Hi. I’m Ian Walker President of Hippie Foods and Left Coast Naturals. So, here’s our story. It all started in Burnaby, BC, Canada with an “aha” moment and a desire to do things differently.
Hippie Foods is a family of whole food snacks, cereals and cookies made by us here at Left Coast Naturals, a Canadian business of about 50 people based in Burnaby, B.C., that manufactures and distributes an assortment of organic and natural foods.
The idea of Hippie Foods originated way back in 2005 when we were distributing another brand of tortilla chips. That brand was not selling as well as it should have been, and when our sales reps asked the retailers why, their comment was “why would this sell any better than the other brands out there? They all taste about the same”.
This was a bit of an “aha” moment for us, and we decided there was a different way to make tortilla chips. As we began to play with different ideas, the core concept that kept coming back to us was that there were very few foods made from whole food ingredients that also tasted great.
We ended up inventing several new flavours of tortilla chips, and we named them Hippie Chips because they celebrated that 1960s movement of eating natural foods and keeping real whole foods in our diet.
We realized we were on to something by creating “Hippie” twists on traditional snacks. We then tried our hand at oat-free granolas and coconut chips – to awesome fanfare. Next we took the leap into raw foods with our cookies and garden chips. The great feedback kept coming in (and still is – thank you!) Hippie Foods had become quite the vibrant (and sometimes quirky) family of products.
Our entire company believes in doing what’s best. This includes the way we do business. We embrace the quirky collection of individuals that we are, all while having fun! We don’t just work together – we genuinely care about and support each other, and want to help each other grow personally and professionally. Our commitment is not just making great food and serving our customers, but also to doing it in an ethical and environmentally responsible way.
Left Coast Naturals began in 1996 when Jason Dorland and I decided to sell a unique line of nut butters that Jason had created.
Jason came up with the brand “Skeet & Ike’s” as a graphic design project at Emily Carr University of Art and Design (Skeet was Jason’s nickname, and Ike was his golden retriever). Jason had a wild notion that maybe this product could sell. Together, we started mixing up batches in borrowed kitchens on weeknights, and selling them at the Granville Island Market on weekends. People loved them! Within months, the number of stores asking to carry Skeet & Ike’s had grown so much; we quit our day jobs to expand the business.
At first, the business was small and distributors weren’t interested in carrying our products, so we decided to do it ourselves. That meant running around delivering products out of the trunks of our cars. Realizing that other local food producers faced the same distribution challenge, we bought a van and began to represent a number of brands as a distributor. In that first year, we took on five organic products. Our distribution business did so well that in 2009 it became its own entity: Left Coast Naturals.
We eventually evolved our manufacturing from nut butters into snacks – adding seeds, nuts, granolas and trail mixes, as well as tortilla chips and raw foods including cookies and garden chips. Since we were working directly with farmers and bringing in so many bulk ingredients for manufacturing, Left Coast Naturals also got into organic bulk foods distribution. This provided retailers with the option of buying a wide assortment of organic bulk foods from one supplier.
Today, Left Coast Naturals has a fleet of trucks, a 32,000 square foot warehouse, and a 10,000 square foot production facility. We distribute nearly 30 brands, nearly 200 organic and natural bulk foods, and manufacture two of our own brands: Hippie Foods and Left Coast Bulk Foods. We’re also the first distributor in North America to have a formal non-GMO policy.
Defining the company’s mission, vision and values is a good way for us to ground ourselves in what we believe in, and what we stand for. This keeps us on track for a sustainable future as we move forward as a business. Hippie Foods/Left Coast Naturals’ philosophy of “treating people the way you want to be treated” has evolved over time into our guiding principle of:
Our vision is to be an inspiration to society and a force for positive change.
Our mission is to transform the way people think about food, business and the planet through:
Food made right can make the world a better place on many levels. That’s why we’re very particular about the types of ingredients we use in our products. In making good decisions, it not only benefits you, but also the farmers, the community and the planet.
We believe in being transparent and accountable to you regarding the principles we follow when selecting ingredients and producing the foods we manufacture and distribute. Whenever possible we use ingredients that are:
Certified Organic: We support certified organic ingredients because they are good for you and good for the planet.
Non-GMO: Our company policy states that we do not use or distribute genetically modified organisms. We do not feel there is adequate research into the long term effects of GMOs on the environment or on human health. Further, we are the first distributor in North America to have set a formal non-GMO policy that states our entire catalogue will be non-GMO by the end of December 2015. Read the full policy here.
Whole Foods: Whole food ingredients are as close as possible to the plants they come from: nothing added and nothing taken away. This ensures they are brimming with flavour and nutrition.
High Quality: We use only premium high quality ingredients to make our high quality products.
Fair Trade & Fair Deal: We believe in the fair trade/fair deal movement and its positive impact on farmers around the world. It promotes fair economic return, dignity, and a safe and healthy work environment.
Locally Sourced: When we buy local, we help strengthen our local economy, build our community and reduce our environmental footprint.
Direct from Farmers: We believe in connecting with the farmer who grows our food. This minimizes handling and ensures the farmers who grow the products receive a better deal.
From Sustainable Farmers & Processors: We purchase from suppliers and growers who support sustainable business practices. As part of our supplier selection process, we carefully investigate suppliers’ growing, processing, transportation and human resource practices.
In the spirit of transparency, we admit it can be challenging to meet all of our food philosophy principles all of the time. The two we find the most challenging are using certified organic ingredients, and locally sourcing ingredients.
It’s not always possible to make products using only certified organic ingredients. Some certified organic ingredients are not readily available in the quality or quantity that we need. Other times, the consumer dictates that we cannot sell a product above a certain price point. Both of these scenarios can sometimes force us to use ingredients classified as natural, rather than certified organic.
Our priority is to source all of our ingredients locally. Given the growing conditions in British Columbia, not all ingredients can be grown close by, so we next prioritize Canadian or North American ingredients. Sadly, this is not always an option either, since some items, like organic coconut, are not available in Canada or North America in sufficient quantities at a reasonable price.
Hippie Foods strives for continuous improvement. The more we learn, the better our decisions along the road to sustainability become.
As part of delivering on our mission, vision and values hold ourselves to high standards and are active in many associations. It takes a great deal of time and commitment to attain any one of these certifications. Each one proves that a high standard has been met and we are proud to have acquired them all.
The Non-GMO Project works to ensure the availability of non-GMO products and to help support informed choice. They offer North America’s only third party verification and labeling for non-GMO food and products.
Benefit Corporations are businesses based on a new economic model: one that asks, “How do we use business as a tool for social change?”
Being a B Corp means our success is measured not just with respect to dollars and cents, but also against a stringent set of standards covering our corporate governance and reporting, how we treat our employees and our community, and our environmental practices. This philosophy can make for some hard choices, but we feel it defines the type of business we are.
You can easily recognize our gluten-free products by looking for the Certified Gluten-Free logo. Products with this symbol have been tested and certified by an independent, third-party organization with strict scientific verification standards. We are inspected annually to ensure that each ingredient in the final product, as well as the processing equipment, are gluten-free. All products with this logo contain less than 10ppm gluten. www.gluten.net
Left Coast Naturals has been a certified organic manufacturer and distributor since 2000. All of our products bearing the “Canada Organic” logo are certified by an independent third-party organization (Pro-Cert Organic). This is done through an on-site inspection and documentation of how we handle and process ingredients, including packaging and labeling.
Left Coast Naturals has been named one of Canada’s Top Small & Medium Employers. This competition recognizes small and medium enterprises that lead the nation in creating exceptional workplaces with forward-thinking human resource policies.
Learn more about why we were chosen.
Organic Trade Association (OTA) is a membership-based trade association representing North American organic farmers, processors, handlers and suppliers. Since its inception, the association has been a key player in shaping both the regulatory and market environment for organic products. Left Coast Naturals sees the OTA as the lead voice for organics and has supported them for over 10 years.
Canadian Organic Trade Association (COTA) is involved in all regulatory and policy aspects of the Canadian organic sector. Their mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy. Ian Walker, Left Coast Naturals’ President, joined the COTA Board of Directors in 2011 to lend his voice to the organic industry.
Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) is Canada’s largest trade association dedicated to natural health and organic products. Left Coast Naturals has been an active member since 1998.
Canadian Association of Family Enterprise (CAFÉ) is a family business owners association that Left Coast Naturals’ President, Ian Walker, has been an active member of since 1996.
British Columbia Food Processors Association (BCFPA)is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the food, beverage and natural health products industry. Many of the staff at Left Coast Naturals’ are active members in the association, volunteering on committees and participating in working groups.
Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is the voice for small businesses by representing the interests of the small business community to all three levels of government in their fight for tax fairness, reasonable labour laws and reduction of regulatory paper.
Spiral Table is a peer group of like-minded sustainable businesses that work collaboratively, and challenge each other to raise their levels of sustainability.
Left Coast Naturals (Hippie Foods’ parent) is a certified Climate Smart company. Climate Smart is a social enterprise dedicated to “empowering organizations to reduce emissions, strengthen their businesses, and build a resilient economy.” We have undergone training, a greenhouse gas inventory, and have completed a reduction strategy to measure and reduce our carbon footprint.
We are committed to additional initiatives and continue to work with Climate Smart to challenge ourselves to improve.