You may not have heard of Winecrush, last year’s winner of the Small Business BC Award for ‘Best Concept’, but chances are you soon will.
The definition of a successful small business, the Penticton-based “wine food” company collects the material left over from pressing grapes from local wineries and mills it into a fine powder. This product is then infused into food as diverse as sausages, ‘Winecrisps’, cheese, and mustard, making tasty wine-tinged treats while cutting down on waste.
It’s a concept that’s completely unique worldwide, and in the vineyard-rich Okanagan it’s got a healthy eco-system in which to flourish. It’s even attracted the eye of some of Canada’s biggest retailers. Grocery giants such as Save On Foods and Urban Fare are already stocking their shelves with the innovative foods.
A Moment of Inspiration
At this point, you’re probably wondering where the idea came from. According to Co-Founder, Tyson Still, it fermented in fellow Co-Founder Bill Broddy’s head while cycling through the bucolic backroads of the Okanagan.
“Bill was getting into the fine art of making sourdough bread, and while bicycling along the quiet backroads in Summerland he came across wild grapes growing on the side of the road,” Tyson said.
“Thinking that maybe the grapes could be used as a yeast in sourdough starter, he took them home and tried it. Turns out, the crushed grapes gave the bread a unique and flavourful texture. Later that same week, he was assisting a local winery with their grape pressing and found the pomace (or marc) designated for composting was the same texture as the grapes he’d used in the bread. With the new idea brewing, he brought home the crush and got to work, developing a bread rich in antioxidant. After many attempts and the help of a biochemist, the Winecrush bread recipe was born.”
On the Rise
What started as a fun, family business soon started seeing massive interest from grocery chain stores in Canada and further afield. Despite this, the duo’s original mission statement remains intact.
“We’re on a mission to create gourmet foods from juiced grapes (pomace) and fermentation sediment (lees), which retain most of the flavour and nutrients from the grape. Prior to this, wineries would have to compost or dispose of them, adding cost to the winemaking process,” he said.
“Our customers love the taste of their favourite wines in our Okanagan-sourced products that include sausages, cheese, mustard, ‘WineCrisps’, slow-fermented sourdough bread and even coffee.
“We also offer Winecrush by specific varietals, allowing it to be used in cooking and baking instead of wine, or to impart a little extra flavour and nutrition to your own recipes. Powdered Winecrush is gluten free, and to the best of our knowledge, completely unique worldwide.”
Reaching Their Audience
Wine tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the BC tourist market and the Okanagan’s economy. Winecrush have skillfully placed themselves at the heart of this growing market, and it’s a spot earned through continuing hard work.
“We’re building the trademarked Winecrush brand through aggressive social media, and events like farmers’ markets, food exhibitions and restaurant campaigns,” Tyson said.
“We’ve also got the Wine Crush wood-fired pizza wagon that will reach consumers within wineries and at special events. By placing our products in winery tasting rooms, we provide local, healthy foods that pair with the wine. It works for the wineries because they want to offer foods for the tourist having a picnic, while avoiding the hassle of preparing the food, and the food safety requirements that go along with it. They want food that will complement wine sales and enhance guest experience. If guests think of us after, our products are available through local food retailers and our website.”
With their innovative products, explosive growth, and dedication to hard work, Tyson thinks you’ll be seeing and hearing more from Winecrush soon.
“We think the future is bright for Wine Crush,” he said.
“We’ve been using social media, direct marketing, co-branding, and event promotion to increase sales this year. In 2018, we will expand our “Picnic Program” to 60 wineries, tourist destinations, and hospitality companies. We will expand Winecrush products throughout Western Canada and target large retail stores like Urban Fare, Save-on-Foods and more.
“We also plan to produce shelf-stable products in our Penticton facility and work with our multiple food production partners. Our partners manufacture product for us and infuse Winecrush into their own products allowing rapid growth opportunities for us with minimal investment.”
At the 2017 Small Business BC Awards, Winecrush took home the ‘Best Concept’ award. Nominations are now open for 2018, so if you are a small business owner, or you know a small business that deserves more recognition, nominate today!
If you need any further convincing, here’s how the awards helped Winecrush:
“Winecrush is the poster child for this awards program,” said Tyson.
“We personify SBBC success as a small company with a big/unique concept that can quickly outgrow small business status. The award we won last year didn’t just help Winecrush get exposure to local wineries and retail stores, it brought an energy to the food industry in Penticton, taking it to the next level. If we can all continue to grow together, we will all benefit for years to come. Having the SBBC ‘Best Concept’ banner on all our marketing was huge for Winecrush. It really gets the conversation going deeper with client and customers and people took us much more seriously after winning, especially as our concept had never been done before. The success we’ve had as a result is clear, we’ve made it into 45 locations this year, up from five in our first year, and we plan to be in 25 more retail stores by the end of the year.