EnWave, based in Vancouver, BC, and Lucid have formed a company called NutraDried LLP, and will build a pilot plant in Washington state to manufacture the snacks, which will be unlike other offers in the crowded cheese snack market, said EnWave president and co-CEO John McNichol.
“It’s very exciting because we are able to convert a cube or stick of cheese into a puffed or crunchy snack,” McNichol told FoodNavigator-USA. “The end result is natural and very healthy compared with some of the more conventional products.”
The products will carry the NutraDried trademark, McNichol said, to highlight the healthy benefits of EnWave’s techonology. The technology, called Radiant Energy Vaccum, uses microwaves in conjunction with a vacuum to dry products in a way that holds more of their nutritive value than conventional heat or freeze drying.
EnWave has started on the consturtciotn of a commercial scale drying machine for the new venture that will be ready later in 2013, the company said. A location has yet to be chosen for the full scale plant, McNichol said. In addition, EnWave said there is a possibility for a second commercial-scale machine and plant to serve markets in Belgium and the Netherlands.
The cheese snack that results from the technology is unlike others on the market in that it is all cheese, McNichol said. It’s an attribute that presumably will help the nascent offering compete in a crowded market against the likes of Cheetos, which a recent (not flattering) article in The New York Times called “one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet.”
“We can hard cheese or soft cheese and a wide range of flavors,” McNichol said. The end result is 100 percent natural, it’s a pure cheese with high end protein and calcium. It’s one of the reasons why we wanted to get into the market directly with a partner because we believe so much with the product.
“Conventional junk food cheese snacks have very little cheese in them but a lot of fillers and additives. The market for 100 percent cheese snacks is growing. It’s a new area for consumers that are more health focus and are looking for neat way to get more protein and calcium in their diets.
“The natural product market is a real growth market. You really can’t do this kind of product without a unique technology,” McNichol said.
The partner EnWave chose has a history in the food buiness. Lucid Capital Management is a private holding company controlled by J. Hugh Weibe. Weibe as been a director of EnWave since Dec. 2010.
Wiebe was chairman of the board of Brookside Foods, which was sold to Hershey Company in January 2012. In addition, EnWave said Wiebe has experience in the development of enzymes for a variety of food applications, and has developed international operations and customer relationships for these products in Europe, Japan and North America. He also has extensive experience with both spray drying and freeze drying technologies as they are used to preserve food and biomaterials.
EnWave has already licensed its technology to Milne Fruit Products Inc in 2011, its first major U.S. customer, to support a launch of healthy berry snacks and powders across most major markets in North America. The company said it has also entered into a wide range of research and collaboration agreements with an expanding list of multinational companies, including Nestlé, Kellogg’s, Grupo Bimbo, Grimmway Farms, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Hormel, Bonduelle, Cherry Central, Sun-Maid Growers, Gay Lea Foods and Merck.