I’m a foodie.

I wasn’t always a foodie. In fact, go back enough years and I hated food. It all tasted like crap and for the vast majority of my life, food was something that went into my body because if I didn’t eat, I’d starve.

What I didn’t know back then is there are different things out there on the market simply pretending to be food. But they aren’t really. Or even better, there are things out there on the market that used to be food but are now carriers of poisons – If you’re not sure what I mean, take some time and watch this film, released recently by Chipotle Restaurants out of the US:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUtnas5ScSE

Over the last ten years, I’ve come to love food beyond imagining because I married a brilliant chef. Our Peppermaster, Greg Brooks and if you’ve tasted our products, then you’ll know, I’m not just saying that because I’m biased, I say it because he really is a brilliant chef. When he came into my life, a couple of short years before we opened the Peppermaster Brand, he showed me how to actually shop, looking for real food. Where I used to shop through the central aisles of the grocery stores, suddenly, I almost never went down one. I stopped buying groceries in bulk and started shopping daily. I then switched from buying frozen food ready to prepare and started freezing homemade meals ready to heat up when in a hurry.

My diet also changed because we opened Brooks Pepperfire Foods a commercial food company. What I have learned by having to read the legal statutes that govern a food company, such as ours, has made me even more selective about what I want to eat. When you know what I know about food, trust me, it’s a game changer.

Ya see, I didn’t know this for certain until November 2012, but I have Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Primarily deemed a “social disorder”, it comes with all sorts of health issues. For example, I carry with me a wide variety of “weird” allergies and food sensitivities. So when I found something I COULD eat, I stuck with it. I didn’t read labels except to avoid my known allergens, and I basically ate frozen vegetable stir fries, campbell’s soup and commercial brown bread. Hey! I thought I WAS being healthy about my diet. After all, I only gave the kids “Lunchables” once a month!

A few years ago the Peppermaster and I went to Toronto on a business mission with the Local Business Development NGO and had opportunity to visit several high end organic delicatessans and several different styles of grocery stores in the GTA. What we noticed in the organic stores that was obviously different from the other stores is that in the organic stores, EVERYONE without exception was reading labels. In the regular grocery stores, NOBODY was reading labels and in the in-between stores, there was a mixture of the two types of shoppers.

Then it dawned on us. People shouldn’t HAVE to read labels. Food labels should be used to tell people what is in the product, certainly, but real food shouldn’t have to be the exception. It should be the norm.

Combining this concept with our Slow Fair Trade philosophy struck us as a no-brainer.

Using this concept we have managed to create a brand and indeed a commercial food manufacturing company whose products are solidly committed to the idea of real good real food from the moment you enter our front door.

You won’t find most commercial food manufacturers taking the care with their ingredients that we do. Why? Well, mostly because it’s easier to get refined white sugar and refined white flour than it is to get raw fair trade organic cane sugar or 9 grain whole grain organic flour. We like to think that the competition is doing it “the wrong way”. We are proud to be leaders in the Real Good Real Food movement and we have our customers to thank for always pushing us in this direction.

We’ve run into a bit of slack in the marketplace for sure, at least amongst industry players. We’ve been told, “no, no, you can’t do it that way, your product will be too expensive and nobody will buy it.” Our response is, the more customers we have, the cheaper our products become. We’ve been told, “no, no, you can’t just hire more employees, you have to expand and automate”. Our response is, the more products we have, the more employees we have, the more sustainable our business.

We’ve just celebrated our 10th Brome Fair this year. Our 10th anniversary will be celebrated at our Annual Open House, this coming Thanksgiving Weekend, October 12, 13 and 14. And this fall, our Tenth year at the Christmas One of a Kind Show, as Peppermaster, is this Christmas season. So, when people ask how we’re doing, we’re proud to say really, really well.

Our customers rave about our products, and bring their friends to us regularly, and every day we wake up more and more blessed when our clients place more orders and bring more friends. Then we make more products and the cycle continues. The Peppermaster and I do what we do because you, our customers, keep telling us what you want and what you need. Which helps us enormously with our company direction.

We know we’re doing something right and at the end of the day, changing our diets over so that all we eat is real good, real food can’t be a bad thing.

We’ll be setting up a forum soon, where consumers can connect directly with local artisans for not only their food, but artisanally created products, wherever they are created. The internet has taught us that distance doesn’t have to be an inhibitor to buying direct and local. After all, if you could get it locally, you wouldn’t have to go further afield. When you do go further afield, don’t you agree that it’s better to go direct?

If you have any suggestions or criticisms, please share them with us. We embrace the engagement and look forward to inviting you to join this network.

Tina Brooks

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