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Hensall Foods turning locally grown beans into fresh ready meals

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Amir Naveed proudly watched as the production line at Hensall Foods pump out fresh ready meals with beans and grains, grown within a few kilometres of his Exeter, Ont. facility.

“We have seven or eight of our recipes with beans and lentils, which were grown right here in Huron and surrounding area,” explained Hensall Foods General Manager Amir Naveed.

For several decades, the Hensall Co-op, with 6,000 farmer member owners, has been shipping southwestern Ontario grown beans and grains to food production facilities around the world.

But, two-and-a-half years ago, they thought they’d better start making their own products, so they launched Hensall Foods and their brand of Screaming Chef ready-to-eat meals.

“The big reason behind Screaming Chef and Hensall Food Inc. is adding value for our members. Essentially providing other ways for their products to be used, specifically kept within Huron County, and not necessarily shipped elsewhere,” explained Rebecca Hubbard, marketing and communications manager for the Hensall Co-op.

Screaming Chef meals, using Huron County grown beans and lentils, are produced at Hensall Foods in Exeter, Ont. on April 15, 2024. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

The meals that “scream” when they’re ready to eat after being heated up have been a hit.

Their 20 varieties of reheatable, but not frozen, meals are already in Walmart locations Canada wide, with hopes of hitting the shelves of Costco later this year.

Naveed said they can produce 10,000 Screaming Chef meals a day at their Exeter production line that currently has eight employees.

“We’ve designed some special recipes for hospitals and long-term care homes, so we are now shipping directly to those customers as well. There is a lot of potential,” said Naveed.

Screaming Chef meals, using Huron County grown beans and lentils, are produced at Hensall Foods in Exeter, Ont. on April 15, 2024. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

While the vacuum sealed, fresh ready meals — which are good for 90 days in your fridge — are flying off the shelves, it’s shipping beans 10 minutes down the road from Hensall to Exeter, and not around the world, that’s created the most excitement at the co-op.

That local food focus is expanding into Screaming Chef meals featuring beef, with a Parkhill beef producer soon joining forces with Hensall Foods.

“That special supplier is using beef from a Hensall Co-op member, so it’s full vertical integration within our recipe. We’re using as much local as possible. Pasta from Toronto. Sauces from St. Marys, and the beans from Huron County and area. It’s exciting,” said Naveed.

You can learn more about Hensall Foods’ ‘Screaming Chef’ line of locally produced meals on their website

Screaming Chef meals, using Huron County grown beans and lentils, are produced at Hensall Foods in Exeter, Ont. on April 15, 2024. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

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