Foodies Flock to Mass Innovation Nights

Logo for Innovation NightsAround a “bakers dozen” of food-related businesses had tables at the second annual Massachusetts Innovation Nights‘ Foodie event in Woburn on August 9, 2012.

Mass Innovation Nights (MIN) is a free monthly event designed to help local innovators promote their new products and companies. During the other months, most of the products are not connected to food, but once a year, MIN invites foodies to come out to play.

While relatively few of the entrepreneurs were actually innovators—c’mon, do we really need another cupcake truck?—both the quantity and quality of the products and services seemed more exciting than when “Banana Met Strawberry” at last year’s MIN Foodie event. Here are a few of my favorites.

I’ve tasted very few Massachusetts wines that I’d care to drink again, so I was pleasantly surprised by Mill River Wines’ red Zindfandel, which was deliciously dry. Mill River Wines, which just opened last year, is based in Rowley, 45 minutes north of Boston.  They don’t have any distributors in Boston yet, but I might even be willing to trek across the river to try them again.

T’art is a premixed tart crust that just requires eggs, butter and whatever filling—sweet or savory—you want. (Since I’m not a baker, I had to go on line to figure out the difference between a pie crust and tart crust. Here’s the deal: pies have both a top and bottom layer of crust, while tarts just have a bottom crust. Also, pie doughs tend to be flakier than tart doughs, and tart crusts are usually sturdier and sweeter.)

Whether you call it a tart or a pie, I’m not usually a big fan of the stuff, but the little morsel of fruit tart I tasted was light, moist and buttery.  I asked Amour Creations founder Linda Amir if she’d consider making a whole wheat version, but she said that at least for now, she’s got her hands full marketing her current product.

EarthHook has created a solution for a problem I didn’t realize I had: what to do with your reusable grocery bags while you’re shopping. They’ve created a little attachment—patent-pending—for the shopping car where you can hang your bags while cruising the store aisles.  Not exactly a cure for cancer, but according to EarthHook, we go through 500 billion of single use shopping bags a year, so anything that encourages folks to adopt reusable bags instead is a win.  Now, can you just come up a way for me to keep the bags clean? Coming soon—if it’s not already there—to a grocery store near you.

My favorite business of the night was the crew from Bell Tower Foods, a company that is trying to make healthy and fresh food accessible to all by sending mobile grocery trucks to different Boston area neighborhoods. The trucks will be stocked with produce and healthy, inexpensive staples like beans and rice.

“People think that eating heathy is expensive and hard!” Bell Tower President and Co-Founder, Sevan Chorluyan says.  But going to the grocery store can be time consuming if you don’t live near a supermarket, don’t have a car, or have difficulty getting around. By bringing their grocery truck to low-income neighborhoods around Boston, they hope to make buying and eating healthy food more convenient.

The business is the brainchild of five graduate students at the Boston University School of Public Health, but their vision goes way beyond Boston.  “Ultimately we want to franchise to every community in America,” says Chorluyan.

Now that’s a dream that’s worthy of an entrepreneur!

Photos provided by Mass Innovations Nights.

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