Burnaby entrepreneurs get rolling with Vikram Vij

Casalinga Foods has had a successful 20 years in Burnaby, but owner Trish Bell always suspected she would find even bigger opportunities in the cabbage patch.

What she didn't know was that the cabbage patch would lead to an appearance on Dragons' Den and a partnership with famed restaurateur and entrepreneur Vikram Vij.

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Bell, who owns the meal delivery service, began using scraps of cabbage to make mini cabbage rolls a few years ago. She procured a pressure canner and tried canning them, and discovered an unexpected culinary treat.

"Oh my God, they were incredible," she said. "They melt in your mouth."

However, she didn't have time to consider marketing them until a BCIT marketing graduate, Dustin Coelho, contacted her in 2013.

Less than a year later, they were pitching the product to CBC Television's Dragons' Den.

At first, Bell didn't think the audition had gone well, but when the producers in Toronto tried the cabbage rolls, the pair got a spot on the show.

Their episode aired on Jan. 15. Vij, who is one of the investors on the program, decided to partner with the pair, forming DTV Food Group.

"He's all about healthy, fresh..." Bell said, "and so are we."

Providing an entire healthy meal was a big factor for Bell, who said the rolls contain vegetables, protein and healthy carbohydrates.

The trio has decided to use retort pouches - the plastic and foil packets often used to package fish - instead of canning their pork and butter chicken varieties of cabbage rolls, which means they'll be producing ready-made cooked meals that have a shelf life of five years, according to Coelho.

When Coelho first approached Bell, he told her he had a multi-million dollar idea for her.

"She responded, 'I have a multi-billion dollar idea.' I thought she was mocking me," he said, laughing.

They both decided Bell's cabbage roll idea was a good one.

The cabbage rolls are going into production at Vij's Surrey-based facility this month, but locals can try a frozen version at Casalinga Foods.

DTV Food Group plans to distribute the cabbage rolls in B.C. to start, hopefully going nationwide in the months to come, according to Coelho.

But the sky's the limit, because the retort pouches can be shipped anywhere, he added.

For Vij, it wasn't just the idea that peaked his interest - it was Bell and Coelho.

"Trish and Dustin caught my attention," he told the NOW." They had the right answers. She'd been cooking for quite awhile, and he's the perfect marketing guy."

Vij’s goal is to have a lucrative partnership with the pair, he said.

"My hope is a few years down the road we can say, 'Wow, that was a great idea and we made money on it,'" Vij said.

Bell and Coelho's success story is being featured on a Dragons' Den episode on Wednesday, April 8 at 8 p.m. 

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