From Food Waste to Great Taste—how Casa Bonita Foods is tapping into innovative opportunities to grow their business

It’s no secret that food waste is a growing area of focus at all levels of the food value chain. Factors such as economic and human behaviour, transport, lack of resources, and technological limitations all contribute to the many ways we waste food that could otherwise be utilized in effective, innovative and profitable ways.

While consumers account for nearly half of all food waste, savvy agri-food businesses are dedicated to reducing food waste in their operations, and appealing to consumers’ desire to cut back on food waste as a differentiator for their products.

Ontario-based Mexican food processor and Greenbelt Fund grantee Casa Bonita Foods recently tapped into a new partnership with Great Lakes Brewery to address food waste while reinforcing the importance of establishing relationships along the food value chain.

Casa Bonita Foods Inc. produces and markets corn tortillas and chips made from local Ontario ingredients to retail and institutional customers across Ontario, most notably through their recent contract with Sobeys stores. Early in 2018, the Greenbelt Fund invested in Casa Bonita to buy climate-control equipment to increase production, growing their business and creating jobs.

With the Greenbelt Fund’s investment, Casa Bonita was able to hire Kirsten Fairholm to take charge of product development. Fairholm took a wider look at the product line, introducing the idea of new products that bring a multitude of health, social and environmental benefits to the table.

The concept was simple —beer! With the growing success of microbreweries, 30 million tonnes of spent grain is now going unused annually worldwide. Although spent grain is packed with fibre, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and anti-carcinogens, it is generally only used for animal feed and dog treats post-brewing, despite being fit for human consumption. Identifying an opportunity for success, Casa Bonita reached out to Great Lakes Brewery in Toronto with the idea of using their spent grain in a new line of tortilla chips. The brewery was so excited to jump on board with this new project that Casa Bonita had their first delivery of spent grain by the end of the same week.

With plans to launch the new chips in Sobeys in 2019, Casa Bonita currently supplies products to Great Lakes’ food truck. The fibre from the spent grain adds a pleasant texture while the malted barley promises a sweetness that will pair well with any Great Lakes brew.

A major component of Casa Bonita’s growth and success has been the emphasis on establishing relationships within the local food value chain: “There’s so much to be utilized here in Ontario that would set us apart, so why are we bringing so much into the province when we have it right here?”, explains Fairholm.

Prioritizing local and tackling food waste are proving to be important differentiators for Casa Bonita, resulting in significant growth and new opportunities for this Ontario processor.