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Torill Myre Wants to Change How You Eat Waffles

Torill Myre Wants to Change How You Eat Waffles

Torill Myre has ruined waffles for everyone. She breaks into a smile when she hears this.

It’s not that she hates waffles. On the contrary, she loves them. She’s spent the past ten years refining her version of her mother’s traditional Norwegian ‘vafler’. Twenty thousand waffles later, she obviously has perfected them because people keep telling her that she’s ruined ordinary waffles for them. Once they’ve tried Torill’s Table waffle mix, they can’t go back to the standard white flour waffles and pancakes. Their children simply won’t let them.

That would put a smile on anyone’s face. But for Torill, it’s personal because she created the waffles to give her family a more nutritious, and more flavourful, breakfast waffle. Soon, everyone she knew was asking her for bags of this waffle mix. Family, friends of family and families of friends. She graciously gave them away for free but eventually realized that she couldn’t spend all of her time as a single mom feeding her extended community for free. So, she decided to turn her creation into a company that would elevate the business of waffles.

It wasn’t easy. Especially creating a gluten-free version, which are all too often focused on taste and texture, eschewing nutrition altogether. A simple alternative flour mix with no fibre wasn’t good enough for her. She was determined to create the perfect gluten-free mix that people would choose over a regular wheat waffle. When crafting the recipe, she packed it with wholesome ingredients like gluten-free flour, oats, almonds, flax seed and vanilla. A little bit of cane sugar for taste. The result is a hearty, nutritious waffle that leaves you feeling sated so you don’t need to snack all day long.

Heeding a friend's advice that ‘you don’t need to know how, you’ve just got to do it’, she dove headfirst into the entrepreneur ecosystem. The logistics of managing a start-up are daunting. It might start with figuring out the right volume of ingredients to sell based on package size, and finding a company to source, house and package the product, but it doesn’t end there. Some days managing a food product company might seem to be nothing but logistics. There are food safety and allergen issues, insurance, shipping, sales, and complications involved in scaling up to move efficiently into different and emerging markets.

There are so many obstacles and pitfalls for an entrepreneur to navigate in the packaged food space that it can be intimidating. You’re not out of the woods once your product is ready to go out the door. In order to get it into large chain stores that control the majority of the market, you need to develop relationships with brokers who decide what products ultimately end up on store shelves.

The food space is so crowded, with iconic brands and other small start-ups, that you have to find a niche, your unique selling point that differentiates you from the pack. For Torill it was finding that sweet spot between taste and texture, and nutrition. She wanted to create a waffle and pancake that was so good and satisfying that you couldn’t help but come back for more. She also wanted to ensure it was a healthy, nourishing food that mothers would feel good about feeding their kids. 

It’s all challenging to say the least. Thankfully, she came to the attention of District Ventures Capital, a capital venture fund owned by Arlene Dickinson of Dragons’ Den fame. District Ventures provided the initial infusion of capital needed for Torill’s Table to get off the ground. They also put her through their mentorship and training program which provides lectures and educational sessions from industry professionals that help mentor budding entrepreneurs.

Through District Ventures, Torill was dropped into an instant community of new entrepreneurs that has proved almost as valuable as the funding and training itself. It was empowering just to know that she wasn’t alone on her journey. The advice and support that she received from the community was a godsend. Collaborating on complementary demos at markets helped build camaraderie and friendship. And the community is great for warning others away from unscrupulous landlords or businesspeople who might try to take advantage of less experienced owners. 

All of her work is starting to pay off: Torill’s Table mixes are available all over Western Canada in local natural food stores like Blush Lane Organic Market and major grocery chain Safeway. Myre was a finalist in the 2019 Mompreneur Award, recognizing strong female entrepreneurs displaying a passion for both business and family.

When Torill finds herself getting overwhelmed, she thinks about why she does it: it’s still all about family. She wanted to provide parents with something nutritious that their picky kids would still love, giving them all peace of mind.  She knows first hand the challenges families face in trying to feed their kids nutritious meals that they actually enjoy.

Coming Back To The Table: Easter Edition.

Coming Back To The Table: Easter Edition.
There’s always something special about Easter. Peter Rabbit said, ‘I can’t think of one thing that could possibly stop our fun.’ That’s one smart bunny! My childhood memories of Easter are full of excitement, family traditions, and food. A lot of food. Too much food! My parents sometimes hid chocolate around the house for us to discover. But the best Easter egg hunts always happened in a large field with the other kids from town. We’d line up and wait for the horn to go off, signaling the start of the hunt. I’d glance at my friends. They’d grin back at me. My heart would pound in anticipation. And then we were off: running, laughing, sliding in the grass, skinning our knees. And we didn’t care because nothing could possibly spoil our fun.

Easter traditions are different around the world but they have one common thread and that’s togetherness. Eating together gives us the chance to reconnect around that old kitchen table we grew up with. We can share a cup of coffee, tell each other stories and pretend to fight over that last waffle. We experience moments of kos.

Torill Myre describes kos (pronounced coosh) as the fundamental things that put a smile on your face. It’s about being present and enjoying a moment for what it is. Let’s imagine a moment of kos: you wake up Easter morning and trudge downstairs to the scent of freshly brewed coffee. You pour yourself a cup of coffee, reach for the package of waffle mix and whisk in some eggs, milk, and vegetable oil. The batter sizzles as you pour it into the waffle maker. You hear the floor creak. The smell of Easter brunch lures your family downstairs. They trickle into the
kitchen, fill their mugs and reach over each other to help with brunch and sneak bits of waffle amid the chatter and laughter. In Norway, they might shout in unison, “A, sa koselig,” to describe this cozy feeling. That’s kos.

Easter brunch is as much about spending that time together as it is about the food. That said, brunch can be uncomfortable for people with food allergies, sensitivities, autoimmune conditions like celiac disease, or just plant-based restrictions like veganism. Torill was mindful of that when she created her certified gluten-free waffle and pancake mix. It’s also dairy-free, soy-free and vegan friendly. All of the ingredients in the mix are suitable for a vegan diet. Vegans can cook their mix with flax or chia eggs, and plant-based milk. There’s no compromise needed.

Easter can still look like the scenario above even if your family is practicing social distancing. It will also look different for many other families and friends this year. Someone I know said “it’s physical distancing, not social distancing.” This year I’d like to propose a virtual Easter brunch. Phone apps are available so we can group chat and see everyone on the same screen at the same time. Families and friends can even make their waffles together at their own houses, meet
at their kitchen tables and take time out to connect.

Good ole Peter Rabbit.
Happy Easter everyone!

Blog Contributed By: Jen Shrubsole, BSc. RD of Naturally Nu, www.naturallynu.com

Coming Back to the Table

Coming Back to the Table
The role of an artist is to take what it is that they believe in and put it out there so the world can savor it. For Torill Myre, this art form is not just about nutritious and delicious waffles- it is about the art of coming back to the table. It is about connection.