County Yum Club (CYC) partners with FIRSt to develop 3 new natural cordials.
In recent years, Canadian consumers have shifted away from traditional soft drinks like overly sweetened sodas and calorie-laden juices. They want healthier, more natural options, and as such, the market is starting to see a growth in beverage alternatives. These alternatives offer a wide range of options to better suit consumers’ changing lifestyle, from zero and low calorie to an explosion of exotic flavors.
To corner this growing shift, Ontario-based SME County Yum Club (CYC) had their own idea of what would make a refreshing treat. They envisioned an all-natural beverage, sourced with local ingredients from Prince Edward County, the Quinte region and Ontario.
“CYC saw a need for extra delicious 100% natural soft drinks that inspire appreciation for regional ingredients,” says Bree Seeley, owner and lead flavour-maker for County Yum Club. CYC had developed three all-natural cordials featuring less-than usual flavour combinations and each sweetened with honey. But these wholesome ingredients come with a hitch. As Bree puts it, “All-natural yes! But with shelf stability, that’s tricky.”
So CYC came to George Brown College’s Food Innovation & Research Studio (FIRSt) to further develop three cordials that will be carbonated by CYC and used to make beverages. County Yum Club (CYC) represents a group of small food producers in Prince Edward County, working in tandem, to create a modern pantry of delicious edibles and drinks. County Yum Club’s modern pantry embraces unique combinations and fresh approaches to heritage ingredients.
The research team, led by FIRSt Food Scientist Susan Plummer and made up of students Christine Song and Kelly-Anne Kerrigan, began by experimenting with CYC’s current formulations, while investigating ways of improving the flavour and over processing efficiency.
When they began, the beverage had to be stored in the refrigerator at all times, and the products themselves had a varying dilution rate of 1:2 or 1:3 (syrup to water). “The product needed to be acidified and thermally processed,” says Susan. “This allowed the product to move from refrigerated storage to the shelf.” This was a move that heightened the cost efficiency and widened how and where it could be sold.
The research team also concentrated the products and standardized the dilution rates across the product line—a must when mass-producing.
County Yum Club, with its mandate to support sustainable food networks across the province, was committed to using local ingredients. With this new standardized process, all the ingredients were still able to come from local suppliers from Prince Edward County, the Quinte region and wider Ontario. “The FIRSt team worked alongside us to meet this need,” says Bree. “Their passion for product was absolutely felt.”
Bree is confident the research gives CYC a head start in this new move into beverages. “The cordial project gives CYC a footing into the prized drinks business,” she says. “The stability of the product is essential as it allows us to trade on it further afield and improves its cost. For companies who are looking for scientific metrics to ensure their product is developed properly, they will serve their interests well to align with FIRSt.”