all began in the kitchen for Chelsie Hodge.

Incorporating three smoothies into her daily diet had Hodge feeling sharp and energized. But on the flip side, preparing the healthy drinks with fresh ingredients took no small amount of time each day, and what did not get used ended up taking significant space in her refrigerator or being discarded.

Leveraging her experience as a business development officer at plant-based protein and sport nutrition powerhouse Vega, Hodge made it her mission to reformulate what it means to make a smoothie.

Her invention was a frozen “puck” containing everything required for a tasty, nutritious smoothie, save for a splash of water, soy milk or other dairy alternative. No fuss, no food waste, just a few seconds in the blender and the drink is ready to enjoy. 

Some four years later, Hodge’s clever creation is available in more than 850 grocery stores across Canada. And in September of last year, Blender Bites (CSE:BITE) became a publicly traded company, with founder Hodge at the helm as Chief Executive Officer. 

In Blender Bites’ first year, Hodge’s kitchen was the centre of production, her mother and aunts by her side to help make enough product to meet demand. 

While many makers of healthy foods look to specialty stores for distribution, Hodge saw the potential to go mainstream right out of the gate. 

Whole Foods Market and Fresh St. Market/IGA, two of Western Canada’s largest grocery store chains, were the first major retailers to embrace the pre-portioned smoothie. Safeway, Sobeys, Save-On-Foods and other leading grocery brands weren’t far behind.

“The freezer category was just dying for innovation,” Hodge explains. There’s this mindset amongst consumers that frozen is unhealthy and fresh is so much better. Education is needed to change people’s minds, as frozen actually has more nutrition most of the time because it is flash frozen.”

Blender Bites is innovative when it comes to packaging as well, by being minimal rather than fancy. This commitment to respecting the environment complements the nutritional profile of the product, which is certified organic, vegan and non-GMO. With gluten, dairy, soy and added sugars absent from the ingredient list, Blender Bites are perfect for consumers with food intolerances, too.

Today, Hodge says Blender Bites is growing “very rapidly” after launching into Costco in Eastern Canada with reformulated and rebranded products in three lines: green dtox, power berry and vita smoothie. The products are currently available at Costco locations in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. 

Just how rapidly the business is expanding became clear recently when the company announced a 990% year-on-year increase in purchase order volume for December 2021, to $495,000. Demand was strong all around, with orders also coming in from existing and new club stores carrying the brand, plus many of the Canadian retailers with Blender Bites already on their shelves. 

With a well-established, and growing, presence in Canada, Blender Bites has its sights set on the US market. It announced its first order from “the world’s leading club store chain” in December and expects more US club stores to begin carrying Blender Bites soon. Costco Wholesale warehouses in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma are the first of the chain’s US locations to carry the products. 

A direct-to-consumer platform for the US market is also in the works.

Hodge notes that another big opportunity for Blender Bites is in the food service industry, which includes restaurants, cafes and hotels where smoothie drinks are popular but time-consuming to prepare.

“They just don’t have the people to sit there and chop up the fruits and vegetables or take ingredients and make a recipe for a smoothie,” says Hodge. “Blender Bites is a solution that could be extremely lucrative.”

Financially, the company is getting stronger as well. It raised just under $3.9 million as part of its go-public transaction last September. The shares are also listed on the Frankfurt exchange and the company is eyeing a listing on the OTC market in the US.

For 2022, Blender Bites is targeting between $6 million and $7.5 million in annual revenue as big name retailers embrace its products. 

“We’ve got accounts like Kroger and Albertsons and Wegmans and Walmart and Target on our list for retail for the US and we are focusing on the bigger accounts,” Hodge says. 

“Public companies like to acquire other brands and as soon as I’ve built up the team a little more, I think we’d have the capacity to look at that down the road. It is in the plans for the company, for sure.”

For the current year, though, the Blender Bites CEO plans to remain focused on further market penetration and expansion into food service, retail and club stores. 

“We’ve come a long way in a short time and when I think about our products being enjoyed by people right across North America, I’m really proud of our team,” says Hodge. “But there is so much opportunity to expand market share and penetrate huge new sales channels that I feel we’re really only just getting started.”

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Learn more about Blender Bites at https://blenderbites.com/.

Plant Veda Foods: With its plant-based dairy products flying off shelves, this conscientious company’s business outlook is soaring too

Armed with a master’s degree in computer science from California’s Northwestern Polytechnic University, Sunny Gurnani was working for tech giants like eBay. He was poised for a career in technology in Silicon Valley, but keen business sense and a kind heart led him to co-found a plant-based dairy company instead.

Since its launch in 2019, Vancouver-based Plant Veda (CSE:MILK) has developed award-winning plant-based dairy alternatives. The firm’s cashew milk, dairy-free coffee creamers, lassi (drinkable yogurts) and PlantGurt cashew yogurts have landed on shelves in more than 200 stores, with demand outstripping supply.

The engineer-turned-entrepreneur reveals that he and his wife committed to the vegan lifestyle epitomized by Plant Veda a decade ago.

“My wife was expecting our first child and we had gone to a vegan restaurant in California. It had flashcards that described the way cows in the dairy industry were treated,” says Gurnani, Plant Veda’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer.

“For cows to produce milk, they have to give birth, so the cows are constantly impregnated. When the calves are born, they are taken away from their mothers. Male calves are often killed straight after being born. My wife and I were expecting our first child – it was horrifying to see the animal cruelty.”

Unsettled, Gurnani drilled deep into articles and documentaries on the dairy industry. Haunted by footage of animal cruelty, Gurnani, who was vegetarian in India, turned vegan and has since abstained from animal products like dairy and eggs.

“I studied vegan diets and their nutritional value, and around a year before this information my father had died due to his heart condition. I felt such regret as my father could have reversed his heart disease by shifting to a whole food, plant-based diet,” says Gurnani.

In 2012, Gurnani wanted to start his own company in the US, but his H-1B visa immigrant status had him tied in the knots. Legally, the couple couldn’t launch a start-up in the US, so they built a certified organic plant-based dairy company called Go-Vegan, and later Nutriva, in India, while holding down jobs in California. Go Vegan preceded Plant Veda and made soy milk, ice cream and tofu.

“By day I was an engineer in Silicon Valley and at night I was running a plant-based dairy in India. My wife got a permit and was running a vegan food truck in California, where she started selling her plant-based lassis and yogurts.”

Tired of waiting for US Green Cards, the enterprising couple immigrated to Canada with their business blueprint for Plant Veda.

“We wanted to do well by doing good. A plant-based business is ethical, good for the planet and has several health benefits,” says Gurnani.

“We decided to move to Vancouver and registered for Canada’s largest vegan and vegetarian show, the Veg Expo, even before reaching Canada. At Veg Expo on May 5, 2019, we launched Plant Veda’s drinkable yogurt cashew lassi in five different flavours.”

Plant Veda’s breakthrough creamy lassi, a traditional yogurt drink cherished in South Asia, was the right product at the right place. It won the Veg Expo Product of the Year award in 2019 and the Clean Choice Award from Clean Eating Magazine in 2021.

To be a heavy hitter in the $900 million specialty beverage market, Plant Veda has positioned itself as a “healthier, wholesome and sustainable” plant-based dairy company.

“We don’t use artificial flavours. Our mango lassi is made with cashew yogurt and chunks of whole alphonso mango. Our lassi contains a special blend of 10 billion probiotics,” says Gurnani.

Plant Veda’s lassi line of drinkable yogurts has five flavours: mango, blueberry, strawberry, saffron cardamom and turmeric ginger.

Plant Veda Co-Founder Vanita Gurnani, Director of Product Innovation, says that working out how to emulate the texture, taste and appearance of the plant-based products took patience and good ingredients.

“I was born and raised in Anand in Gujarat, which is the dairy capital of India. I grew up loving dairy products so after becoming vegan I was missing all these things. When we started Plant Veda it was very important to get the right taste and texture,” says Vanita.

“We also wanted our products to be healthy and that’s why we always use wholesome ingredients such as Canadian maple and agave to lightly sweeten our products. There are no artificial sugars, high-fructose corn syrup or oils in our products. They are wholesome, tasty and healthy.”

The Plant Veda Innovation Centre is a 25,000 square foot facility on Annacis Island in Delta, British Columbia. It’s a springboard for new product development and large-scale production. The ongoing Phase 1 upgrade will bring annual yogurt production to 2.5 million litres, up from 100,000 litres.

In a nutshell, the Delta facility will propel the production of  $10 million worth of products a year, according to the company. By 2022, Plant Veda says that with “minimal additional upgrades” the facility will be churning out 15 million litres of product. The expansion could catapult Plant Veda’s annual revenue to $60 million in a few years, according to the company’s growth blueprint.

In addition, the Delta facility will be a plant-based go-to-market hub for innovation, production and distribution.

“We’ve invested considerable capital and effort to convert the facility to a fully plant-based innovation centre with designs, upgrades, equipment and processes best suited for plant-based beverage R&D and production,” says Plant Veda President Michael Yang.

Yang says Plant Veda is developing “strategic partnerships with technology vendors” that could also make the Innovation Centre a co-manufacturing facility in Canada.

Dairy is a $490 billion dollar market globally, and the alternative dairy sector is tipped to grow to over $52 billion by 2028 – a 156% leap from $22 billion today, according to Grand View Research.

Ultimately, the popularity of Plant Veda’s lassi catapulted the firm’s products into Whole Foods.

“We are growing our store presence and are in over 200 stores with more chains stocking Plant Veda products in Western Canada with UNFI, Pro Organics and Sysco as our distribution partners,” says Plant Veda Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer Mayur Sajnani.

“We will expand our presence and expect strong growth in revenue in 2022 as we list our PlantGurt probiotic yogurt line in stores,” Sajnani adds.

The PlantGurt product line was launched in November 2021 in three flavours: plain unsweetened, mango and blueberry.

One tub of PlantGurt yogurt contains billions of probiotics. The recent boom in probiotic products reflects an effort to re-introduce bacteria believed to promote good health. The global probiotics market size is expected to reach $95.25 billion by 2028, according to Grand View Research.

After establishing itself in Canada, it is coming time for Plant Veda to go full-circle and move into the US market. “As we expand geographically to the US from Canada, we are going to see explosive growth and are working on setting up a distribution centre with a third party in the US,” says Sajnani. 

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Learn more about Plant Veda Foods at https://www.plantveda.com/

Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine: The Future of Food Issue – Now Live!

Welcome to the latest issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, your source for in-depth stories of entrepreneurs from a wealth of different industries.

Plant proteins and meat alternatives have enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity over the last few years. In this issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, we’re thrilled to share stories of visionary entrepreneurs in this sector.

We highlight six CSE-listed plant-based food companies who are not only having a significant impact on the answer to that age-old question of “What’s for dinner?” they’re also pioneering new solutions in a marketplace that’s hungry for innovation and helping tackle climate change through environmentally-conscious products and technology.

The CSE-listed companies featured in this issue include:

Check out The Future of Food Issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine here:

Mindset Pharma: Pursuing breakthroughs in the psychedelics field with the help of “hard science”

Psychedelic drug researchers have moved mountains over the last 30 years, helping to show that these misunderstood substances have vast potential to benefit people, while being safe and non-addictive.

Today, psilocybin is in Phase 2b clinical trials, MDMA is in Phase 3, and the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has given both trials breakthrough therapy status. There is tremendous momentum behind getting psychedelic drugs approved against a backdrop of two frustrating trends in North America: the opioid crisis and the negative effect of COVID-19 on mental health.

Mindset Pharma (CSE:MSET) saw early on that there would be a wave of interest in using psychedelic drugs as medication, but that ultimately there would be even more interest in next-generation drugs delivering greater benefits as medication with full patent protection.

From the outset, the company’s goal was to apply drug design, behavioural pharmacology and medicinal chemistry, which are essentially the tools of modern pharmacy, to try to harness the power of psychedelic drugs. 

Chief Executive Officer James Lanthier joined Mindset in early 2020 and was sold not only on the calibre of the scientists involved, but the specific strategy the team had developed.

“We’re applying hard science to these substances to try to create the best possible medications for people – that’s it, full stop,” Lanthier explains. “There’s now tremendous evidence to suggest that psychedelics have a breakthrough role to play to treat psychiatric mood disorders, but in our view, the classic psychedelic drugs did have some shortcomings.”

Essentially, Mindset wants to create new drugs that deliver the same or superior benefit but will work more predictably for the widest possible patient set. The team selected a psilocybin-like compound known as MSP-1014 from its Family Number One of novel drugs. The group of compounds is structurally closer to psilocybin but has the potential to deliver a more pronounced psychedelic experience than psilocybin does at similar doses. Given its higher efficacy, the drug would boast an improved safety profile because, theoretically, a patient could take less of it in order to achieve the same effect.

When Mindset tested MSP-1014 in mice and compared it to psilocybin at a range of doses, the company found that psilocybin reduced body temperature by as much as nearly six degrees, which is hardly a nominal amount. MSP-1014, however, showed no effect on body temperature, an early indication of the compound’s safety profile.

Another interesting piece of data from the lab studies confirmed MSP-1014 was comparable to psilocybin after a drug discrimination assay. In the lab, rats were able to determine the distinction between MSP-1014 and saline, which gives even further credence to the drug’s efficacy. “When we take a drug into clinical trials, you want to have as much confidence as possible that the drug is going to be effective and safe,” Lanthier says. “It’s another strong data point that will help us move forward with more confidence.”

Psilocybin is showing promise in early trials, but its effects can last up to eight hours. Mindset is hoping to tackle that challenge with its Family Four group of DMT analogues, which could offer similar benefits in a therapeutic context but with a much shorter trip of between 15 to 30 minutes. Its lead candidate in that group is MSP-4018, which is being compared against a serotonin analogue known as 5-MEO-DMT found in plant species and toad venom.

Researchers think this could be useful for in-clinic psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Because 5-MEO-DMT results in a total duration of experience of between 10 minutes and two hours, it would mean less time to spend in a clinic and fewer resources needed to treat a patient. 

Mindset’s research uncovered meaningful safety improvements with MSP-4018. “We saw signs of serotonin syndrome at a whole range of doses with 5-MEO DMT, which is a really unpleasant basket of symptoms that can afflict people with high levels of serotonin in their bodies,” Lanthier says. “MSP-4018 showed no signs of serotonin syndrome, but we saw behaviour that suggested that it was just as psychedelic as 5-MEO DMT. It’s really encouraging because it looks like we’ve got a drug that is just as psychedelic but potentially quite a bit safer.”

All of this is a step toward proving the concept behind Mindset to make better drugs than the original psychedelic by applying science. The company is building its value on those tweaks and improvements.

“This is about creating new chemical designs that make changes to the structure of the original drug, and then testing them rigorously to see the effect of the changes,” Lanthier explains.

Essentially, Mindset is changing the underlying molecule, synthesizing the elements of the particular drug. It’s an important distinction from its peer group, as companies can patent protect this type of intellectual property to a much greater degree than a formulation of the original drug.

“If you’re not changing the active pharmaceutical ingredient, but just putting it in a different solution, the level of intellectual property rights is quite shallow,” Lanthier states. “Another group can come along with a slightly different formulation and compete against you.”

In Mindset’s case, they’re getting intellectual property rights on the composition of matter, which Lanthier calls the “gold standard.”

The group has also selected two indications for its lead therapy MSP-1014: treatment-resistant depression and end-of-life cancer anxiety. Both are tragic mood disorders with, sadly, large populations.

Nearly 30% of people who suffer from depression do not find relief from traditional antidepressants or therapy sessions. It’s a field where pharmaceutical companies haven’t brought many innovations in the past few decades, leaving it ripe for psychedelic drugs to fill the void. And potentially, very lucrative: by dollar value, antidepressants represent a $15 billion industry.

Now comes the hard part. Mindset is hoping to move out of the lab and into clinical trials in 2022, which does not come without risks. As all drug discovery companies know, success in the lab doesn’t always translate to success in clinical trials. It takes a while to do all the testing and work through regulatory requirements until the drug gets to a point where regulators are comfortable having them taken by humans. 

But psychedelic discovery is different than many other drug discovery efforts because there is so much data available on how existing psychedelics work.

“Based on all the data, we have a pretty high level of confidence that many of these drugs will have a role to play in treating neuropsychiatric and mood disorders,” Lanthier says. “We’re not reinventing the wheel – we’re simply trying to make changes to the chemical structures that will make them safer and more effective. So, it’s a bit different than a typical biotech venture that’s working on something that’s brand new.”

The goal for Mindset is to stick to what they’re good at: discovering and developing new psychedelic drugs. The firm is positioning itself to partner with other groups, be it pharmaceutical firms or psychedelic companies, that want to get into the space and have the expertise and infrastructure to run clinical trials. 

“We don’t think that we’re going to have to raise billions of dollars to become the next Pfizer and take these drugs through late-stage clinical trials,” Lanthier notes. “We think there will be lots of opportunities for Mindset because we were filing intellectual property early and developing data early.”

This story was featured in the Canadian Securities Exchange magazine.

Learn more about Mindset Pharma at https://www.mindsetpharma.com/