Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Summer Fresh Blogger Tour: Real Food For Real People

When I find a product or a company that I love, I turn into a sort of cheerleader for it. I'm that person that wants to share that love with everyone I know so that maybe that product or company will in some way improve a friend or family members day, whether that means using a face cleanser that leaves their skin free of impurities or a salad that will blow their mind in the flavour and health department. Summer Fresh Salads has been a company that I have been a cheerleader for for years now. Thanks to their ever-growing line of salads, dips, sauces, and so much more that all feature innovative ingredients with a focus on health and wellness, I have been a proud supporter of this Canadian company for changing the way that I snack. Long gone are the bags of chips or high sodium crackers with overly processed dips, as I have welcomed the many variations of hummus, greek yogurt dips, and high in protein and fiber salads that Summer Fresh offers. It's so easy to be let down when you have such high expectations of a company, and let me tell you, after talking with numerous people who have worked with Summer Fresh, my expectations were sky high. So when I had the opportunity to join nineteen other food bloggers in a tour of the Summer Fresh headquarters, including the plant where all of their products get made, I jumped at the chance to see for myself whether or not this company lived up to all the hype. 
As a group of twenty, eager, women food bloggers, it was clear right off the bat that our day was going to feel more like a bunch of gals just hanging out and sharing interests, as opposed to a day of blog work. This immediate female bonding session was thanks to Susan Niczowski, President and creator of Summer Fresh, who led our tour of the Summer Fresh headquarters with a smile on her face, making us all feel so welcome and comfortable with her unbelievably down-to-earth attitude. Susan shared with us her experience going from chemistry student to the president of one of the 50 best managed companies in Canada for seven consecutive years! It all started in 1991 when Susan and her mother felt that there was a void in the market for fresh, healthy, gourmet salads that are accessible for the average consumer to bring into their home. Think about it. I know when I was a kid, you could hardly find any healthy and fresh dips and salads in the grocery store. Now look how massive that fresh dip and salad aisle is, as so many other companies have picked up on Summer Fresh's success. Now, 23 years later, Summer Fresh products can be found in just about every grocery store in Canada (not to mention in the US) and I bet in just about every Canadian home, as well as restaurants, retail stores, caterers and more! As Susan passionately shared with us how the family company has evolved and how their products are created, it's clear to see that they never for a second lose sight of their consumer. Summer Fresh is dedicated to providing their consumers with fresh, quality ingredients and products, that are held to the highest standards and testing, that will make peoples lives easier and tastier! 
I was completely blown away at the companies attention to detail, from their health and safety standards to the way in which their products are packaged, Summer Fresh thinks of it all. To ensure the consistency, integrity, and safety of their products, all of their dips, salads, and sauces are made in small batches, with each batch going through a round of testing in their fully equipped microbiologist operated in-house laboratory, and are made to order. After donning a lab coat, hair net, and safety boots and getting to actually walk through the plant where everything gets made, it appears almost obsessive the way in which they oversee the safety of their products, but really, it's incredibly proactive and brilliant!  I also couldn't believe that many of their vegetables are actually cut by hand, and their roasted red peppers and eggplant are not pre-roasted, but roasted in their "kitchen" to make sure that they are getting that authentic roasted flavour that you would find if you roasted vegetables in your own home. They happened to be roasting eggplant when we walked through the plant, and let me tell you, that smell was fantastic! I also learned that many of their products are kosher (with a separate part of their plant exclusively for their kosher product production), organically certified, and gluten free. 
Spicy Mini Taco Tostadas featuring Summer Fresh Bruschetta
With her laser-cut faux leather dress, bright scarf, killer shoes, and perfect manicure, it was obvious that Susan is girl of my own, the woman loves fashion! This love of fashion is transferred to her products as well, trademarking the phrase "Food is fashion", which explains the way food trends are reflected by the season, just like fashion! You'll notice that the Summer Fresh products you find in stores will change throughout the year as certain ingredients become more readily available, and lifestyles inevitably change. For instance, right now Summer Fresh is focused on the Fall and holiday season as they are beginning to bring out new products that reflect the colder months, as well as simple recipes featuring these products that aid in entertaining during the busy holiday season. After our tour of the plant, we had the opportunity to taste some of these new products and recipes. With the launch of their new Appy recipe collection, which features simple and nutritious recipes for people to serve when entertaining, the staff at Summer Fresh had set up a room as though we were entering a holiday party, with all of the tables beautifully decorated and displaying the various new products and recipes featuring them. 
Butter Chicken Pizzettes featuring Summer Fresh Butter Chicken Cooking Sauce
With everything laid out so thoughtfully, it made it easy to see how I could feature these same recipes when I entertain in my own home. Not only were the appetizers lovely to look at, they were also really unique and absolutely delicious! I truly loved every one, but of course I always have my favourite tastes of the day. Hands down, my favourite taste of the day was the Cheesy Olive Bloomin' Bread featuring Summer Fresh White Cheddar and Parmigiano Dip and Summer Fresh Olive and Tomato Bruschetta (one of their new products). This creamy and savory pull-apart bread was incredibly addictive and had me going back for more, more times that I care to share. Another favourite taste of the day was  the Summer Fresh Mousse Desserts! The individually packaged gluten-free mousses are available in four different flavours including Chocolate (my favourite!) and Sweet Salted Caramel, and are already garnished and presented in delicate little dishes so that all of the prep work is done for you! It's safe to say that I am a little bit obsessed with these creamy, heavenly desserts and will most definitely be serving them up at my next gathering with friends! 
Artichoke & Asiago Carrot Pappardelle featuring Summer Fresh Artichoke & Asiago Dip (Canada's #1 selling dip!)
After spending all day at Summer Fresh I cannot express to you how unbelievably impressed I am with this company. It displayed so much confidence to be able to lead us through every step that they go through in bringing out their products, most notably walking us through their plant. Getting to see first hand how much care they take in bringing out the highest quality products, under the most careful health and safety practices, and their dedication to offering real food for real people gave me so much respect for this family company. One of the biggest things that was clear to me at the end of the day was how much they truly care about their consumers, and aim to make them as happy and satisfied as physically possible, which I feel is a rare gem these days. I feel so grateful that Summer Fresh allowed me the opportunity to learn about how quality products are made in such a hands on way, and left me so inspired seeing this confident, strong, and absolutely lovely woman running this huge, successful business with her family, and after only 23 years! I can honestly say that I have nothing but wonderful things to say about that brand. I am really interested to see how the Summer Fresh brand grows as they pick up on new trends and evolve. I felt good supporting Summer Fresh in the past, but I now feel downright proud supporting such a fantastic Canadian company! 


Christine McN said...

Oh my gosh! Reading this post and revisiting the experience makes me so hungry! Great post! It was so lovely meeting you!

Caterers in Indore said...

Its pure vegetable blog really looking very delicious.