Local Sustainable Healthy

Oct 3 2012

It’s not easy.

Companies work hard, notes Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation, to merit a Health Check symbol on their food packaging. Nutrient criteria include limits on total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and sugar, and Canada’s Food Guide requirements for fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. That symbol, once earned and in place, though, is a quick reference that guarantees those criteria and helps consumers make healthy choices.

Thus those companies working hard to meet and maintain the requirements find it is worth it. It helps consumers find and identify them, and it is scrupulously fair. (Health Check notes it is “the only non-profit, independent and neutral food information program in the country.”)

What impact does the program have? One example is sodium. Health Check has removed 800,000 kg of salt (enough to fill 88 dump trucks) from the Canadian food supply. “Many food companies and restaurants are either currently working on reducing the amount of salt and/or fat in their food products and menu items or have already done so.” Health Check is making Canadians healthier, since, as the program puts it, “Healthy eating is one of the most important things you can do to improve your overall health.”

The program encourages consumers to read the Nutrition Facts found on food packaging, to ask for nutrition information, and to cook with fresh and healthy ingredients. It is aware, however, that time is tight for many consumers. “People are busy, people are on the road, and so they should have access to healthy food wherever they are,” Stephanie Lawrence, Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing for Health Check, told CStore Life in a recent interview.

C-stores provide that access with grab-and-go items, and one success story comes out of British Columbia.

Mava Foods

Chef Marcus Von Albrecht is the creator and culinary driving force behind Mava Foods of Richmond, BC. Mava has earned the Health Check symbol on three 400g grab-and-go items, Szechuan Beef and Vegetables in a spicy Szechuan sauce on rice, Curried Vegetables and Tofu in a Thai curry sauce on rice, and Alberta Beef Stew with vegetables in a slow-cooked broth. These are the first home meal replacements to ever meet the strict Health Check nutritional guidelines, and they are available now in Mac’s Convenience Stores in all 57 BC locations.

“What about the rest of the country?” CStore Life asked Chef Von Albrecht this month. He assures us he has plans to move into other provinces. There is interest in Alberta and Ontario, for instance, in Mava products. “The growth is there.” But what makes Mava different is also what makes that growth a careful process. “Mac’s took two years,” he explains, and the long setup comes because Mava insists upon not only healthy products, but sustainable processes, local fresh ingredients and great taste.

Let’s talk about that.

We know the food is healthy. Health Check says so, and that is no small thing. Lab testing, licensing and random audits ensure consumers are getting high standards. Sustainable processes are seen in Mava’s attitude toward packaging. Already using recyclable materials, by the end of this year, the company hopes every one of its containers will be sugar cane based.

Local fresh ingredients are key to Mava’s popularity and come in the form of non-medicated high quality proteins from Alberta and vegetables that are locally sourced and “not just peas and corn”—meals feature kale, rhubarb and organic tomatoes, for instance. Most of the produce, in fact, is organic, and produce changes as the seasons change. If the great interest in Mava that is shown in Ontario comes to fruition, the company would need to give thought to an Ontario production facility. “It would be nice to open facilities that use local produce,” the chef told us.

Great taste is a given, thanks to local, fresh and healthy ingredients and fine chefs. But how about once it leaves the Mava kitchens? “We’ve been able to come up with a formula for a meal that is frozen and shipped frozen, and when reheated tastes like freshly made. The vegetables are still al dente, nothing is overcooked. It tastes good,” says Chef Von Albrecht.


Chef Marcus Von Albrecht is the energetic and engaging creator of a company that makes good and healthy food affordable, accessible and sustainable.

Mava Foods was launched in 2007, with a focus on health and planet conscious products. Burnaby and Vancouver benefit from its Meals on Wheels program for seniors. It provides hot and cold lunches to 71 schools. Consumers can find Mava Foods products in c-stores, grocery stores and delis across BC.

Two of Mava’s wraps and three entrees, the latter available in Mac’s Convenience Stores, have been Health Check certified.