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The Next Big Thing – Living Farmacy: Beyond Smooth

September 5, 2017

By Charmian Christie, The Messy Baker

Living Farmacy wasn’t born in a single moment, but evolved from a series of events spanning 20+ years. It began when Kim Chung, a broke student, spent her life savings on a $700 Vitamix. She loved food and knew smoothies were going to be big. Despite seeing Booster Juices spring up in food courts across the region, her family told her the idea wouldn’t work. “I parked that dream” she says. But she kept her Vitamix.

The next push came when her second child was underweight. The doctor prescribed PediaSure®. Kim read the label and sampled the drink. “It was awful!” She ditched the bottle and improvised. “I made smoothies with fruit, kale, and spinach. I hid the veggies and added 10% organic Greek yogurt to fatten her up.”

The final event that propelled Kim to action followed the death of her grandmother from liver disease. “My dad saw a guy on YouTube who cured himself of liver cancer with a detox, so I was inspired.”

Kim’s core belief is that humans are living pharmacies. “When we take care of our bodies by feeding them good food, we allow our bodies to heal themselves.” She sees her smoothies as the start of a whole product creation line focusing on food as medicine.

Tasting is Believing

“Healthy needs to taste delicious,” Kim says. Her competitors sell smoothie bases that require juice to taste good. Hers is designed to be made with just water. The resulting Living Farmacy product line is small but mighty. Although they offer only three flavours, each is packed with nutrients, delivering layered taste and vivid colour. For example, Love, the green smoothie, contains a blend of spinach, kale, pineapple, fennel, lemon, and tarragon. “It tastes like a Green Apple Mentos,” Kim says.

In her endless quest for exciting flavours, Kim encourages experimentation. “If you add coconut milk to the red one it tastes like a tropical vacation. If you add coconut water to the blue one it becomes an electrolyte drink. Add a quarter of an avocado to the green one and it creates a creamy delight.”  She posts more recipe ideas on her website, and is planning more adaptations down the road. Her creativity can take smoothies to unexpected places. “They moonlight as a healthy cocktail. Just add vodka,” she says.

During Living Farmacy’s evolution, Kim realized the simple smoothie wasn’t so simple. It wasn’t just a matter of pureeing fruit. Time, expensive equipment, mess, and inconsistent results kept most people from making them a regular part of life. Using her background as a change management consultant, Kim spotted an opportunity to create something that didn’t exist but should. Then she set about making it happen. She gave her unique flavour profiles to an outside R&D source and asked them to make a product that could be reconstituted with the same taste and texture of a smoothie, but with a twist — no juice or blender required. All the consumer had to do was add water and stir. “It took several months, but they did it!”

Despite having never been involved in food manufacturing before, Kim took part in Food Starter’s Food Commercialization Program , which gave her a strong foundation in the food industry. The program helped her figure out exactly what her production would look like, and provided access to a food safe production facility without investing money. “Time to market was much faster with Food Starter than doing it all alone,” Kim says.

Do the Smoothie Hustle.

Kim has been working full-time on Living Farmacy since May 2017. She’s rented Food Starter accelerator space, invested in some equipment, hired a co-op student from Niagara College to help, and spent the summer rustling up sales in health food stores and dining establishments.

To break into dining establishments, Kim just walked in and asked to speak to the manager or owner. She gave them samples to share with the employees. Their enthusiasm convinced the owner to bring her in to train the staff. The next day, Living Farmacy smoothies were on the menu. To assist, Kim provided the marketing materials as well as staff training. For one bagel place, she provided “a big ass poster and menu cards.” Her efforts at Wafels & More in Kensington Market saw sales double as customers order smoothies to go with their waffles.

For the health food store clients, Kim conducted outdoor smoothie demos. She then corralled customers into the store to shop. “No one is looking for smoothies in the freezer section,” Kim says, so she pointed the way. “It requires energy and enthusiasm to sell and educate the consumer.” But that doesn’t stop her. Currently, Living Farmacy is in eight health food stores and three foodservice outlets.

Slow and Steady

Kim wants to ensure things are running smoothly with her current clients before expanding her reach. As production scales up, fulfillment will become her biggest issue. She has the customer base in place, but how do you ship a frozen product? “Dry ice costs more than the product!” Kim says. “The shelf-life is 8 months so it’s possible. All I have to do is figure out how.” Knowing her core competency is in marketing more than production, Living Farmacy is looking for a co-packer who understands Kim’s mission and can deliver the goods.

She’s also looking to add an online ordering component. Due to the nature of her product, delivery will likely be limited to Toronto, but she’s actively looking for a partner to distribute to local homes.