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Passport plays up kidsí bent to collect
March 18, 2016

Stuck on fruit
February 10, 2016

Produce Passport News

Stuck on fruit

February 10, 2016






Winnipeg entrepreneur marketing unique sticker books to get kids to eat more produce 


PARENTS, teachers and caregivers desperate to coax finicky kids to eat more fruit are turning to an inventive Winnipeg entrepreneur to get the job done.


Robert Zyluk has filled more than 1,000 orders for his Produce Passport since he launched the product over the Internet four weeks ago.


Produce Passport is a sticker book, designed to encourage kids to go bananas over everything from apples and apricots to papayas, pears, plums, pineapples and pomegranates. There's the odd vegetable in there, too -- like red peppers, because they come with a sticker.


The colourful little book, shaped like a real passport, contains fun fruit facts, a brief description of 21 fruits, nutrition information about each, and a section for kids to collect the UPC stickers from the produce they eat. There are also produce-themed puzzles and games. 


Zyluk came up with the idea for Produce Passport more than a year ago, inspired, he says, by news reports about childhood obesity. Though the Royalwood resident has no children, he says he became driven to find a way to improve kids' health. 


"Kids love to collect stickers... so I thought why not come up with a fun and interactive way to help the kids make healthier food choices," says the former vice-president of sales for the Winnipeg Goldeyes. 


Zyluk spent a year developing Produce Passport and handing out hundreds of samples to friends and strangers. Most gave him positive feedback after testing it on their kids. He says he was tempted to give up on his dream after grocery stores and school divisions declined to carry the passport. "They said it was a great idea, but that's as far as it went. I could either let the project die, or pick up on it." 


Finally, about a month ago, he launched the product on a dedicated site, www.producepassport.com. It comes in two versions -- one for older kids, one for younger -- and costs $2.95. 


He is amazed by the initial success of his brainchild. 


"We haven't spent anything on advertising," says Zyluk, who has sold his passports to customers in New Jersey, Oregon, California, Indiana, Alberta, Washington D.C, Kansas City and Houston, among others. "We're just a small grassroots type of company trying to make its way on the world market." 


One of his biggest orders was for 200 books to a school in Alberta. He has also sold to a private school in Maryland. 


Zyluk, who spends his days working in advertising sales at the local arm of a national magazine, admits that making customer contacts hasn't been easy. "It's taken over my life right now," says Zyluk, noting that he spends hours daily responding to e-mail inquiries about his product and pitching it to school divisions and government agencies around the continent. 


He has written to every provincial health minister in Canada and hopes that they will decide to purchase Produce Passport in bulk. 


He feels some of his American sales pitches are paying off, as the U.S army has expressed "serious interest" in the product. 


Meanwhile, Zyluk says he is proud that his invention has made an impact on a handful of children. He relishes the stories he hears from product testers such as Winnipegger Jackie Bockstael, whose 11-year-old nephew, Cameron, gave Produce Passport a trial run during a visit last summer. 


"He just loved it and was caught up in it right away," says Bockstael. "He'd put the fruit stickers in the book. It was really cute." 


The book convinced Cameron -- who previously stuck with fruits like apples and bananas -- to expand his palate. 


"He was running around trying pears and tomatoes -- fruits he really didn't have a hankering for before," says Bockstael. "He ended up trying kiwis and was impressed that you could eat the little black seeds. He thought they made a nice pattern." 


Bockstael says she plans to purchase more Produce Passports for Cameron, now 12. 


"I'm a believer that kids should eat better. They aren't getting enough fruit and vegetables."