The new 70,000 sq ft Delta facility is designed to reuse four million pounds of annual waste into product innovation
When the COVID outbreak started, mother-daughter duo Kimberly and Jasmine Chamberland were stuck elbow-deep in soy-free tofu in Taiwan.
Now, after six years of research and development, a partnership with fava bean company Prairie Fava and $10 million invested in factory equipment, their vegan food establishment Big Mountain Foods (BMF) has launched new products as well as a zero-waste manufacturing facility in Delta, B.C.
“We built our plant around recycling all of our wastewater back into our production process,” says president Jasmine Chamberland. BMF’s upcycling process saves 70 percent of the water that would’ve normally been sent to the waste stream, and the company, which has been making allergen-free plant-based meat alternatives since 1987, has built the 70,000 square foot factory to reuse four million pounds of annual waste in product innovations.
Big Mountain Foods. The new manufacturing facility in Delta, B.C.
Apparently, traditional tofu-making creates more waste than tofu. “It’s actually pretty crazy how much will go into the land, or they’ll ship it to farms to use it as feed,” Chamberland says of the byproduct called okara. “But we’ve developed a way to reuse the okara—we’re putting it back into our current products because it has starch and protein, and we have 12 products in the market, like patties, bites and crumbles.”
Working with UBC Land and Food Systems, BMF is casting a wider net by finding new uses for the byproduct, such as fermenting and distilling it into alcohol or drying it to make cornstarch alternatives like fava starch. “We’re also trying to dry the okara into a glycerin replacement for when they clean paved roads," Chamberland adds.
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This past year has seen the company scale from five staff members to 32. And with a 92 percent penetration rate in Canada, BMF has its products (like the new SuperFava Tofu) in most popular retail stores including Buy-Low, Choices, Loblaws, Nester’s and No Frills.
There’s value in keeping it local, Chamberland maintains, and they do it through partnerships with Canadian suppliers like Prairie Fava (which was funded by Protein Industries Canada). “We do think that Canadian-grown ingredients have a higher standard,” she says. “And then speaking of sustainability and our carbon footprint, sourcing locally reduces that tenfold.”