New Guelph-based business revolutionizes healthy baking with their nutrient-packed baking mixes
Shawn Shao has always been interested in food and food waste. As both of Shawn’s parents grew up with food insecurity, for his family wasting food was like a crime. With the added concern of diabetes in the family, Shawn wanted to create healthy alternatives for bakery items with no added sugars. He also has a passion for the environment and wants to contribute to the health of mother nature as well as human beings. With Shawn’s family deeply rooted in environmental and food research, he wanted to create healthy foods that are tasty, nutritious, and environmentally friendly. After studying for the past 15 years, Shawn decided to start his own food business: BioFerm Functional Foods.
At that time, Seeding Our Food Future (SOFF) had just opened applications. Shawn immediately knew this was the ideal program to help launch his business. SOFF mentorship helped BioFerm to develop marketing and sales strategies, as well as navigating the world of business. With the support received, BioFerm completed prototyping their three main products for launch: a no sugar added muffin mix; a keto cake mix; and a sourdough bread mix. Shawn identified his brand as “Treetly” to establish a connection to nature and encourage people to “treat yourself freely.” BioFerm plans to work with local University of Guelph Co-op students to further develop their marketing campaigns, website, and social media presence.
The goal of their mixes is to provide healthy shelf-stable options that just need water. Fiber and sugar content are the two biggest characteristics of the Treetly brand. Low fiber is one of the largest dietary issues for North Americans with less than 50% of residents meeting the recommended fiber intake. Treetly products contain 7 grams of fiber per serving, which is already 1/3 of the required daily intake. The sugars in the cake and bread mixes are naturally occurring and can provide a great alternative to satisfying a craving for carb and sugar in a healthy way. The sourdough bread mix is the most innovative of the three products as it is a completely dry mix that requires no fermentation. As sourdough bread making can often be harmful if done incorrectly, BioFerm has created a way to control the bacteria for everyone to enjoy at home.
Prior to starting his family, Shawn thought that the food industry was just the system that feeds us. Since then, he recognized that the focus on food has shifted and it is now about rebalancing humans with nature, because nature feeds us. Part of the issue with the food industry is that we are producing food without considering the balance between humans and the environment. As BioFerm is now a player in the food system, they want to provide convenient, nutritious products with little environmental impact for customers at any culinary skill level.