Ontario co-packer keeps things pure and simple for a fast-growing brand of locally-sourced soups and sauces
Keeping things pure and simple seems to come naturally for Carole-Ann Hayes, president of a fast-growing Ontario producer of high-quality soups, sauces and preserves made exclusively from locally-grown fruits and vegetables under the expert guidance from one of the country‘s best-known celebrity chefs.
Since starting up in 2009 under The Great Ontario Food Company banner—better known as Ontario’s Own after the filing of a formal ‘doing business as’ request—the Toronto-headquartered company has quickly acquired a knack and growing industry reputation for its ability to source locally-produced food ingredients captured at the peak of their freshness to develop a mouthwatering array of soup mixes, stocks, purées, chilis and other wholesome creations with an unmistakable ‘home-made’ taste and texture profile.
“We did not want to call them ‘home-made,’ because we think this is now a much-abused term,” says Hayes. “We prefer to call them ‘lovingly prepared’ instead.
“That’s why we decided to use one of Canada’s top chefs, if not the top chef, to work with us on our plan to support Ontario’s family farms and local economies by offering foods that are grown close to home.”
Along with marketing specialist Hillary Graham, Hayes recruited Dan Donovan—a renowned chef who had recently worked as the executive sous chef at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto—as the company’s product developer.
According to Hayes, the fact that Donovan had learned the art of cooking as an apprentice to the world-famous celebrity chef and restaurateur Jamie Kennedy, who also happens to be a vocal supporter of using locally-grown and produced food products, made him a natural fit for the company’s ambitious plans and vision.
“The first thing we did was contact Jaime Kennedy to help us create the recipes,” recalls Hayes. “We were excited to work with Jamie since he was championing a cause we could really sink our teeth into, and he knows how to create authentic but simple dishes, which in some cases would be considered comfort food.”
Adds Hayes: “Jamie has an iconic status with local farmers because while he always creates great meals and it is always done with an eye towards supporting the local farmers, which is something that we strive to do with Ontario’s Own to make it unique in the marketplace.”
At the moment, Ontario’s Own is using Jamie Kennedy recipes for marketing three of its popular product lines: Chicken Noodle Soup, using Rowe Farms-supplied chicken; and Sauce Bolognese and Chili con Carne, with both products using tomatoes supplied by the Thomas Utopia farms.
Other products currently marketed under the Ontario’s Own brand label include:
- Tomato Soup, using tomatoes grown in the province’s southwestern-based Essex County;
- Roast Carrot Soup, using carrots grown at Carron Farms;
- Butternut Squash Soup, using southwestern Ontario butternut squash;
- Vegetarian Chili, using Persal Farms black turtle beans;
- Chicken Stock, using Rowe Farms chickens;
- Vegetable Stock, using Soiled Reputation Farm vegetables;
- Tomato Sauce, featuring tomatoes from Kerr Farms;
- Peach Puree, using Cherry Lane venture peaches;
- Pear Puree, using Andrewes Farm bartlett pears;
- Organic Pear Puree, using Filsinger’s Organic Foods & Orchards’ organic orchard pears.
While Hayes says the company’s ultimate goal is to have all of its raw produce grown in Ontario one day, she points out that all Ontario’s Own brand products already contain at least 98 per cent Ontario-sourced ingredients by weight.
To actually manufacture its products on a commercial scale, the company recruited the services of well-established nearby contract food manufacturer and co-packer Sabatini’s Gourmet Foods—a family-owned, 40-employee operation in northern Toronto that co-packs about 300 SKUs (stock-keeping units) of many popular private-label and brand-name food products, including soups, pasta dishes, dips, sauces, and various ethnic-cuisine offerings.