Kelly Beaulieu’s idea for converting the nutrition from vegetables that would otherwise be thrown away into a tasty food product has caught the eye of some big names in the processed food business.
Beaulieu’s company, Canadian Prairie Garden Purees, has recently received letters of intent to purchase from Nestle and Campbell’s after sending them samples.
The deals have yet to be finalized, but Beaulieu said it looks promising.
“It’s really exciting to have the big guys notice you,” she said.
Beaulieu started the processing company because she wanted to address the amount of waste being created in the development and production of retail vegetables. Around 40 to 60 per cent of the produce in Manitoba is deemed unsellable and instead fed to animals or used for compost.
“It’s still top quality, it’s only visually imperfect,” she said. The agronomist-turned entrepreneur said looks don’t matter to her process because vegetables lose their shape soon after entering the building where they are turned into purées.
“Since we grind it up right away I don’t really care if the carrot is crooked or the cauliflower is the wrong size,” said Beaulieu.
Working through the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie, she can process 8,000 lbs. an hour with only a five-person team. They process around 30 different types of vegetables that are all sourced from Manitoba, with the exception of Ontario sweet potatoes.
The steam-fusion cooking process flash cooks produce, locking in nutrients — even the vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin B that is usually destroyed by heat.
With the help of a food scientist, they identified the temperature and duration of the processing that would cook the vegetables while still maintaining the nutrients.
After the vegetables are cooked they are dropped into an ice bath, which stops the cooking process quickly, and preserves the colour, flavour and health of the product.
The product is also designed to appeal to gourmet restaurants. Her company currently supplies several restaurants across North America, including Prairie 360 in the Fort Garry Hotel.
John Placko works as a consulting chef to craft recipes that swap raw ingredients for the purée.
Then chefs are invited to taste test. While pitching to a bakery, Placko demonstrated how it could use beet purées in its meringues. For another restaurant he replaced some ricotta cheese in a lasagne with navy bean purée.
“It reduces the fat content, reduces the calorie content, increases the protein and decreases the cost, so it’s all a win-win,” said Beaulieu.
Not to mention the time saved. Canadian Prairie Garden Purees have a shelf life of two years. The company washes the veggies, peels them, cooks and processes them. They even tackle produce that draws tears.
“You don’t have to cry over my onions,” she chuckled.