More often than not, when we ask ourselves what’s for dinner after a long day, we end up resorting to takeout or quick-fix sandwiches with whatever we have available in the fridge. It’s never ideal.
Vancouver’s newest plant-based food startup Komo Comfort Foods is on a mission to change this approach with its range of feel-good, wholesome foods designed for sharing while simultaneously strengthening our connection to the planet.
The company, which launched in a North Vancouver catering kitchen in March of this year, believes plant-based eating is the future. And magical moments of sharing food with loved ones is what inspired Komo from the beginning, with the brand’s name evolving from the Spanish word “como” (eat) and the Japanese word “komorebi” (sunlight filtering through leaves).
It makes sense, then, that Komo is led by three lifelong foodies with a deep passion for the work they do: Jeffrey Ma, a food scientist and product innovator; Frédéric Gagné, a plant-based chef with a wealth of global experience; and Adya Djoko, a food operations expert who has been in the industry for over 13 years.
Before joining forces at Komo, the team spent the past decade either working with plant-based foods or living a plant-based lifestyle themselves.
“We know that a more plant-forward diet is better for people, [the] planet, and animals,” Ma tells Daily Hive. “However, adopting this can be challenging.” The Komo team faced challenges when incorporating more plant-based foods in their own lives.
This included a lack of plant-based options primed for convenience, a lack of wholesome and delicious vegan foods without additives, and also a lack of shareable plant-based foods available at stores. As a result, with Komo, they’re offering foods that not only check all of these boxes but taste exceptionally good, too.
“Vegan food shouldn’t mean missing out on scrumptious, hearty food,” says Chef Gagné. “We aim to provide this through our comfort classics made plant-based. We aim to make dinnertime easy.”
While Djoko admits “it’s been a wild ride” since Komo entered the market, especially without the ability to provide samples of their products to potential customers, the company has already launched three ready-to-bake from frozen classics.
This includes a lasagna made with cashew bechamel, tomato lentil ragu, and tofu ricotta; a chick’n pot pie with an olive oil pie crust, cashew cream, and soy curls; and a shepherd’s pie featuring Yukon gold garlic mash, pea lentil crumble, and mushroom onion gravy.
Everything is 100% plant-based and made from scratch — from the ‘cheezy’ cashew bechamel to the olive oil pie crust to the tofu ricotta. (Full disclosure: we tried each of these dishes and can confirm they are worth your time. Think ooey-gooey richness and belly-filling goodness.)
“Food always tastes better when sharing. All our products are made for these food-sharing moments,” notes Ma. Picture “family-size and multi-serving options” to essentially make dinner and everything about it hassle-free.
In June, Komo went on to launch its gluten-free, plant-based Meal Helpers, frozen and ready-to-heat, with a BBQ taco filling with enoki mushrooms, red lentils, and a house-made BBQ sauce, and a bolognese sauce starring walnuts, cremini mushrooms, and lentils in a rich tomato sauce.
Sustainability is important to Komo, and when the company started, the team began doing their own product deliveries locally and selling directly through their website.
“Our family-sized meals are large, and freezer space at stores is often tough for new brands to be accepted,” explains Ma. “We also decided to sell online because it gives us a chance to know our consumers and get feedback from them about our products.”
When it comes to the ingredients used in Komo foods, Djoko says it’s sometimes difficult ensuring supply. “We’ve seen shortages of mushrooms, garlic, [and] tofu and have had to run out to multiple local grocery stores to grab the ingredients. However, we’re committed to cooking with fresh, wholesome ingredients in everything we do.”
The team’s dedication to their work has led them to pop up at local farmers’ markets, and most recently, transition from the catering kitchen where they launched to a larger commissary kitchen in Vancouver.
“We’re super grateful for the support from the local community in supporting our new plant-based food startup,” says Chef Gagné.
The startup recently launched its subscription service, so anyone can get plant-based comfort foods delivered to their door regularly — meaning there’s always something tasty to place in the oven for busy nights, potlucks, and everything in between.
“In the next few months, we aim [to] expand into more stores, so our products are more readily available across Canada,” adds Ma.
Komo products are currently available at The Vegetarian Butcher and The Juice Truck (Main Street location) in Vancouver, Larry’s Market and United Strangers in North Vancouver, Spent Grounds Coffee Roasters in Surrey, and online via komocomfortfoods.com.
To learn more and follow the Komo journey, check out the startup on Instagram.