Toni Desrosiers is changing how food is kept fresh, one kitchen at a time.
The former Olds resident is convincing people to shun traditional plastic wraps and containers in favour of organic cotton and hemp sheets infused with beeswax, tree resin and jojoba oil.
“Basically, we manufacture a reusable beeswax food wrap,” said Desrosiers, who now lives in Victoria. “You would use it to wrap up cheese, package your fresh herbs, cover your bowls — much in the same way that you would conventional plastic wrap or wax paper.”
But her product, which is called Abeego, is washable and reusable. In production since 2008, it’s currently sold in more than 300 stores across Canada and the United States, as well as online.
“We have a number of large accounts inquiring,” added Desrosiers, who has two distributors in Canada pushing Abeego.
The idea of storing food in a natural, reusable wrap probably appeals to many for environmental reasons. However, there are other practical benefits from using Abeego.
For one thing, it allows the contents to “breathe,” said Desrosiers.
“All living foods — like your cheeses, your fresh vegetables, your fresh herbs — they all emit gas as they are expiring. In a breathable package that gas can escape rather than get trapped in the package and turn into moisture that actually increases the spoilage rate.”
She added that Abeego can slow the deterioration of food in other ways.
“Beeswax has a natural antibacterial quality and it’s a natural preservative,” said Desrosiers, adding that tree resin, jojoba oil and hemp also have antifungal or antimicrobial properties.
It was a desire to find a natural way to store food that put her on the path to Abeego about seven years ago.
Desrosiers, who attended school in Olds from Grade 6 to high school, as well as during a couple of earlier grades, obtained training in natural nutrition. She began researching alternatives to plastic wrap, and soon was working with beeswax. To overcome its brittleness and low melting point, she started adding other ingredients and soon had a usable product.
“I actually started selling it within six months of designing it.”
Those sales occurred at Victoria markets, where eco-friendly consumers and tourists were eager to give Abeego a try. A strong and growing customer base resulted, allowing Desrosiers to build her business into a thriving enterprise that currently employs five. Its payroll swells further during the busy summer season, with Desrosiers’ husband Colin Johnston also helping out.
Production ramps up to about 6,000 sheets a month during peak periods, and revenues have jumped 40 per cent in each of the last two years.
Last year, Desrosiers was chosen to represent British Columbia in the Business Development Bank of Canada’s Young Entrepreneur Awards. She finished second nationally, earning her $25,000.
Now 35, she continues to look for new markets and opportunities. Desrosiers recently handed out Abeego wraps to celebrities at a Golden Globe gifting suite in Hollywood, with Gina Rodriguez — who was named Best Actress in a Comedy Television Series — among the recipients.
“Every celebrity that we met at that gifting suite loved our brand,” said Desrosiers.
She’s preparing to launch some new products, including one intended to replace a commonly used plastic kitchen item, but which remains confidential at this point.
Additional information about Abeego can be found online at abeego.com. The wraps can also be purchased online, and are also sold at the Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Food stores in Red Deer and Olds.