For centuries, good food has been cause for celebration. It brings people together, it sparks conversation and it’s the cornerstone of countless memorable nights. Unfortunately, in our modern, hectic world, it’s all too easy to just grab whatever is convenient and miss out on what makes food amazing. Nirvana Foods is a family-owned specialty foods producer located in Richmond that’s aiming to address this problem.
They believe that lovingly and expertly prepared foods comfort the soul and brighten the spirit. This is why they produce a range of wholesome comfort foods that includes savoury pot pies called Nirvana Pies and their savory hand pies, Nirvana Pockets. With ingredients, packaging and marketing all handled locally when possible, Nirvana Foods represents a success story deeply rooted in British Columbia
A Lifelong Passion
Though Nirvana Foods is just four years old, the work required to get to this point began many years ago. Co-founder Danilo Passeri always had a passion for cooking, learning at the side of his father in their native Italy.
“I first became interested in entrepreneurship when I took over my father’s café as a teenager in Italy,” he revealed.
“I took to it quickly and I believe entrepreneurship was always rooted within me. When I came to Canada, my initial intention was to use this experience to seek employment in restaurants in Vancouver. Despite my years of culinary experience, I was either not offered a position or told I needed to start at entry level due to my lack of ‘Canadian experience.’
“I figured out quickly I’d need to create my own opportunity. With the help of my father-in-law, who is a trained chef himself, I opened Nirvana Foods and began investing time day-in, day-out to create a better future for our family.
“The name derives from our belief and principles of striving to live in a state of happiness and peace. Hopefully, eating our foods would give people that state of bliss and happiness!”
Managed by Danilo and his wife Jeriah, Nirvana Foods take a customer first approach to their business. Feedback is constantly sought from clients, and complacency is never given an opportunity to set in.
“From day one, we have strived to create dishes we ourselves would enjoy as a family,” Danilo said.
“Along with this founding principle, we believe practicing innovation is also what leads to success. We are constantly looking for ways to improve and make our food processes more efficient by updating our machinery, our packaging solutions and producing new lines of food.
“Our customers play a huge role in this too. We communicate with them directly on social media and by conducting food tastings at retailers. We are always fascinated to learn what they love about Nirvana Food products and about their needs and wants. We know that in order to achieve growth and success, we need to continually listen to our customers, industry trends and strive for excellence.”
Every prospective business starts out with big goals. Usually, these are refined and laid out in a traditional business plan. Danilo and Jaeriah soon learned what most entrepreneurs find out – The best way to learn is to do.
“Without any prior food manufacturing experience, the first few months were a learning process. We learned by taking action, making mistakes, resolving and improving,” Danilo explained.
“Our biggest lesson we learned is that you can never have everything planned to the nines. Even a well laid out plan can go wrong, so always make sure to take everything with a grain of salt and have an alternative plan. For example, we planned to do many different lines of food. After seeing what the market place needed, we learned we were better streamlining and specializing in one line of food to build brand recognition. Down the line, we can look at adding new lines.”
In just four years, Nirvana Foods has grown to enjoy a significant presence in BC retail. Their product is carried by independent and grocery chains alike, while sales have grown 75% over the last three years. What does the future hold? For the husband and wife team, British Columbia is just the first step.
“Our short-term goal is to continue to expand into big and small communities across our beautiful province,” Danilo said.
“Our long-term goal is to make Nirvana Food products available across Canada and for export. We want to become known as a Canadian household brand worldwide and to elevate frozen comfort foods to a whole new level. I believe we can do this because our greatest strengths are our determination and perseverance. Working as a small business owner, it’s easy to fall into tunnel vision and not see the overall health of your business.
“We know to always look at the big picture and let our successes show us we are on the right path.”
Entrepreneurs have many resources, programs and assistances available to them. Like others before them, Danilo and Jaeriah leaned on these supports to help grow their business. They were a finalist in the Best Immigrant Entrepreneur category at the 2017 Small Business BC Awards, and it proved a memorable experience for the duo.
“My advice to entrepreneurs is don’t be afraid to seek out help and resources to improve,” Danilo said.
“There are many BC Government, industry, peer-to-peer mentoring programs, as well as Small Business BC. We took part in the SBBC Awards program and it reinforced our belief in the business and inspired us to work harder to reach our goals. It gave us tremendous pride in our products and opened new doors for us. We can’t recommend it enough.”