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Home grown innovation

Amanda Lefley
Christina Laham Paganelli of Stonewall, above, holding her company s new flavour of green smoothie which isn t available in stores yet. Her other two smoothie flavours, left and right, are now available at Family Foods.

Christina Laham Paganelli of Stonewall, above, holding her company s new flavour of green smoothie which isn t available in stores yet. Her other two smoothie flavours, left and right, are now available at Family Foods.

Christina Laham Paganelli, CEO and founder of drinkme Beverage Co., started her company out of her own home in Stonewall.

Paganelli started making herself a smoothie made from raw whole food as she was changing her diet having been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and thyroid cancer within six months of one another.

"Given my science background I just figured there was something wrong in my system because the two diseases were not related. But yet, it just seemed odd that they both happened at the same time. So I started looking into naturopathic medicine, healing naturally, and what could be done from my end to better my situation," explained Paganelli, who has both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees.

She changed her diet to eating solely raw fruits and vegetables and said her body responded very well; feeling came back in the nerve endings at her operation site as well as having better vision and feeling well all around. Both diseases Paganelli was diagnosed with have now been in remission for five years, however she still continues with her raw food diet as well as drinking her smoothies.

"In studying this diet that I was doing I learned it is not so much about what you're eating it's about what you're absorbing in your body. and eating foods in the right forms and maintaining adequate greens," said Paganelli.

She explained that people often asked her, if she could recommend one thing out of her diet what would it be, and she says it would be her creation of the green smoothie.

"It encapsulated everything I was trying to accomplish in feeding my body," said Paganelli.

Through talking with people, they started placing orders. Paganelli made a batch that would supply herself for a week and ended up making extra to fill orders; packaging them in reusable water bottles and selling the product out of her garage.

"I saw a business opportunity there because I was making so many of them," said Paganelli who has been supplying the public with her product since 2007.

Word-of-mouth saw her business increase and she started going to farmer's markets in the area. Her business grew even more, to the point where Paganelli had industrial equipment set up in her kitchen.

After being awarded the top prize in 2008 for the Manitoba Food Fight, the opportunity arose for her product to be manufactured at the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals at the University of Manitoba.

"It's a research facility so we were doing our manufacturing, but we were also looking for them to research some of the bioactive compounds," said Paganelli.

The manufacturing of Paganelli's product no longer happens in Manitoba; she says her business has grown 100 per cent year-after-year. Retailers, chiropractors, naturopaths, and gyms currently sell her product from British Columbia to Thunder Bay.

The green smoothie is now manufactured in Leduc, Alberta, however, she says product development will still be based in Manitoba, as a new flavour, drinkme ruby, was created about a month ago at the Richardson Centre.

"One of the things we are constantly doing is innovating. Our new product, it's in product development right now. the functional ingredients that are in it is our base kale, and it's red from the beets and the raspberries," said Paganelli who added that her products have no additives in them.

Paganelli anticipates that drinkme ruby, which tastes like raspberries, will be released in the spring and says the flavour will be exclusive to Manitoba. Currently on the market are drinkme green three, made of three times the kale and oranges, and drinkme green, made of kale, orange, and banana, which tastes like orange juice with lots of pulp.

"It satisfies your fresh fruit and vegetable intake in a day," said Paganelli who added that each smoothie has about four to five-and-a-half servings.

"It's free of chemicals, it's certified organic, and we make it from whole food which means we bring the actual produce to Canada and we manufacture it here from real produce not purees or concentrates."

Paganelli's product has come along way, from being sold in water bottles out of her garage in 2007, to being awarded the best market opportunity in the Manitoba Venture Challenge in 2009.

Although drinkme has always been available in Stonewall it will soon be available in retail locations, as Paganelli is now supplying Family Foods.

On Oct. 16 the grocer will be having a Birthday Bash where samples of drinkme will be available. The Birthday Bash will also feature a special deal on drinkme to not only celebrate the store's own birthday but the success of a Stonewall-born product.

"This was me trying to stay healthy. and along the way it's been amazing to create a product that there's nothing like it," said Paganelli.

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