Tapping into its potential

Pam Snow
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Company plotting bigger and better things after jousting with 'dragons'

Baie Verte - Their company didn't exactly slay any dragons during a national television appearance, but that hasn't made Craig and Carman Lewis retreat.
Instead, the two Fleur de Lys entrepreneurs are busy with expansion plans for Sap World, even after being on CBC-TV's "The Dragon's Den," a reality show that lets companies pitch products to a panel of potential investors, known as dragons.
Sap World makes wine from birch sap and was featured on an October 2007 episode of "Dragon's Den."
The Lewises went home empty-handed, but unfazed.
"The wine is back on the shelves this week, actually, because we just filled a back order for NLC from October," Craig Lewis said.
The company's first batch of wine, made from sap collected in 2006, completely sold out, he said.
"We had 100 cases go through the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. (NLC) and then we had many cases go through Rodrigues Winery (in Markland)," he said. "Apparently, it was the No. 1 selling wine at the winery. It's done really well."
The Lewises have made approximately 3,300 cases of wine from the sap collected in 2007.
"We're getting ready, now, to begin tapping trees again in April month in Millertown," Craig said.
"We tapped 1,000 trees last year and we collected 10,000 gallons of sap."
The company is also looking for ways of extending the sap's shelf life.
"The shelf life of birch sap itself is only three to five days, depending on where it is stored," Craig said.
"In the fridge, it may last up to seven days. We can do a pasteurization technique now where we can extend it up to several months, but we want to get it to at least a year or two years for international sales."
Sap World has teamed up with several researchers to try to find the right formula.
"We are doing some testing with the Food Technology Centre in P.E.I. with regards to the shelf life of the birch sap … and if this process works, we could possibly start bottling the pure birch sap by next year - if everything goes well, that is."
Memorial University's Marine Institute and Agrifoods Canada are also doing some research for the company.
"We are looking at the Marine Institute for doing some research and development on different types of pasteurization techniques," he said.
"The Food Technology Centre is looking at producing a juice beverage for us and Agrifoods Canada in Sutherland, B.C., is developing a process for extending the shelf life, also."
Sap World is also pondering whether or not it wants to get physically bigger.
"We are looking at building a winery in Baie Verte," Lewis said of the company's overall goal.
"We were looking at the old high school and also at maybe building a new building. If everything goes well, we could be tapping up to 10,000 trees on Westport Road, which will produce about 100,000 gallons - or 84,000 cases - of wine, and of course, that all depends on the market as well."
The Lewises have applied to Services Canada for funding to hire help tapping trees this April.
"We are … hoping to get four workers for this season," Lewis said.
As for "The Dragon's Den," the owners said they'd like to give it another shot.
"We might just try to go back on the show again this year and at least we'll have sales to back us up," Lewis said.
"We are also having … exceptional (reviews). When we were at Wine Fest at the Delta Hotel in St. John's, we had approximately 500 people come by our booth and sample our wine. We had about a 90 to 95 per cent positive feedback.
He said people who didn't like said it was too sweet for their tastes.
"Guess they just didn't have a sweet tooth."

The Nor'wester

Organizations: Sap World, NLC, CBC Food Technology Centre Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Marine Institute Services Canada Delta Hotel

Geographic location: Baie Verte, Fleur de Lys, Markland Millertown P.E.I. Sutherland Westport Road St. John's

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