With a PhD in chemical biology, Morgan Wyatt naturally figured he would land at a big pharmaceutical company — not in a tiny booth at a grocery convention.
But on Monday, the 29-year-old and his little brother Jackson, 25, wowed retailers with the little product they invented, a completely compostable compost container made from recyclable cardboard and newsprint called The Greenlid, at the annual Grocery Innovations Canada conference in Toronto.
“I realized I could do this as a thesis on how to design a product, or just design the product,” said Jackson Wyatt, a University of Toronto graduate who studied industrial design at Humber College.
The Brockville-born duo officially launched the bin – whose design is loosely based on a KFC bucket — at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre among bigwigs like Kraft, Nestle and Maple Leaf Foods as one of the top new innovations in the grocery retailing game this year.
Most of the new items launched at the major industry networking event had either an all-natural or eco-friendly theme, including the salt-free and organic spice line Bombay Shake, Ozery Bakery’s date and chia Morning Rounds, diabetic-friendly Fresh Dress Homemade salad dressings, Saputo’s kefir-based pro-biotic beverage, The Garlic Box’s flash-frozen peeled Ontario cloves and Barrie-based Beaver Rock Roastery’s 100 per cent recyclable K-Cup coffee pods.
“The trend is toward getting items off labels that I can’t pronounce,” said Jeff York, chief executive of eastern Ontario grocery retailer Farm Boy, at a roundtable discussing the future of the rapidly changing grocery world in North America.
Nestle Canada CEO Shelley Martin noted her company is on board with a target of reducing sodium, sugar and fat by 10 per cent across its vast product line by the end of 2016, and by setting out healthy portion sizes on its nutrition labels.
There’s also a bigger push lately at urban grocery chains on so-called Home Meal Replacements such as executive chef-prepared hot meals and high-end salad bars for time-starved shoppers, said Tom Barlow, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers.
He noted that retailers are fighting even harder for “share of stomach” because just over the past year, more than half the total dollars spent on food in Canada’s larger urban centres went outside the home to restaurants and fast food chains rather than supermarkets for the first time ever.
The massive food fest, which ends Tuesday afternoon, is also a feast for the eyes with industry heavyweights unveiling new twists on old favourites, like coconut whipped cream from Gay Lea Foods, Thai Tomato Coconut Campbell’s Soup, Ninja Turtle Kraft Dinner, Pepperidge Farms’ ketchup-flavoured cracker chips, Weight Watchers’ salted caramel Brownie Bliss, Maple Leaf Prime’s foray into frozen food and Fibre 1 lemon bars and cookies from General Mills.
Meanwhile the entrepreneurial Wyatt brothers, who last summer made a pitch to CBC’s Dragon’s Den that has not yet been aired so the outcome can’t be revealed as yet, recently landed a deal that will see their Greenlid compost bin retailing at Home Hardware stores in the very near future.