After 7 years in business, Edmonton plant-based food company goes public

·3 min read
Ahmad Yehya, co-founder and CEO of Nabati Food displays one if the company's plant-based food products in its warehouse. (Travis McEwan/CBC - image credit)
Ahmad Yehya, co-founder and CEO of Nabati Food displays one if the company's plant-based food products in its warehouse. (Travis McEwan/CBC - image credit)

Nabati Foods, a plant-based food company in Edmonton, is marking a year of growth as it commenced trading its common shares on the Canadian Securities Exchange last week.

"That has been a great milestone for us. Of course, that is offering a huge opportunity for us to be more transparent [and] invite a lot more publicity and interest in our investors to look at our company," said Ahmad Yehya, the company's co-founder and CEO.

Nabati Foods makes gluten-free, kosher, vegan, and non-GMO versions of products like cheeses and cheesecakes. It is trading on the securities exchange under the symbol MEAL.

In May the company moved into a new manufacturing facility in the McArthur Industrial area. In August it launched its plant-based liquid egg product, which had been in the works for a few years. This week the company announced its products will be available on Costco's Canadian website.

It's quite the change from the company's humble beginning, which started with sales at the farmer's market nearly seven years ago.

"I started this company with my partner and wife, and we were looking at just making something that really is focused on delivering great products, mouth-watering plant-based foods to consumers," Yehya said.

Travis McEwan/CBC
Travis McEwan/CBC

Plant-based food companies across Canada are seeing exponential growth with matching customer demand.

In March Lovingly Made Ingredients, a manufacturer of plant-based sausages and burgers, opened its facility in Calgary.

Last year, the Agri-food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University estimated the Canadian plant-based food market to be worth $400 million.

Sylvain Charlebois, the lab's director said the market is expected to expand beyond $1 billion by 2024 or 2025.

"The growth trajectory for that category is pretty impressive compared to other other food categories," Charlebois said in an interview.

Dalhousie researchers last year found 19 Canadian plant-based brands that generated more than $3 million each in annual sales.

"We are expecting that number to double by the end of next year, so it's getting busier, which is actually good news for consumers, since that category appeared to have been too expensive for many consumers," Charlebois said.

He points to rising food costs as one of the reasons why consumers are moving away from animal proteins.

Dalhousie, in partnership with Caddle, surveyed 10,005 Canadians over the summer about food prices at the grocery store.

The survey, released in late September, found that 57 per cent of Alberta consumers had decided to reduce their meat purchases due to higher prices — the highest rate in Canada.

"People are thinking about their pocketbook. They're not just thinking about health. They're not just thinking about environmental or animal welfare," said Charlebois.

"They're really thinking about the socioeconomics of the meat counter in general."

Yehya's next goal for Nabati Foods is to expand the global market.

"I'd like to think that we're really spearheading this and there's very, very few plant based companies in Alberta," he said.

"We do want to change the economy here, and there's an initiative as well from the government in terms of policy to diversify the economy."

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