If necessity is the mother of invention, Troy Biever’s finicky quirks may be the proud papa.
Biever, a 36-year-old Edmonton entrepreneur, found himself at a crossroads one evening in late 2010. He’d done the usual, plating a freshly grilled steak alongside a squirt of fridge-cold barbecue sauce, when he took a bite and decided that this was it. He could no longer stand the clash of the temperatures. The Biever would not abide!
“I grabbed my steak and cut it up and dipped it in the sauce. I just didn’t like that hot-cold mixture,” he recalls. “I was thinking, ‘there’s got to be a better solution!’”
He focused his righteous energy on the dilemma and pondered how he could bridge the age-old divide between hot meats and tasty, but cold, sauces. The solution? The Flavor Fork: a consumer-friendly twist on a three-pronged commercial flavour injector. Chefs have been using something similar for years to add a punch to turkeys, roasts, chicken and sausages.
Here’s how it works: Load the Flavor Fork’s syringe with your favourite marinade or sauce, poke the fork into the heart of your tastiest meat, deploy the plunger and bam! You’re injecting all that flavour-ey goodness into the core of the cut. Whether you fry, broil or grill it, that meat is now flavour-infused from the inside out.
“Marinades just stay on the outside,” says Biever. “There’s no way of getting that flavour in there unless you inject it. My product solves that problem.”
The business: Flavor Fork
Established: Launched retail in 2013
Owner: Troy Biever (with props to his wife, Rebecca, without whom this never would have happened)
The product: An all-in-one fork, brush, baster, spatula, bottle opener, and flavour-injecting multi-tool designed to infuse meat with marinade
Availability: Home Hardware, Canadian Tire and online at flavorfork.com
And it seems it has been solving the problems of many other meat-munching flavour fiends too – since he first retailed the dishwasher-safe product at the beginning of 2013, Biever has shipped more than 18,000 units (he also sold around 3,000 out of the back of his car in 2012, all over Alberta and British Columbia). He’s got the Flavor Fork into Home Hardware and Canadian Tire, where it retails for $20. It sells in hardware stores south of the border. And, if all goes to plan, it’ll allow him to step away from his current livelihood as a franchisee of Panago Pizza, a national chain with 175 locations.
Right now, things are very exciting. But getting this far was a long and much less flavourful road. From the a-ha! moment in 2010 to his original sketch (“I have no ability to draw”), Biever trucked his vision from concept designer to industrial designer, and finally to prototype. Months passed, tweaks were made again and again (and again). In April 2012, he took an early version to a barbecue festival sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Association in Nanaimo, B.C., and sold it to four competition chefs, all of whom were very particular about the tools they use.
“They said it worked exactly how they wanted it to work,” says Biever. “So I took that as a huge compliment because they needed it to function properly, ‘cause it was competition meat, right?”
He was ready to start calling buyers. He was ready for primetime.
When he auditioned for Dragon’s Den in early 2013 – four days after Home Hardware had placed three more shipment orders – he sold a Flavor Fork, mid-pitch, to a University of Alberta student who was there taking photographs. He sold two more to the entrepreneurs who auditioned alongside him, then sold the remainder to the show’s production staff backstage. Seeing the Flavor Fork in action, it seems, is what makes it a tasty prospect.
“One of the big challenges is that it’s going to take a bit of educating,” says Biever, who admits that it’s hard to make the penny drop by simply describing the device or sending it to someone without showing them how it’s used. “But every person I’ve shown this to and shown how it functionally works? They get it.”
In addition to the basting brush, spatula, and fork attachments he’s already selling as add-ons (there’s also a bottle opener at the bottom of the handle in case you get thirsty over those flames), he’s thinking about adding a grill-scraping brush – the number one barbecue tool sold annually – to the Flavor Fork’s toolkit.
Now Biever’s set to take his multi-tool to the next level.
“I really want to dive into the U.S.,” he says. “My whole life I’ve wanted to be my own boss, but I never thought I’d end up inventing something. The Flavor Fork has been a really humbling thing for me.”
But has it resolved his own finicky food issues?
“Yeah,” he says with a laugh. “I guess it did, in a roundabout way, solve my own problem, too.”
For more information: flavorfork.com
Arlene Dickinson Enterprises is proud to include The Flavor Fork in our investment portfolio.