“Can’t Make Enough” Chamber Innovation Grant winners are featured in The Monitor

Heart problems lead McAllen couple to develop healthy bread line

Editor’s Note: For the past 12 years, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce has been awarding grants of up to $10,000 to local entrepreneurs to encourage product innovation and business creation in the McAllen area. Six start-up companies were selected as winners of this year’s Innovation Grant Awards competition, which was held on October 24. This is the first in a series of reports profiling each of this year’s recipients, their innovative process, and their thoughts on what it takes to start a business.

BY BENJAMIN TREVIÑO, STAFF WRITER

Rosa Maria and Mario Delgado had their minds set on an easy retirement when they migrated to the Valley from Monterrey, Mexico, 30 years ago. But, that plan suddenly grew uncertain in 1995 when Mario had a heart attack. It would be the first of four heart attacks he would have over the ensuing years.

“Mario likes to eat,” said Rosa Maria. “But his diet had to change. So, we started with bread. Mario was a supermarket biochemist in Mexico, so together we formulated a recipe that produced a healthy bread with low gluten, and low carbs — a bread based on vegetable fiber that’s healthy.”

“A lot of people don’t know that carbohydrates have an addictive molecule,” Mario added. I call it ‘bread nicotine,’ or ‘carb nicotine.’ That’s why a lot of people can’t stop eating bread. They can’t stop eating tortilla chips.”

The Delgado’s idea for a healthy bread line hit the local market in 2014 when they launched an assortment of breads that contained no preservatives, no trans-fats, had a low-glycemic index and was low in gluten. They call it “Edison Bread,” and the line includes bread loaves and hamburger buns, as well as sugar-free scones and muffins. The bread gets its fiber from a surprisingly healthy source.

“65% of this bread is red cabbage,” Mario explained. “The pulp is full of healthy, nutritional molecules. It will help you lose weight. It has no oats and very little wheat, just enough for the yeast to cause it to rise.”

The availability of Edison Breads is limited to two local health food stores and one Edinburg restaurant. Because of their own limited resources, Rosa Maria and Mario are only able to produce about 50 packages a week. They say the demand for their breads is outpacing their ability to keep up.

“Right now, we can’t make enough of our bread, because we basically make it on request,” Rosa Maria said. “Sometimes a client will call asking me if I have any left, and if I have a couple of packages here they’ll come and buy it here at our house. Our vendors will call saying they’re out of our bread and they’ll request more because their customers are asking for it. So, it’s hard to keep up sometimes.”

The Delgado’s production is outsourced to two local panaderias (bakeries), but a lack of refrigeration space is still their biggest obstacle to producing more product. In a bid to get funding, the Delgados turned to the McAllen Chamber of Commerce’s Innovation Grant Awards competition. They had done so once before but did not win the competition. This year was different. The couple was one of six winners chosen, and they were awarded a grant of$5,000.

“We get a lot of food products and this is just another example of our entrepreneurs coming up with some really innovative food products,” said Steve Alhenius, president and CEO of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. “Edison Bread is another Keto-friendly food that’s low in sugar, low in carbs, all the things that you want to see. It tastes great. It’s a very strong product. They’re now working on the shelf life and labeling, and once they get that part done I think they’ll be ready in terms of ramping up production.”

“What can I say about the McAllen Chamber other than we are super grateful,” Rosa Maria said. “They listened to our plans and concerns and they have confidence in our products. Our plans are to expand the availability of our products, not just in stores, but in restaurants, too. Right now there are a lot of restaurants opening that offer vegan and other healthy foods. Our bread is not vegan, because it contains egg. But we are in the process of developing a vegan bread hopefully in the future.”

Now entering its 13th year, the McAllen Chamber’s Innovation Grant Awards program is designed to encourage product innovation and business creation in the McAllen area. Each year, the chamber has provided up to $50,000 in grant funding to McAllen innovators. The awards are made on the basis of the strongest and most potentially- viable ideas, as well as the entrepreneurs’ presentations. Rosa Maria says the key to success in business is not giving up.

“Perseverance,” Rosa Maria said. “Keep gathering your resources, enter the chamber’s contests, and do whatever it takes to just press ahead. Don’t let yourself be defeated. We’ve been at this for many years and we’ve advanced very, very slowly, and mainly because we don’t have a lot of capital. But we haven’t given up, and our products keep getting better, so just have patience!”

More information on Edison Breads can be found on the company’s Facebook and Instagram pages. To learn more about the Innovation Grant Awards and other chamber business programs, visit: www.mcallen.org/ business-community/innovation.