What do bruised tomatoes, misshapen carrots and droopy celery have in common? They make great soup.
According to a CBC article from 2019, over 58% of food produced in Canada is lost or wasted. That’s over 35.5 million tonnes, and an estimated third of that could be rescued.
Enter Ginger Jars, a small family-run business offering a variety of delicious products that are all natural and made from scratch. Ginger Jars prevents food waste by purchasing produce from local grocery stores that is perfectly edible—but rejected due to being bruised, nicked, or visually unappealing—and turns them into delicious soups and dressings. At first, it was based on what they could collect and was more trial and error, but eventually they established their standard products.
It all started four years ago when Tim Bedford, a chef and culinary professor, and his wife Stephanie Heins who has a background in communications, business and art, noticed the amount of food waste in Canada. Bedford, Heins, as well as their kids are a family of redheads, including their dog. “When people see our family, they go, oh, I get it now,” laughed Heins, referring to the name of the business—Ginger Jars.
They’d just returned from travelling the world and noticed that other countries were more proactive in finding ways to reduce food waste, compared to Canada where, at the time, over 30% of the food grown doesn’t reach our plates.
If a fruit, vegetable or food item isn’t perfect, then Heins describes how disturbing it is that we’ve almost been conditioned to think that it must not be good for our bodies. Even if something is just going off, there are ways to recuperate and save it. “It’s just really a lot of trying to educate people around that,” she said. “I mean I still even have friends today that if there’s mould on one fruit, they toss out the whole bin,” which is completely unnecessary.
Although the couple owns two restaurants, they found that there was an immense exposure to liability associated with implementing their food plan there. Instead, they decided to start Ginger Jars and see if they could pair with grocery stores to make an impact since there’s a lot of waste in that area of the food chain.
“Ginger Jars has been trying to reduce the amount of waste that goes into the landfills, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and it’s kind of a circular effect,” said Heins, stating how their product puts food back on the shelf that would otherwise be wasted, so that groceries stores like IGA can regain some of their financial loss too—creating a circular economy that benefits a variety of areas.
“It was super important for us that if we were going to go green with this idea, that our packaging is going to be Green as well,” said Heins, who mentioned that they’ve baked the glass jars with their logo so that they can be reused, after being put through a high-pressure dishwasher which sanitizes them. The lids are recyclable, and the tags are also printed on recyclable paper. “It’s a naked product, there’s nothing we’re hiding,” she said, “everything is natural, everything is really good for you, and it’s great for the environment.”
Ginger Jars products are currently only offered at Molly’s Reach, one of Bedford and Heins’ restaurants, as well as sold wholesale to grocers on the Sunshine Coast like IGA Gibsons, IGA Wilson Creek (Sechelt) and Goodacre Market.
To ensure that the business remains manageable, Ginger Jars is trying not to diversify across too many locations and products, as the process of jarring is expensive and time consuming. However, Heins mentioned their desire to branch out by either finding a company to help them diversify their products, or with a franchising opportunity that would allow them to go to other provinces to help create the product locally.
On top of creating their products, the couple aims to educate kids from as young as five to 14 years old about what they can do and how they can manage food waste in their homes through a series of classes, workshops and tutorials. “We really wanted to target young kids who are proactive and excited about making a change in the world,” said Heins. Ginger Jars was recognized for Best Community Impact at the 2020 Small Business BC awards and has also been working to help create online classrooms for kids who are interested in reducing their environmental footprint.
“It’s all about educating and changing people’s perspective,” said Heins. “And where it starts is with the kids and getting that into the classrooms—getting it into the education system.”
So, when you’re next on the Sunshine Coast, head over to one of the stores or restaurants listed below, and get yourself some delicious soups or dressings—with sterling but unusual provenance.