From farmers' market to commercial success: Edmonton plant-based company opens bigger facility

Nabati Foods started as a family business at the farmers' market in 2014. In early May, the company opened a new manufacturing facility.

Nabati Foods co-founder says move will help firm grow, introduce new products

Employees at Nabati Foods making cheese in the new manufacturing facility in Edmonton. (Submitted by Nabati Foods)

Things have really taken off for an Edmonton plant-based food company called Nabati Foods as the family-owned business moved in early May into a new manufacturing facility.

The new production facility, located in the McArthur Industrial Area in the city's northwest, is five times larger than the pilot facility. The company makes products that are served across North America.

Ahmad Yehya, co-founder and CEO of Nabati Foods, said the products are gluten-free, kosher, vegan, and non-GMO. 

He said the milestone will help the company grow not only in the United States but also enter the European market. And it will also help introduce new products for consumers. 

"This new plant is actually going to be producing 1.2 million pounds of our plant-based cheese, which is really popular," he told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "We're also going to be making about a million pounds of our plant-based meat, which we just introduced last November and has taken off.

"It was beyond our capacity to make it at our old facility." 

The business started because Yehya's family was interested in eating more healthy and nutritious food but had a hard time finding it in stores.

"We just made them at home and shared them with family and friends," he said. 

After getting positive feedback from friends and family, Yehya said they decided to sell products at the farmers' market in early 2014. 

"And it really took off from there," he said. 

After a year of selling at the farmers' market, they leased a new space in 2015. Remedy Cafe became their first customer for cakes.

Their most popular products included desserts like energy balls and dairy-free cheesecakes that are made with fruits and nuts. 

Yehya said the biggest challenge of commercializing their products was figuring out the equipment they needed. 

"For this kind of product, we had to customize equipment used in the industry because of the type of ingredients," he said. 

Much of the equipment in the industry is meant for ingredients like flour, which the company does not use. They use whole, unrefined fruits, nuts, vegetables and dates.

"Working with dates and preparing them in a way to use it in the crust is very difficult in an industrial setting," he said. "So we had to figure out how to process every ingredient ourselves."


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