23 Jan Spotlight on: Luv the Grub
In support of the Metro Vancouver Food Recovery Network, this spotlight series shines a light on businesses in the region that are finding innovative ways to upcycle surplus food – turning food that would have previously been discarded into a whole new product, and creating new value in the process.
What is Luv the Grub’s mission?
We partner with local farms and produce markets to mitigate all those bumped, bruised but equally delicious fruits and vegetables from entering the landfill, and turn them into delicious, gourmet chutneys and spreads – all the while hiring newcomer refugees and immigrants.
How does it work?
We pay for the produce seconds that we are able to source, upcycle them into chutneys and spreads and sell them to the local market. This allows us to not only elongate and put to use the produce into something delicious but also create fair, inclusive and accessible employment opportunities
What inspired the founding of Luv the Grub?
Our founder Alia Sunderji was teaching a sustainable innovation class at Simon Fraser University. Her students brought forward research highlighting the issue of food waste in BC, particularly the enormous amount of produce seconds that were ending up in the landfill due to cosmetic reasons.
Alia saw an opportunity to rescue this “ugly” produce and turn it into something delicious. Chutneys are a staple in her East African home, and it clicked: she would turn discarded produce into tasty, fusion gourmet chutneys.
Beyond reducing food waste, Alia wanted to do something for her community. Her mother came to Canada as a Ugandan refugee, and she knew the struggle most newcomers face. So, she decided to hire newcomer refugees to give them their first Canadian work experience and a new community at Luv the Grub.
How much food have you rescued to date?
60,000 LB of produce
Where are you sourcing the ingredients you are upcycling?
We currently source our produce from either local farms and produce markets as well we source our onions from ReCruz Produce which redirects produce seconds from large food service chains to smaller producers.
What can you share about the environmental, social and/or economic impact of your work to date?
In the four years since founding Luv The Grub, we’ve partnered with 8 local farms and produce markets to rescue over 60,000 lbs of produce from the landfill. We’ve hired over 40 individuals through our paid employment training program. Our chutneys and spreads are sold in over 110 retail locations across Canada and the United States
What has your experience working with rescued food been like?
Our experience with using rescued produce has been mostly positive. For the most part, we are very shocked at what is considered second-grade produce. The categorization sometimes is due to a small bump/bruise or irregular shape. The quality for the most part is just as good as the first-grade products. There are other times though that the rescued produce we receive requires a lot of processing prior to using it and in this case ends up being more costly due to the cost plus the processing labour associated with it.
What do you think makes Luv the Grub unique?
We make delicious gourmet chutneys that are not only delicious but also sustainable. We deliver on product, people and the planet. We also are an innovative food company. In the market for the most part you can only find a mango chutney however we have introduced unique, diverse chutneys such as our Blueberry Sage Chutney, Pear Walnut Chutney that are not only great with Indian food but can be used for multiple applications – we particularly love them with cheese!
What would you consider Luv the Grub’s biggest success to date?
The amount of produce we’ve upcycled into delicious products, the community we have built as well as the scale we have been able to achieve through our distribution of products.
What are some of the biggest challenges Luv the Grub has faced?
Where can we start?? The journey of being a social enterprise and balancing people, planet and profit at the same time is no easy feat however we feel strongly about our mission and this pushes us forward to overcome the challenges we face.
Where can someone looking to buy your product find them?
They can visit our website which shows where they can buy it at their local grocery store or purchase it from our website directly at www.luvthegrub.com as well on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.
What has been the public response to your products?
The response has been great! They love the taste of the product and when they find out about the mission, they love it even more.
Have you noticed a change in attitude towards upcycled food since Luv the Grub first started?
We have had very little negative attitudes towards upcycled food and more people agree that we should be using more upcycled produce and support the mission.
What advice would you share with someone looking to start their own food upcycling venture?
Take into account all the costs associated with making your end product – from sourcing, processing, and wastage from processing. Also, there is a generally positive and supportive community who values and wants to support sustainable products. The future is bright for food upcycling!
Prepared by Megan Czerpak, Head of Communications at FoodMesh