How this exporting entrepreneur built a pancake empire

Andrew Maida, founder of Flourish Pancakes, is now exporting a range of better protein pancake and waffle mixes for you.Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Andrew Maida’s drive-thru addiction planted the seed of Flourish Pancakes.

The young entrepreneur was running another business, eating frozen waffles for breakfast and fast food for lunch, when he realized his diet wasn’t doing him any favours.

“I was just eating out of a package, going through the drive-thru and eating junk food all the time, trying to get a quick fix so I could stay at my desk,” says the 27-year-old founder and CEO. Toronto’s Flourish Pancakes.

Mr Maida asked his brother Peter, a chef, to make him a healthier version of his favorite breakfast. The pancakes were good and he saw the opportunity for a better-for-you version of the convenience food available at grocery stores.

Flourish Pancakes launched in May 2018: “Online because I didn’t know anything about grocery shopping,” Maida says. It caught the eye of District Ventures Capital, founded by entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den cast member Arlene Dickinson. With a mission to accelerate the global success of Canadian companies, a member of the District Ventures team contacted Mr. Maida.

“I entered their acceleration program, which changed the course of my business and I guess the course of my life as well.”

In 2019, Flourish Pancakes was one of five out of 100 successful applicants, receiving $150,000 for a minority stake, as well as mentoring and consulting services. Mr Maida closed his other businesses to focus on his pancake empire.

A year and a half ago, the company began exporting its various high-protein, low-carb, plant-based pancake and waffle mixes to the United States.

Today, Flourish Pancakes has annual revenues “over seven figures”, and Mr Maida predicts exponential growth over the next four years, much of it south of the border where there are 330 million people compared to around 35 million in Canada. The US market represents approximately 10% of the company’s overall sales and 14% of online sales.

“We’re still in our infancy,” Maida says. “We expect the United States to overtake Canadian sales over the next two years, but for at least the next 18 months, we will still be primarily in Canada and will still be focused on selling here.

As in Canada, sales in the United States began online and expanded to grocery stores a year ago. Flourish Pancakes is available at approximately 1,000 US grocery stores, including many Central Market, United Supermarkets, Bristol Farms, AGV Foods, Lowes Foods, Price Chopper Supermarkets and Key Foods, primarily in New York, Texas and California.

Flourish Pancakes sources most of the ingredients in Canada and, if not here, in the United States whenever possible, and outsources its manufacturing to Canada. During the pandemic, it has become difficult to get its products across the border, and supply chain setbacks have also posed a challenge, Maida says.

“We have no idea how much it’s going to cost and we have no idea when it’s going to happen. We don’t have a lot of experience with some of these things. I have never seen wars, stock market crashes and pandemics in my life, so we are learning to deal with these things every day.

Flourish is part of a growing Canadian agri-food and seafood export sector worth a record $82.3 billion last year, accounting for 7.8% of all goods exported from Canada . The United States accounts for 55.5% of these exports, China coming far behind with 11.7%, Japan (6.3), the European Union (4.9) and Mexico (3.3) completing the first five.

Over the past decade, Canadian exports of agri-food, fish and seafood products have increased by 72.3%, according to James Voldock, spokesperson for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. There are myriad challenges for small and medium-sized businesses looking to export agri-food products, Voldock says.

Market access can be a lengthy negotiation between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and target market authorities. Then, he says, once export certificates are in place, the exporter’s responsibility is to meet all requirements and have all necessary documentation.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) may face additional hurdles in understanding the destination market and various packaging, labeling and food safety regulations, as well as a lack of contacts and awareness of the brand, adds Mr. Voldock.

Agri-Food Canada, along with other federal, provincial and territorial departments, have several services available to help SMEs, he explains. They include access to market intelligence reports, funding for market development and promotional activities, free access to promotional materials, support to attend international trade shows and on-site support for delegates traders from all over the world.

Recognizing the financial costs and risks associated with exporting agri-food products, Global Affairs Canada offers the CanExport program which provides up to $50,000 to help SMEs enter new international markets.

Since 2018, the five-year, $1.75 million Market Partnership Fund has worked to develop priority international markets, including the United States, Mexico, European Union, India, Greater China , Japan, South Korea, Southeast Asia and the Gulf. , said Mr. Voldock.

The federal government has also invested heavily in agriculture and agri-food innovation through its $128 million AgriInnovate and $338 million AgriScience programs, as well as the Protein Industries Canada Supercluster aimed at increasing the value of Canadian cultures by accelerating innovation and competitiveness in the sector. country’s plant protein sector.

“Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector is one of the most innovative, productive and sustainable in the world,” said Mr. Voldock.

For Flourish Pancakes, the Asian market is attractive, but for now, export markets beyond the United States are on the back burner, Maida says.

“We really want North America to be understood,” he says. “There is still a lot of work to do in Canada. We’re trying to really pick up the pace here…and the same in the United States.”