As a pioneer in B.C.’s growing food industry, and leading expert in shared-kitchen networks, Commissary Connect hosts some of Vancouver’s most innovative and passionate food entrepreneurs. And every year for the past four years, we have been able to tap into that incredible network and work together to create something special for the holidays—the Commissary Connect Holiday Gift Boxes.
Each holiday gift box included a carefully curated selection of diverse culinary creations from Commissary Connect members in all three Vancouver locations. Two boxes were available to the public for purchase, including one that only contained unique delicious plant-based products. Boxes went on sale November 26th and quickly sold out by the first week of December.
According to Shanaya Sorley, Commissary Connect’s Kitchen Operations Manager, “the purpose of these holiday gift boxes is twofold: to help promote local food entrepreneurs within the Commissary Connect Network and to give back to the community.” Proceeds from the sales of the boxes are donated to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, supporting people in need throughout Metro Vancouver.
From the beginning, it has always been important for Commissary Connect to find ways to celebrate and promote “buying local” as it helps to create a resilient and thriving food ecosystem in British Columbia. “By raising awareness of the many talented food entrepreneurs and their small businesses,” says Shanaya, “the boxes also have the extra benefit of providing another source of revenue for the members as they are paid fairly for their products. Some members have lost places where they can sell their product, like markets or coffee shops, so it is even more important this year for us to try to support them through this project.”
Many members, like Nihal Elwen from Tayybeh, have participated since the beginning and are incredibly grateful to have another way to introduce their food, and mission, to more people. “The boxes are a wonderful opportunity to get our products out to influencers and foodies throughout the city, and for people who don’t know Tayybeh to learn about us and the work we do,” says Nihal. “It is also really nice to feel that we are part of a community of businesses working at the Commissary Connect and that we are working on a project together.”
Natalie Young, from Planted Meals, has been involved with the Commissary Connect Holiday Gift Boxes for the past three years and is thrilled to be part of something that not only helps to promote their business but also gives back to the community. “Proceeds always go to a deserving charity of choice like the Greater Vancouver Food Bank,” says Natalie. “It is also an opportunity to get into the hands of customers outside of our usual customer base, and as a young company we’re big on getting as much brand awareness as possible.”
With support from local media like Daily Hive and Noms Magazine as well as several social media influencers (e.g., Erin Ireland, Michael Chew, Food with Howie, HeyitsAishah, MonkeyEatsWorld, Diana Chan) the boxes sold out quickly and according to Shanaya, were purchased for many different reasons. “We had big corporate orders which were for staff gifts and a lot of people sent them directly to their friends as we offered a delivery service.”
This added exposure has had a far-reaching impact for members like Planted Meals who often do not have a huge marketing budget, especially in their first few years of business. “Every year local vegan influencer Erin Ireland receives a plant-based holiday box and she always tags us – she loved our cookies and shared about us on Instagram which was such a huge boost, especially in our first year,” says Natalie from Planted Meals. Nihal from Tayybeh is also grateful for how mentions from local food influencers helps to increase sales. “The first time Erin Ireland did a story about our Red Pepper Spread that was in the box, we had so many requests for it. That was terrific especially that we hadn’t launched it in stores yet, but it sparked interest in the product.”
Commissary Connect continues to be grateful for all of the support from businesses and individuals across Metro Vancouver as well as from all the members who contributed to the Holiday Boxes this year—collectively we have helped to support many amazing local food businesses while also raising money for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank during a very difficult time.
Jean Jacques Kabuya (Chef Jacques) is all about good food. He began his career by cooking at small events for friends and family, but as word got out and catering requests increased, he realized that he could turn this into the business he always wanted.
Anita Lopez started Cinco Estrelas, a Portuguese catering company, as a way to spend more time with her son while also generating an income. Her family used to own a restaurant called Cinco Estrelas and it was a big part of her childhood. She wanted to offer the same experience to her son.