New cookies made with yellow peas help with weight issues

New cookies made with yellow peas help with weight issues

By Kathy Kerr

The connection between a good night’s sleep and yellow pea fibre might not be immediately obvious.

But Nancy Markley saw not only the connection, but the business opportunity it creates.

Nancy Markley, CEO of MpowrxMarkley’s Calgary-headquartered firm MPowrx is focused on science-based sleep health solutions. The company’s first product, launched in 2008, was the Good Morning Snore Solution, a small affordable mouthpiece device to combat snoring which is now available through online sales around the world.

MPowrx’s new product is Bellycrush, cookies containing yellow pea fibre, an ingredient proven in clinical trials to help with weight management.

“We’re taking a holistic approach to treating sleep problems,” says Markley. “We have an anti-snoring device that helps people eliminate snoring and sleep apnea. Weight is a big factor in snoring and sleep apnea. The customers we are marketing to right now often have a weight issue.”

Markley will be a featured speaker on Nov. 5th at Plant Protein Alliance of Alberta’s annual general meeting, where she will outline the evolution of her company and talk about the November launch in Canada of the Bellycrush product and her approach to marketing a food product — focusing on the online world rather than retail space. You can register to hear Markley speak at the AGM on Eventbrite.

Markley says the basis for her business is a science focus and the clinical foundation for products that can actually deliver real health benefits. She has a PhD from the University of Calgary in molecular biology and did post-doctoral research in medical cancer genetics.

She then worked for a biotech company which provided her with experience in commercializing products.

“After 10 years of that I felt it was time for me to branch out and start my own company. I wanted to focus that company in the health and wellness space. That is my background, training and passion,” says Markley.

She approached the tech transfer office at U of C which connected her with Dr. Leslie Dort, a dentist and U of C researcher who had developed and prototyped the anti-snoring device. The device had been through clinical trials and was being used in Dr. Dort’s practice.

MPowrx took the device through health regulatory hurdles in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Australia, which, thanks to international agreements, opened up markets in more than 85 countries.

Markley found manufacturing partners and developed a distribution network based on warehouses in Toronto, London, Chicago and Australia for online sales of the device.

The Bellycrush products, which are launching with two flavours of cookies, will use the same online distribution and start with the customer database that already exists for Good Morning Snore Solution.

Bellycrush, yellow pea protein cookiesMarkley says the Bellycrush cookies took a little longer to develop than the anti-snoring device. There was more research and development to create the recipe, ensure excellent taste and shelf life, and to find packaging and co-packing partners.

But the cookies also grew out of clinically proven research at the University of Calgary.

Dr. Raylene Reimer, a professor in the faculty of kinesiology and the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, assembled the research team which conducted clinical trials on yellow pea fibre made into a cookie. The trials determined eating yellow pea fibre regularly could aid in weight loss and also carry a host of other health benefits.

Markley says her pea fibre comes from a Canadian source, although she says anything more specific about that is a trade secret at the moment.

She found she had to assemble a network of groups from across Canada to pull together various aspects of the research, manufacturing process and packing.

“We had to go elsewhere to fit all that together. We worked with two groups in Ontario and another two groups in Saskatchewan and then Winnipeg as well, and we did work with a bakery here in Alberta,” she says.
“That was one of the most challenging parts of this — putting together that process.

“There really is a kind of dearth of those different elements or organizations that can help a company like us here in Alberta. That would be ideal if we had it all here.”

MPowerx is a lean operation, with only four employees.

When asked, Markley is quick to say she enjoys the final results of developing the Bellycrush cookies.

“I eat them every day and my husband, too. They’re really very tasty. You really start to crave them and long for them because they replace all sorts of not very health stuff you would snack on, like chocolate and chips.”

Kathy Kerr, a former deputy and business editor at the Edmonton Journal, is a freelance writer

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