James Murray, Founder of TasteTro
1. What does TasteTro do?
TasteTro opens a world of food flavour experience at the touch of a button from the kitchen counter. Consumers can select a vast number of flavours from our TasteTro Spice System smart appliance that dispenses spices and blends. These flavours are all paired with easy-to-prepare snack and meal recipes to save consumers time.
2. What inspired you to start this? What problem are you solving?
Today, time-starved consumers are relying more and more on processed foods and store-bought meals to feed their family. These meals are often loaded with sodium and other ingredients that we would never add to a meal prepared at home.
The TasteTro Spice System, provides delicious, clean snack and meal solutions that have been selected by a culinary team. “What’s for Dinner?” no longer needs to be a daily burden, it can now be the start of a delicious and simple flavour adventure.
3. How long did it take you to go from prototype to launch?
TasteTro is a consumer products company with three branches: hardware, firmware and packaged goods. The hardware side has been the most challenging as it is an iterative process involving the creation of physical moving parts.
We have produced and tested five prototypes over the past four years. The flow and blending of dry ingredients in different kitchen ambient environments can be very complex. Our goal has always been to create the right user experience; figure out the complexity and turn it into a simple and intuitive user experience. TasteTro will officially launch in early 2018.
4. How did you determine who your audience might be for this product?
When TasteTro first started, we relied on consumers to guide us in what solutions we were providing and to better understand their pain points. We used focus groups in Vancouver and Calgary for our first prototype. This allowed us to zone in on our target market and discover other benefits that the TasteTro Spice System would provide. We visited numerous homes to see how people stored spices and watched them prepare meals using spices. From these observations, we knew we found our target market and that our solution resonated.
5. What are your greatest achievements so far?
Our three greatest achievements are:
1) As TasteTro has progressed through product development, we have built an incredible global team of designers, engineers, manufacturers and solution providers who are committed and excited to bring the TasteTro Spice System to market.
2) The flow of spices and herbs in a compact pod is a challenge. After developing five prototypes, we are pleased with our current design that will move forward for our commercial launch.
3) Emails from consumers in North America, Europe and Japan looking forward to ordering a TasteTro Spice System. They express their ongoing frustration with spices and today’s food preparation and their concern over the health & wellness they are providing their families when using processed foods as a time saver.
6. What are your future goals for your company?
The packaged spice category generates $10B every year. Our initial goal is to create an amazing flavour exploration experience that disrupts the category and fundamentally changes the way people use and access spices. We plan to do for spices, what Keurig has done for coffee.
Following our launch of the TasteTro Spice System, we will apply our design to another category that we are equally excited about. Stay tuned for more details.
7. How has Startup Calgary helped you?
We love Startup Calgary and appreciate all of the support they have provided us. They have connected us to others in the startup ecosystem through their numerous events as well as personal introductions. These connections have benefitted us in many ways: product development, strategic partner opportunities and introductions to potential employees.
8. How can companies make the most of their experience with Startup Calgary and Launch Party?
There is a ‘high’ that comes from being a startup showcased at Launch Party. Use this as a momentum builder and expand your network.
9. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to take their idea from the back of a napkin to the marketplace?
Be curious. Be truly open to others’ comments. Stay persistent. These are essential ingredients to navigate the unknown.
10. Who do you look up to in the Calgary startup community? Which companies are doing cool things?
Benevity and ZayZoon are two companies at different stages that are shaking up the industry with creative solutions that are more effective than the conventional approach.
11. If you could do one thing differently while building your startup, what would you have done?
After our third prototype, we would have raised additional funds to accelerate our progress.
12. If you could tell the rest of the world something about Calgary, what would it be?
Calgary is branded as a city catered towards the Oil & Gas sector. When you peel back the layers, there is a very wide and diverse range of talented startups preparing to take on the world.
13. What was the biggest surprise you encountered building your startup? Could be obstacles or happy accidents. If so, what did you learn from these?
Everything looks easy when written on a napkin. The biggest surprise that almost sunk the ship was the inability for paprika to flow properly in our design. We did not want to compromise on the quality of our spices to make flow easier, so we needed to spend significant time and resources to understand how to improve the flow and achieve the desired outcome. The key learnings were to be curious and learn about effective dry ingredient flow, find experts who specialize in the problem you are tackling, and to stay persistent.
14. If you had to tweet another start-up advice (140 characters or less) what would it be?
Write down why you created your startup. Look at it daily. Be inspired & fuel your persistence. #climbthemountain #reachthesummit
15. Could we share your website and social media handles with our community?
@TasteTroInstagram: Coming Soon 😉