Farms draw meal-kit companies to the Fraser Valley

Chefs Plate — a meal kit delivery service that started in Ontario about three years ago — opened its western Canada headquarters in Abbotsford in January.

Meal delivery company Chefs Plate chose to locate in Abbotsford instead of Vancouver

Toronto-based meal-kit company Chefs Plate's Western Canadian operation has grown from 20 to 100 employees since it opened in Abbotsford earlier this year. (Chefs Plate)

Chefs Plate — a meal-kit delivery service that started in Ontario about three years ago — opened its Western Canadian headquarters in Abbotsford in January.

Since then, the company has grown from 20 to 100 employees in Abbotsford.

Chefs Plate is just one example of a rapidly growing meal delivery service industry in B.C. that includes Foodora, Skip the Dishes and Breakfast Courier.

Unlike the majority of its competitors, Chefs Plate chose to put down roots in the Fraser Valley instead of in or near Vancouver.

"We were looking at real estate over the Greater Vancouver area, and as part of opening our facility, a big part was building a supply chain that could support the business," said co-founder Jamie Shea.

"A big part of what we do is deliver farm-to-table ingredients to our customers and a lot of the people we were talking to actually had farms out in the Abbotsford area."

Shea's company offers a different service than most meal-kit companies.

Instead of delivering food from restaurants like the Skip the Dishes or providing prepared meals like Chomp, customers choose a recipe from the Chefs Plate website.

The company then sends the ingredients to the customer's home, where they can cook the meal themselves.

Opportunity for farmers

The management team at Evergreen Herbs in Surrey didn't know much about the meal-kit industry before they received a call from Chefs Plate.

Business development director Alan Gaser says now they supply Chefs Plate with everything from basil to rhubarb.

"You don't realize the magnitude of how big the market has become for meal-kit companies," he said.

"We do substantial volume with them, and it's a new way to get our products to market."

Fraser Valley

When Gord Schamehorn started Mealife — an Edmonton-based company that provides fresh meal-kits to customers in northern Alberta — he thought if it was ever to expand, Calgary would be the most likely destination.

Three years later, he's looking at Langley instead.

"We had a lot of people calling that wanted to get involved, so we created an opportunity and we're days away from signing off with a group in Langley," he said.

Schamehorn says his company's meals will also be locally sourced.

"We'll deal with the small potato guy or the greenhouse guy or the chicken guy as long as they can meet the criteria on standards and what we're looking for," he said.