U of G students develop a liquor for the growing vegan-friendly and lactose-free beverage market
Project SOY, a U of G competition that harnesses students' creativity to develop new products for soybeans, turned out to be a turning point for the University of Guelph students and entrepreneurs Sean Mitchell, Mitch Rice and Tim Shuh. The competition inspired the students with a launchpad to create 5th Bean - a soy-based cream liquor for the growing vegan-friendly and lactose-free beverage market.
After conducting preliminary research, the students learned that soy wine had been produced for thousands of years in Southeast Asia and that the production process and supply chain could be replicated in North America. By using tofu whey - a byproduct of tofu manufacturing - the students could create a circular food product, reducing food waste.
Utilizing the services of the Guelph Food Innovation Centre (GFIC), the students refined their product to include a flavour profile with hints of caramel, chocolate and whisky. Its consistency is also very similar to what you would expect in a dairy cream liqueur, however their product is vegan and lactose-free.
Having created a delicious and unique product, 5th Bean won first place at the Project SOY competition in 2018. Sean, Mitch and Tim realized they had a real idea but lacked the business tools to scale and grow the business.
The students enrolled in the John F. Wood Centre for Business and Student Enterprise Hub Incubator program where they were able to refine their business model and solidify their company’s mission. The Wood Centre brought in experts and guest speakers to talk about everything from trademarks and copyright to accounting and business taxes— Sean, being an Environmental Science student, and had limited experience with business training, appreciated the experience gaining these new-found skills.
“The Wood Centre really helped hone our value proposition, what we wanted to achieve as a company, and how we can go about achieving it,” said Sean. “We often use tips and tricks that he learned while in the program now.”
Currently, 5th Bean is focused on getting their liquor product to market. Due to COVID, their first test production run at a local Guelph distillery had to be postponed as production was shifted to make hand sanitizers. However, they are back on the schedule and are excited to begin manufacturing.