“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” or so the saying goes. For Sunshine Coast business, Ginger Jars, the bruised and only slightly damaged produce thrown out daily by grocery stores is a diamond in the rough - and the basis for their fresh and sustainable business model: fresh homemade soups, served in reusable glass jars.
Those produce shelves at the local grocery store are stacked with perfect fruits and vegetables, glimmering under the shop lights. But, what many people don’t know is that tonnes of produce are thrown out every week because of small blemishes that don’t impact the taste or nutritional value - only the aesthetics.
Husband and wife Tim and Stephanie first came up with the idea of repurposing grocery store food waste to make food, back when they lived in East Vancouver. Tim is a trained chef and, having worked in the industry for 17 years, he’s seen first-hand the amount of food waste coming out of kitchens. He’s also co-owner of Drift Cafe and Bistro, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. Stephanie has a marketing and communications background.
“Basically, Ginger Jars was born because we both have a passion for seeing food not going to waste,” says Stephanie. “It really didn’t come to fruition until we moved [to the Sunshine Coast] - mostly because there’s room to breathe and think and be creative here.”
The pair approached their local IGA in Gibsons and was soon picking up the culled produce on and cooking up recipes.
Now, the “fruits” of their labour are coming to life. Currently, Ginger Jars has three regular recipes based on consistent produce they receive each week: tomato vegan, caramelized onion and potato, and cream of asparagus. They’re always experimenting with seasonal recipes too.
“I always joke that our vegan tomato soup is like the everyman’s soup because you can take it and make it into pasta sauce, you can eat it cold and you can eat it hot,” says Tim, adding that they plan to expand their food offerings in the near future.
Unsurprisingly, the Sunshine Coast community has been quick to embrace the idea, given the large number of environmentally-minded people who live in the area.
Tim and Stephanie describe Ginger Jars as a “waste management company” and see their business as a contributor to positive social change. They donate 10% of their profits to the local Food Bank and are consulting a newly formed food waste think tank created by Sunshine Coast Regional District. Tim will also be speaking at an agriculture speaker series, hosted by Persephone Brewing.
Tim believes this is the start of a greater momentum: “Hopefully that means that we can create more problem solving ways to deal with waste on The Coast, but also maybe become a little bit bigger in the sense that we can start helping out government needs as well as local retailers.”
While the couple are new residents of The Coast, they are far from strangers of this area. Tim’s family has had a cabin in Bonniebrook for more than 35 years. When Stephanie had her first-born, she says a “light went off” that convinced them to take the leap and move to the coast.
Now, their family of four spends their days exploring the coastal inlets and islands within a short distance of their home. Here, they can watch eagles soar, marvel at seal pups and spot starish through the crystal waters in their off-time from the business.
For Stephanie and Tim, the support of the Sunshine Coast community has been amazing for both their businesses and their personal lives.
According to Tim, new business owners should do their research. “Consult the locals. People are pretty open with telling their opinions, which is pretty awesome. But if you don’t consult them, there’s a lot of little things that are kind of unique to the coast that I’ve found you have to be aware of,” he says.
So, two years into their new life on The Coast and they have two children, a five-bedroom home with rental suite, and two new businesses.
Stephanie says, it’s the best decision they’ve made yet: “This will always be our home. It will be the home of Ginger Jars. We’re not going anywhere.”