Winnipeg Sun: Young entrepreneur honoured for better-tasting hospital food replacement

Hospital food can hardly be called gourmet. For this reason, a young Winnipeg entrepreneur is being awarded for creating a healthier and better-tasting food replacement for patients in hospitals.

Erin Goldberg, a 29-year-old entrepreneur and co-founder of ViTal Functional Foods Inc., is being awarded the Social Mitacs Entrepreneur Award in Montreal on Tuesday for her creation, Thrive. Goldberg describes Thrive as the first of its kind, plant-based meal replacement designed for patients in hospitals.

“A lot of people in hospital they have a hard time consuming these drinks that they are prescribed multiple times a day, because they complain of how sweet they are,” said Goldberg, who added that a very large number patients in hospitals were throwing away their meal replacement drinks, not only because of its sweetness but because of its flavour and texture. “Our main focus is really helping people in hospital recover faster, and have an enjoyable food experience at the same time.”

Thrive will be available in two flavours, vanilla blueberry and chocolate mocha, and will be high in energy protein and fibre. Goldberg said because of the plant-based formula, the drink is safe for vegans and people with common allergies to products such as dairy, wheat, corn and soy.

“We saw the gap, we saw a need.” Goldberg said. “We like to call it a nutritional support beverage. I like to think of it as sort of an evolution of what you already see out there.”

Goldberg spent time in hospital as a child due to cancer. She said it’s because of her experiences as a child patient that she decided to create Thrive. She has been given The Social Mitacs Entrepreneur Award in recognition of the ongoing success of her start-up and its work to address an important gap in the in-hospital nutrition sector. In addition to the award, Goldberg said she will be receiving $5,000 towards her business.

“I was extremely thrilled and very excited because (the award) is just another validation for us and our company that what we’re doing is on point, there’s clearly a need for it,” said Goldberg. “So it’s just another form of validation, which is really important when you’re in entrepreneurship.”

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has shown interest in Thrive. Goldberg says she expects to have the drink available once it passes some tests, within a year.

By: Danton Unger