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Wine waste becomes health food

by Nadine Armstrong
Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Guelph, ON – February 12, 2008) A Niagara area chef is helping turn a wine industry byproduct into a healthy food ingredient. Chef Mark Walpole and the founder of Vinifera for Life, has developed a flour additive made with grape skins left over from the pressing process. The product contains resveratrols, which are natural anti-oxidants being touted for many health benefits.

Based out of Jordan Station, Walpole obtains the grape skins from local wineries, dries them, and then sifts and grinds the pomace into a flour-like substance. This can then be used in low concentrations as an added ingredient in any application where flour is normally used, such as breads, crackers, muffins, pasta, and even healthy smoothies for athletes. Think about a Gewurztraminer English Muffin or a Pinot Noir Baguette or perhaps even a Cabernet fettuccine.

At low concentrations, the ingredient has no impact on a product's texture. However it does have a strong effect on taste and color, bringing a deep burgundy color to products, and a distinct, enhanced non-acidic taste.

Currently Vinifera for Life produces several different types of flour from the grape skins including Cabernet, Chardonnay, Icewine, Late Harvest and coming soon, Pinot Noir. The company is also starting to meet requests for organic flour as well as grape seed oil.

Utilizing a loan of $93,225 provided by the Agricultural Adaptation Council’s CanAdvance Program, Walpole has been able to expand his marketing efforts by building a new website, developing an ad campaign and designing new packages.

"We found there was demand for a small package of the product," says Walpole. With this loan, we’ve been able to design a new smarter-looking, stand-up pack. We’ve also expanded our line and now offer 200-gram sample packs, as well as 400-gram, two-kilogram, five-kilogram, 10-kilogram and 20-kilogram packages.

"We’ve had a great initial response, but this business tends to be a ‘wait and see’ type operation. There is a great deal of potential for this product. The Koreans are looking at it for use in the cosmetic market. They see a use for its antioxidant compounds in facemasks and skin creams."

For the time being, Vinifera for Life already has several major global bakery suppliers interested in its products, including Caravan Foods from New Jersey and Monte Cristo stores in Burnaby, British Columbia.

In 2006, Vinifera for Life marketed 50 tons of the wine flour. This year it will be closer to 70 tons, 20 of which will be organic. That’s a lot of flour.

And once the company has built up a production infrastructure and developed a market for its product, it expects to start applying its process to other flour products including asparagus, peppers, egg plant, leak, carrot, parsley and green peas.

Bette Jean Crews, Chair of the Agricultural Adaptation Council suggests that Walpole is just one of the great innovators in Ontario’s agri-food industry. "He’s been able to see a great use for what was formerly a waste product. We’re pleased to be able to help him expand his company to meet the growing demand for his product."

The Agricultural Adaptation Council is a non-profit, grass roots coalition of 71 agricultural, agribusiness and rural organizations dedicated to providing financial resources to help Ontario’s agriculture and agri-food industry remain profitable, grow and maintain its economic strength. The CanAdvance Program is funded through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Program.