Suppliers, Producers and Goodly Foods: Cooking Potentially Together
At its core, Goodly Foods is all about “Cooking with Potential”. We are working with the potential of the food system rather than focusing on the problem of food waste. We are equally interested in where food comes from as well as where it is going. We view surplus produce as a significant resource that can feed people delicious and nutritious food while also creating needed jobs and having a positive impact on our environment. And, we are not alone.
Since our inception we have been fortunate to have developed and maintained relationships with several local food producers and suppliers who are also passionate about the potential of surplus produce. We are incredibly grateful to them for their ongoing support and for donating surplus produce…and for being strong advocates for change. Turns out that doing the right thing also makes good business sense for these well-established organizations.
Located in an industrial section of Richmond, BC is Fresh Start Foods. Every month they distribute millions of pounds of produce to food service providers (e.g., restaurants, health care facilities, hotels) across North America. They have a dedicated team on-site who manually sort all the produce and pull out products they feel they cannot sell through the food service chain. Mostly they are looking for any sign of rot or decay and are then sorted by stage of ripeness and size. Interestingly, many of the tomatoes that don’t get used are under ripe or slightly bruised. And some are just a bit too ripe to survive the trip to the end user.
Keith Potratz, who is the Tomato/Repack Production Manager, has always wondered what could be done with the tomatoes that, although not appropriate for the food service market, were still quite usable for other applications. So when our GM, Alexa Pitoulis reached out to their GM Joe Lavoie last year and asked if they would be interested in participating in our initiative, he sent the information to Potratz who quickly jumped on board. “It was a good fit as it aligned well with our values.” For Potratz, who has been with the company for 13 years, “it makes sense to do this as we would rather use the produce than send it to compost. The idea of Goodly has a simplicity to it, especially with the basic ingredients.”
So far, Fresh Start has donated several hundred pounds of tomatoes to Goodly Foods and has helped to shape our first product, a Hearty Tomato Vegetable Soup. According to Potratz about 10% to 15% of tomatoes they receive do not end up in food supply chain. “We want to make it all usable and don’t want customers to have to throw away 30%. Our purpose is to remove challenges and add value to what they are buying. That they use all that they are buying, reduces waste and saves money and time.”
Another one of our valued suppliers is BC Fresh, which is a 100% grower-owned and operated company located in Delta, BC. With over 65 family farms throughout the Fraser Valley, select BC regions and premier growing areas across North America, BC Fresh delivers their produce to restaurants, farmers markets, grocery stores, institutions, food processors, and food banks.
According to Brian Faulkner, VP Business Development and Marketing, “some of the family farms we work with have been operating for over a century and are 4th and 5th generation farms. Although some farms are in flux, all the farmers are there because they want to grow good food…it guides what they do and what we do.”
BC Fresh started in 1992 under the name of Lower Mainland Vegetable Distributors but changed their name in 2008 to be more current and representative of what they do. “We are the largest grower of storage crop vegetables in British Columbia,” says Faulkner “and we probably account from between 80% to 90% of any one crop that we grow.”
BC Fresh has supplied Goodly Foods with carrots and onions for our first few rounds of product development and earlier this fall they also offered us kabocha squash. Chef Karen Barnaby was thrilled with the surplus squash as she loved the idea of being able to work with the entire squash (skins, seeds and pulp) in making a soup.
Faulkner loves the work that he does, and it comes across. He believes “that food waste is about how you fit it into the supply chain and as the profile of the crop changes.” He is also quite proud to work in this industry. “The produce industry in BC is a really unique place. We are all competitors but we are all quite collaborative. We are kind of on our own out here and we have to support each other. We also need to be able to rely on each other.”
Another one of our suppliers of surplus tomatoes has been Star Group, headquartered in Surrey. The Star Group has been a leader in growing greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers for over 40 years.
Matt Bates, a VP with Star Group who has been with the company for fourteen years, believes strongly in supporting local initiatives, especially those that are breaking new ground. “We see ourselves as a big part of the community and as a company we have a goal of bringing innovation and taste to the industry.”
So when Alexa Pitoulis first contacted his company with the idea for Goodly Foods the summer of 2017, he was eager to sit down and talk about the scope of the project. “We were happy to be involved as it fit with what we were doing and with the values of our company.” He saw Goodly Foods as a creative idea and was impressed with the vision and drive behind our mission. “Goodly was very persistent and persevered to find a solution and to provide good meals for people with less than perfect produce. This is important for our industry, our company and for me personally.”
The Star Group provided Goodly Foods with surplus tomatoes for the first test batch of tomato soup which was created by Chef Karen Barnaby. Pitoulis was then able to bring back a some samples for Bates and his team to try. “She brought soup back and it was awesome to try and everyone really liked it. We had soup for the week.” But this simple gesture also allowed everyone to feel a part of the process and to understand the importance of what Goodly Foods was doing and to appreciate that other suppliers were also involved. “It truly is a collaborative industry” says Bates “we all know each other and try to support each other wherever we can.”
We at Goodly Foods are so grateful to be welcomed into this industry and value how collaborative and supportive our partners are with us and each other. Not only are we all cooking with potential but we are doing it together!
Photo of squash, onions and carrots by Chef Karen Barnaby.
Other photos by Jo-Anne Lauzer.