Innovation Thrives in the Western-Most Province

Sustainability, plant-based foods, and places for more processors to grow their businesses are key themes in BC’s food processing sector.

by Ronda Payne

The fourth annual, From the Ground Up trade show delivered something for everyone with its increased number of exhibitors at the Vancouver PNE forum on May 26. Founder of and Good to Grow, Andrea Gray-Grant established the event and says it was one of the only trade shows during COVID because it was held outside at that time.

“It’s grown from 37 to 61 [exhibitors]. It’s almost doubled in size,” she says. “We were asked to [expand]. We started getting a different quality of buyers.”

The curated show is solely for BC processors and Gray-Grant has found that retailers are looking ahead, knowing the future of the food supply is local.

“We grow more kinds of things in our climate,” she says of BC’s variety. “We have a lot of different crops and a lot of different animals.”

With more than 4,000 processors in BC, she says the diversity of processing in the province is even greater than the diversity of agricultural outputs.

Greens for tea

One vendor at From the Ground Up that has flipped their crop on its toes – or teas as the case may be – is Tea’d Greens. Sheila Didomenicantonio and husband Brad McNish run the company together from their 400-acre farm in Bridesville, BC.

“We just launched in April,” says Didomenicantonio. “We make tea out of barley, spelt and oatleaf.”

This naturally caffeine-free and gluten-free tea will soon be processed on the farm in a brand-new facility. Flavours mirroring green, oolong and black teas make up the six blends available.

Crystal-clear dental care

Not quite a food, but certainly something for healthy mouths, is Love Your Mouth dental crystals. Moon Spozhmi is a natural oral health coach, dental educator, holistic dental assistant, aromatherapist and more, all of which came together in her product designed to keep teeth and gums healthy.

“My base is MCT coconut oil powder. It’s like a blast of nutrients,” she says. “A little bit of baking soda, a little bit of sea salt and therapeutic essential oils.”

She wanted to keep her product simple yet also tasty and effective.

Snacking simply

Nutrient-rich, plant-based snacking is a possibility while also being delicious and filling. PD Narula, founder of Game Changer Foods, was snacking on chick peas, thinking it would be nice if there was a sweeter option for the powerhouse legume.

“I actually grew up eating chick peas all my life,” he says. “I’m a big foodie. But I wanted to keep it simple.”

Available in Super Seed, Oat and Coconut and Chocolate and Almond flavours, these high-fibre snack balls keep people full longer while also satisfying their sweet tooth.

Complete burger from plants

Synergy comes from unexpected relationships when Peqish provides the right platform. Kenneth To, chief commercial officer with the company says there is an ongoing search for really clean products to fit the company’s Food Created by Doctors and Chefs program.

“We created this certification because other brands also wanted this,” he says of the program.

BABz Burgers and Breadz and Bready Mix healthy breads came together to create the Imaginable Burger for Peqish’s grab ‘n go line. The plant-based burger mix is formed into patties and paired up with a specialty spread on the Bready Mix Keto burger bun for a match made in clean-food heaven.

Protein and pancakes for a delicious win

Sherry Rothwell wanted a better option for her friend with cancer, who was eating pancakes all the time, because they were easy. As a nutritionist, and a former vegetarian, she knew she could create a versatile product that delivered protein and flexibility in one.

Protein Powered brand pancake mix was born.

“I literally haven’t gotten to a retail shelf yet,” she says at the trade show of her brand-new product.

The great thing about it, is the ability to go from savoury to sweet and everything in between. Rothwell had samples like chocolate chip pancakes, cheese and vegetable pancakes, berry pancakes and more. Gluten-free, sugar-free, nut-free, this mix is easy to use for any meal.

Smooth, creamy yogurt from plants

Sometimes a dairy-alternative makes the difference in someone’s diet and their life. Co-founder and CEO of Plant Veda, Sunny Gurnani, wanted his kids to have a different outcome than he’d had. Gurnani’s dad died from heart disease and it made Gurnani look at his diet differently.

Together with Mayur Sahnani, the pair formed the company that creates products to keep people from missing dairy. Whole and plant-based foods make up the range of products from drinkable yogurts, dairy-free coffee creamers, spoonable cashew yogurt and more.

French pastries made local

Brother Jim Kim and sister Chae Kim decided they had to do something during the pandemic when Jim found himself idle because his hospitality-based job dried up. He thought about things he loved and settled on the Dacquoise, a light, layered buttercream pastry.

In Port Coquitlam, they set up the Earthling Bakery and Foods café that combined the French pastry with Korean-style baking that incorporates sweet rice flour into baked items.

“I wanted to do something that’s true to my heart with my sister,” he says.

Now, they provide delicious baked goods in the café, but also ship them to customers and retail locations.

Chocolate without guilt

Women love chocolate, but the sugar plays havoc with their bodies. Of course, it isn’t just women, and Alice Grey, founder and CEO of Mindful Monk Fudge knew monk fruit could sweeten without the harmful effects of sugar.

Organic cocoa butter, powder and mass, organic peanuts/peanut butter, organic MCT and a few other natural and organic ingredients satisfy chocolate cravings in functional food. With zero sugar added, it’s a great way to satisfy cravings without zero guilt.

“Added sugar is bad for you and makes you sick,” she says of what she learned on her own personal health journey. “Healthy fats are good for you and don’t make you fat.”

Rub-a-dub-dub, new coatings make good grub

Rick’s Rubs has launched a new lineup of products to bring a flavourful crunch to favourite foods. The range of rubs from Asian to fish & seafood; Tuscan to the original and many more, have a strong following.

Now, three of those rub flavours are incorporated into gluten-free, keto-friendly Crispy Coaters to bring a crumb coating to fish, chicken, pasta and beyond. Samantha Daskis, outside sales rep, says having their own manufacturing facility allows for complete control over ingredients.

“Customers can expect that same great taste and ingredients in the new Crispy Coaters as in the rubs,” she says.

Grey-Grant summarized the trade show by saying she hopes BC’s processing industry will begin to be reflective of the province’s population.

“I’m very proud that 68 per cent of people in the show were women-owned businesses,” she says. “21 of them identified as persons of colour and there were seven indigenous businesses.”

She is thrilled with the success of the show, but more so about the success of the exhibitors. These are the people creating local products to ensure BC’s position as a hub of food and beverage processing.

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