INSTA Foods – Healthy Food & Disrupting Food Waste

INSTA foods mission founder vision quote

For most of its history, Canada’s multi-leveled agri-food and agricultural sector have played a crucial role in the economy. Currently, Agrifood is responsible for 1 of every 9 Canadian Jobs, employing 2.1 Million people in 2020. Canada has 193,492 farms, which cover 6.89 Million hectares (about 6.9% of Canada’s overall land area).

In 2020, Canada exported nearly $74 Billion CAD in agriculture and food products (including raw agricultural materials, fish and seafood, and processed foods). Canada is the fifth-largest exporter of agri-food and seafood in the world, exporting to over 200 countries in 2020.

A process that once was responsible for the creation of cities is now facing a hoard of issues due to population growth and climate change. Increased transportation costs and growing cities mean that fresh produce has been grown for shelf life and not flavor. Internationally, the industry is also looking at a loss of all farmable topsoil by 2050. On top of this, at all levels of the Canadian food cycle, about 40% of food is wasted

TBDC is a partner of the Government of Canada to help bring Innovative international start-ups to Canada. One of the amazing companies in our recent Start-up accelerator cohort is INSTA Foods. They specialize in 100% Natural plant based, air dried, healthy food products. By dehydrating perishable food items that commonly result in food waste, they extend its shelf life while retaining its colour, taste and aroma so can serve the large community of health concerned citizens.

Meet Tehmina

I founded INSTA Foods with an aim to provide an alternative to the conventional Food Industry. I wanted to create a business where the more a product is sold, the better it is for the world and it should add value to the life of its user. I believe by creating a natural & healthy food brand I am working towards that vision. When I started this journey, I had no prior experience or formal education in this industry. I just have the determination, now here we are having business in 2 countries and looking to establish it as a global brand.

Tehmina A Chaudhry of INSTA foods

What inspired you to become an Entrepreneur? 

I’ve been an entrepreneur since a very young age. Even when I didn’t know what “Entrepreneur” meant and how to spell it, it was not used that frequently. All I wanted to do is to help others and create value in others’ lives with my work. I ran numerous businesses, starting when I was a child. 

While growing up my parents instilled “Food Respect” in us; no food should be wasted in any way. My mother used to make delicious recipes from leftover food & I did Food Drives with my friends. We collected leftover foods from the neighbourhood and distributed them among the under privileged. I’ve had a lifelong mission to reduce food waste, INSTA Foods was the obvious next step. 

We started very small, as I did not have any food manufacturing experience, but my vision is always to create a big impact and add value in other’s life with this business.

INSTA Foods diverting fresh food waste in Canada

What were some challenges you faced when moving into the Canadian Ecosystem? 

First  of  all,  just  understanding  what  is  there  and  what  is relevant  to  your particular  venture is tough. Even if you do figure that out, then you have to find out who to talk to and how to get introduced to them. Then that is another real challenge is entering in the ecosystem without having any references or knowing anyone.

Being a newcomer to Canada, I didn’t have any connections or Canadian experience. Market dynamics are different and especially since I moved to Canada during COVID so It was really difficult to reach out to people, get the required information and responses.

Tehmina’s Mentoring & Volunteering Includes  

  • Food Systems Fellow 2022  at Acumen Academy-Rockefeller Foundation (United States/Global)
  • Advisory Board Member to Greentech Europe 2022 at Village Capital (UK)
  • Mentoring at  Women in Leadership Foundation (Canada)
  • Mentoring at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship (United States)
  • Climate Reality Leader & Mentor at Climate Reality Group (United States)
  • President at Connected Women Pakistan (A Community of 7500+ Women Entrepreneurs)

What’s been one of your biggest business challenges so far in your Start-up Journey? 

I moved to Canada last year on a Start-up Visa for my business; INSTA Foods. I am a Mother of 3 kids, but I had to move here with my youngest kid, and my elder kids, 11 & 13, had to stay back home with their father due to Visa issues and COVID.

It was a challenging time to set up a new business with a preschooler, who was missing his siblings, without any support system. It was overwhelming trying to focus on promoting my new business while taking care of my emotionally devastated child. While working from home, helping him with online schooling, doing house chores; I had little energy left at the end of the day for my own work so I tried to squeeze in work here and there during the day when I could. 

Still, I was frustrated that I couldn’t make commitments to leads and opportunities because my schedule was unpredictable. But then I realized that rather than feeling defeated or frustrated I should embrace what I have so it was then when I decided to divide my day in different parts, hire some day care facility, and slow down and was able to achieve a good balance between my both passions Motherhood & Entrepreneurship.

InstaFood’s Roadmap to Success 

The road to success with start-ups is rarely a straight line. In 2018, Tehmina was selected to represent Pakistan as one of 13 participants from South Asia in ‘Women Trading Globally’ by the Export Council of Australia. In the following year, she received the Foodprenuer of the Year – Khadija Awards from the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Pakistan

While she’s received various prestigious accolades since arriving in the West, Instafoods is still currently working to penetrate the North American market. Tehmina is in talks with 3 major retailers, and you should expect this brand to become a household name shortly. 

By next year, Tehmina wants to establish INSTA foods as trustworthy, healthy, and natural food brand, diverting 100’s of tonnes of food waste and making healthy food more accessible to all. And she’s not only looking to divert food from landfills, the company can also help food retailers and manufacturers with their circular economy goals with INSTA’s “Zero Waste” Food Preserving Solution.

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