Thursday, November 24, 2011

Choo-It: Craig's High Octane Oatmeal

Sally Campbell was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, and her sons, Craig and Trent, moved home in order to spend time with their mother and to help out. Craig took charge of shopping for groceries and cooking. His mother’s illness motivated him to seek out healthy, natural foods and he developed a cereal mix which has come to be known as Choo-It.

The cereal mix was developed for Sally Campbell and her family to eat, but Craig handed out samples to friends and acquaintances. The response was immediate: “We like it, and we want more!”

Craig decided to start selling Choo-It, and Trent began helping out with packaging and distribution. This was definitely a small, home-based business – the containers were originally purchased individually at Walmart. The brothers picked up their first two retailers early in 2010 and an additional 20 retailers in the next three months.

Trent had been working as a millwright, but at that point he was between jobs. He responded to Choo-It’s success by turning his attention to making and marketing the cereal on a full-time basis.

Hi-Octane Oatmeal
Choo-It stands for Craig’s High Octane Oatmeal, a very accurate name for a cereal that is designed to provide a good, hearty flavour and long-lasting energy.

There are over 20 ingredients in Choo-It, and all of them have been chosen for their nutritional value. Sunflower seeds contain Vitamins B1 and E. Flax and pumpkin seeds are good sources of Omega-3. Buckwheat is high in protein and fiber, while blueberries and cranberries are rich in Vitamin C. And the list goes on and on. Check out the ingredient list for a full explanation of why each ingredient has been included.

Most of the ingredients are Canadian: the grains, sunflower seeds and berries.

Wheat-Free / Gluten-Free
Choo-It has recently introduced a wheat-free version of Choo-It, which will transition to a gluten-free version in approximately six months.

I recommend trying both versions of Choo-It as they are quite different, although both are designed to be healthy, flavourful and full of energy. The wheat-free version contains chia seeds, a Mayan super food that slows down the digestion, as well as hemp hearts for added protein and healthy oils.

Value for your Money
A super-large container of Choo-It costs $35 while the 400 gram pouches cost $12. At first glance, that seems a bit expensive for a breakfast cereal. But then I started thinking about how much it would cost if I purchased all those ingredients individually – that’s a lot of money.

“A serving from the large container costs less than $1,” Trent says. “One serving for women and two servings for men will sustain your energy for up to 4 hours. Runners have been loving Choo-It for this reason: it's keeping them full, without the bloating and heavyness.”

The more I study food and nutrition, the more I come to realize that the best way to ensure a healthy diet is to eat a wide variety of unprocessed foods. Choo-It takes all the work out of preparing a healthy breakfast with a spectrum of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. You get value for your money.

Baby Steps
After developing the Choo-It recipe, Craig Campbell moved on to other activities and Trent Campbell is now running the show – from purchasing the ingredients, to mixing them, packaging them and delivering them to retailers.

Trent purchased a mixer (resembles a small cement mixer) three months ago to mix up the ingredients in the original Choo-It, but he’s still using a hand-held mixer with the wheat-free version. “We’re taking baby steps,” Trent explains. “As we grow, I add more equipment.”

Choo-It’s warehouse is located in the same building as Caffe Sola. The wheat-free/soon-to-be gluten-free version is made in a separate, dedicated facility. Choo-It recycles or reuses all the cardboard and other packaging used in the warehouse. The cereal containers can be recycled although Trent recommends using the big tub to store children’s crayons or kitchen supplies.

Choo-It is now available from 80 smaller retailers (e.g. health food stores). The majority are located in Saskatchewan, but Trent is also shipping Choo-It to Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.

Love
Choo-It grew out of a son’s love for his mother, and the company donates $1 to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation for every large container sold.

Every package continues to receive Trent’s individual, hands-on attention. If you are like me and prefer to buy food that is locally-grown or produced, be sure to try Choo-It. You’ll be eating tasty, nutritious food – and supporting the local economy.

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