Bringing unique, cost-effective, ecological products to consumers through trusted health food stores across Canada, Ecoideas believes in fair-trade, supporting business practices that promote job creation and sustainability in countries where its resources are found.
President and CEO Rafic Sidani started his career in Canada working in finance, until one year while on vacation in India he discovered the world’s healthiest salt, Himalayan salt. Under Mr Sidani’s leadership, Ecoideas has become one of Canada’s leading distributors of healthy foods, with the company recently being awarded the Supplier of Excellence award in the Natural Health industry. Mr Sidani spoke with The Canadian Business Quarterly recently to discuss the formation of the company, its evolution into becoming a national distributor, and plans to move into additional markets.
“Ecoideas is a manufacturer and distributor of Natural Health Products throughout Canada,” Mr Sidani says. “It started back in 2003, when the initial thought started to begin Ecoideas. My wife and I were on vacation in India and we came across this wonderful salt called Himalayan salt. Back then it did not exist in Canada.”
Mr Sidani began to look into the salt and established that it had significant health benefits, especially in balancing blood pressure. Coming from a family where there were a lot of blood pressure issues, Mr Sidani was very interested in the product.
“I thought, why not introduce it to the Canadian market, and then be able to help a lot of people, and also to bring them a better quality, unrefined natural salt in their diet. This is where the concept for Ecoideas started, to bring solutions to today’s unhealthy eating habits.”
Once the company started bringing the product into Canada, it didn’t receive a lot of attention straightway, but after highlighting its unique features, Ecoideas was able to get the product into several health food stores in Canada.
“From there we started bringing some more unique products into the market, such as the Himalayan Soapnuts, which is the most eco-friendly cleaning product for the household. Then also we started thinking about the most natural and healthy sweetener alternative, and that’s coconut sugar, so we were also the first to bring that into Canada.”
The company quickly became recognized as an innovative business bringing desirable healthy products to the Canadian market, filling the gap for consumers looking for healthy alternatives to many products.
“From there we grew into naturally becoming a distributor, because we started to get a lot of stores that we deal with referring other brands to us to become their distributor, and slowly and surely we grew into a national distributor throughout Canada, and today we are known to be one of the major players in the Natural Health Industry.”
Initially Ecoideas was its own distributor in Ontario, before locating additional distributors in Western Canada and Quebec, but since then the business has grown to have facilities in both Eastern and Western Canada.
“It evolved from having our own Ecoideas brand of Natural Health Product into many other natural and organic health food products, such as snacks, ready meals, superfoods, supplements, body care, environmental products. So we grew from having a limited range of products to a wide range of products that are distributed across Canada.”
The farmers that the company works with come from many different parts of the world, and it always works directly with the farmers themselves or with a cooperative which gathers farmers and supplies the product.
“We do ensure that the farmers and suppliers that we work with are paid fairly,” Mr Sidani says. “We are a certified Fairtrade company, so we don’t only pay our suppliers fairly, but we also contribute towards improving different aspects of their life. Also we ensure that the quality of the product is exactly how we want it. We always seek organic products.”
The company is committed to introducing a number of products from different parts of the world to Canada, products that are always grown through the hard work of the farmers that Ecoideas works with.
“We’re in over 2,000 locations across Canada, and our plan is to expand now into some other markets, so we do have a lot of interest in the US market, in Europe as well, and some other overseas markets in Asia.”
Expanding the business into other markets is not always straightforward, as regulations in different countries vary. The US has fairly similar regulations when it comes to food products as Canada, with only minor alterations that need to be made.
“For Europe, we’re finding that we had to work with a consultant in order to have our products comply in different countries that we are planning to enter. Overall I wouldn’t say it’s too complicated, and in fact because Canada has a very well thought of plan to launch Natural Health Products, it makes it easier for us to supply anywhere else in the world.”
One of the biggest lessons Mr Sidani has learned during his time running Ecoideas is that nothing is impossible. He also believes that strong will and determination are key to making a business successful.
“One recommendation I have for any business owner,” Mr Sidani concludes, “is do not worry about the competition, or what the future holds, just work with loving intentions and enjoy the ride.”
With a commitment to fair-trade and introducing unique health food products to Canada and beyond, Ecoideas is helping make healthy living available to everyone. Find out more by visiting www.ecoideas.ca.