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Antigonish-based company aims to make the wild blueberry even healthier

Wild Blueberries-123RF
Wild blueberries - the key ingredient in a health supplement being developed by Clever Fruit Products in conjunction with the work of Dr. Vasantha Rupasinghe. - file photo

The wild blueberry, a fruit that grows proliferatively in Nova Scotia, is a wonder unto itself, given how nutritious it is.

Clever Fruit Products is seeking to maximize the potential of the wild blueberry, and aid in people’s access to the many health benefits of eating the wild blueberry.

“In a nutshell, our first project is making a better blueberry for everyone’s health,” Peter MacNeil, company president, said.

“There’s a naturally occurring component of a blueberry that is globally recognized for its healthiness,” MacNeil said. “Blueberries are high in antioxidants, and Nova Scotia has the best blueberry in the world – we’re taking the best and making it even better.”

Clever Fruit Products is working with a solid base of scientific knowledge, working with Dr. Vasantha Rupasinghe, the Killam Chair in Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals with Dalhousie University and chair of the nutritional program at the Dalhousie Agricultural College.

“Our strategy surrounds his intellectual property and research; 20 years of research into fruit ingredients,” MacNeil said.
MacNeil said the first goal is to address the issue of cholesterol health – specifically liver cholesterol. That is where Clever Fruit Products enlists the power of the wild blueberry, a fruit specifically suited for such a task.

Cholesterol, MacNeil noted, can be a tricky thing. A majority of people, he noted, have too much ‘bad cholesterol,’ with 700 million people globally, having high cholesterol – a number that’s going up.

“We use a specialized, unique fermentation process,” MacNeil said. “The goal is to make a product that addresses the market of liver cholesterol, to prevent heart disease.”

Fermentation is essential, he added, because when the wild blueberry is fermented, nutrition in the blueberry becomes more bioavailable.

“It helps release the naturally occurring nutrition of the blueberry, making it even more bioavailable. Sometimes just chewing them and eating them isn’t enough to break it down.”

Specifically, the fermentation process would break down what nutrients are in the blueberry that aren’t necessarily available through conventional digestion, making them into “micronutrients.”

MacNeil said that for a lot of people who are unable to purchase medications to help with cholesterol, or people who are unable to take those medications, the product Clever Fruit Products is developing, could be a godsend.

“It’s all about safety. We feel we can make a safer product to help, not eliminate cholesterol, but control it,” MacNeil said.

Clever Fruit Products has already gotten some recognition for its work, as it ranks in the top eight winners of the Innova Corporation’s Spark Innovation Challenge. As one out of 136 participating companies, that is an accomplishment MacNeil is proud of.

“We are currently classified as a startup company,” MacNeil said, noting the company is already engaged in a pilot test at the Perennia facility in Truro.

“We have PHD staff conducting studies for us. We have a product, liquid and powder, produced by Perennia, under the guidance of Dr. Rupasinghe,” MacNeil said.

A member of staff at the Clever Fruit Products test lab, at the Perennia facility in Truro, performing one of a gauntlet of tests on a fermented blueberry product the company is looking to sell as a nutritional supplement.
A member of staff at the Clever Fruit Products test lab, at the Perennia facility in Truro, performing one of a gauntlet of tests on a fermented blueberry product the company is looking to sell as a nutritional supplement. -Contributed 


Business plans

After Clever Fruit Products made the scene on an international trade show, there have been numerous interested parties, looking to collaborate with the company.
“We got a proposal from a top Canadian researcher, Dr. Peter Jones from the University of Manitoba,” MacNeil said. “He expressed interest in conducting further studies on our ingredient.”

“Anything’s possible. We have good interest and good things are in place.”

MacNeil said that people should expect to see something they can purchase and try themselves, potentially in late 2019 or early 2020.

“We have been working with the product in the pilot lab, and everything goes slowly in this world, especially when it comes to analysis,” MacNeil said. “There’s analysis, different types of testing to determine shelf stability, pH, moisture levels and temperature levels – it’s all part of the quality control strategy.”

Once the appropriate data has been gathered, the company will progress to the next step; raw manufacturing.

The blueberry project, MacNeil noted, was started well before he came into the scene. The initial research on a fermented blueberry product started at the Dalhousie Agricultural College in Truro.

At the moment, the company consists of MacNeil, Rupasinghe and Antigonish businessman Sean Sears, who introduced MacNeil to Rupasinghe.

MacNeil noted the company is growing, as it is in the process of bringing on two more team members.
 

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