Avafina Organics: Leading The Organic Wave in Canada
Laura Cuner is the Founder and CEO of Avafina Organics, a family-owned business out of Coquitlam, BC, Canada. Her interest in organic and plant-based food dates back to her teenage years when she became vegetarian. She also saw her father and grandfather tending the land as farmers. After graduating from university, she moved from Argentina to North America and began importing organic agricultural products from the family farm and, eventually, other organic farmers in South America.
Growing with the Organic Industry
As people began learning about the benefits of eating organic foods instead of harmful chemicals, pesticides and herbicides in the late ‘90s, the demand for organic products increased, and Avafina Organics was born. Cuner supplied organic seeds, nuts, and spices to food manufacturers.
In 2005, she had a life-changing experience at a raw vegan retreat presented by Optimum Health Institute in San Diego. Here, she learned about the principles of living foods from Dr. Ann Wigmore: mindfully eating organic, raw, fermented plant-based foods and proper food combining. She learned to ferment seeds, make raw crackers, and dehydrate vegetables. She realised there weren’t many options at supermarkets when she sought products she could eat daily that adhered to the living foods protocol. She made her own raw crackers, seed cheeses and spreads out of necessity. Qummus™, Chiaviar™ and Queen Cheese™ are the results of many years of experimenting in Cuner’s kitchen, following the principles of living foods.
Since the origin of the business, she’s been conscious of every ingredient in each product. The company doesn’t use preservatives, by-products, refined oils or hard-to-pronounce ingredients.
With large corporations as her major competitors, it took time for the business to establish distribution and build its brand; market penetration is difficult. On top of the many challenges the pandemic presented, the cost of ingredients fluctuated and shipping rates increased.
“The food industry is very challenging, and most of us do it because our heart is in it, not for the profits,” Cuner said.
Almost two decades later, Avafina Organics has worked with nearly every major manufacturer in Canada that sells organic, plant-based ingredients.
Vegan Caviar Pioneering a Plant-Based Category
Besides selling creamy, probiotic-filled vegan cheeses, Avafina Organics is the creator and sole manufacturer of Chiaviar™, The Vegan’s Caviar™. Chiaviar™ is a complete product innovation and unique in its category. Avafina Organics’ vegan consumers say caviar wasn’t something they ever consumed. “I am in love with its nutritional content. It’s a whole protein food, provides all the essential Omega-3 fatty acids, keeps you hydrated, promotes satiety, and has all the vitamins and minerals we need to sustain life,” Cuner said.
Although the product uses seaweed, it doesn’t taste fishy and is a refreshing addition to the company’s product line. “We are truly amazed at the positive market reception Chiaviar™ has received!” Cuner continued.
Hopes for a plant-based future
Being a vegan and organic pioneer in North America, Cuner knows dairy, egg and meat companies have large interests in the food industry and marketing power. . There’s a need for healthy vegan products; companies market many products as healthy, but sometimes the ingredients tell a different story.
“I am inspired to provide people with access to products that contribute to their well-being,” Cuner said. “We need to make healthy products available to everyone, so when we go to the supermarket, we can make healthier choices. We need manufacturers of organic, plant-based foods to produce ‘conscious’ products and continue to grow and expand.”
Cuner is seeing change in young people who use social media and have more compassion for the suffering of animals. “The younger generations prefer organic, vegan and gluten-free options, and they are aware that organic is a way to care for the planet, so they take ownership in it,” she said.
She believes we can prevent modern diseases by following an organic, mostly raw, whole food plant-based lifestyle. “I believe that in the future the whole human race will be vegan because plant-based is the healthiest way to eat and is the solution for global warming and climate change.”