Last June, in a move emblematic of pandemic-related uncertainty, Galya Sarner was laid off from her job working in Toronto’s Israeli community. Drawing on her passion for, and expertise in, Mediterranean food, Sarner teamed up with her daughter, Shani Sarner-Lati, to create Galya Loves Food – a venture that has since taken root and continues to grow.
“We were longing for food that reminds us of home and we wanted to give others a taste of the food that we love and miss the most,” says Sarner-Lati.
Since the pandemic has accelerated the demand for fresh food, more people are preparing meals at home, experimenting with new flavours and gravitating towards quality items. With this in mind, the mother-daughter duo saw an opportunity to deliver healthy food options to families and, more generally, anyone who enjoys Mediterranean styles of cooking.
Using only fresh, nutritious ingredients, Galya Loves Food offers a variety of authentic Mediterranean food such as gourmet hummus, tangy labaneh and baked falafel to name a few. The lineup also includes pecan crunch, date cookies and halvah mousse.
Galya Loves Food started small, with a few jars of hummus and labaneh for sale at Aba’s Bagel Company at the suggestion of the owner, Arie Gershon. Several hours after Sarner delivered the products, the supply was almost sold out. Because of the positive response, Gersho asked Sarner to continue making product to sell at the bagel shop, opening the doors to new possibilities.
Now, Galya Loves Food products, in minimalist jar packaging, are available at several Toronto locations, including Greenhouse Juice Co., What A Bagel and Mimi and Ry Produce as well as 100 Mile Store in Creemore, Ont. and the company is excited about possible expansion to larger restaurant clients.
The affordable range of products is also available to order through the website, either individually or as a wrapped gift basket called Joy in a Basket.
“The jars speak for themselves,” says Sarner. “You don’t need much to make the food stand out.”
The mother-daughter team says one of the challenges has been buying fresh ingredients when many grocery stores have been in short supply. Making frequent trips to the grocery store also puts the team at higher rik of COVID-19 exposure.
“Using real, quality ingredients has always been at the core of our brand, so everything needs to be bought that week of production,” says Sarner-Lati.
“There’s no shortcut to great cooking,” says Sarner.
What began as a two-person startup has quickly become a family business. The name, Galya Loves Food, was created by Sarner’s husband, Robert, who is a Toronto-based writer and communications specialist. He also writes blog posts for the website and handles finances. Other immediate family members help out, too, including the couple’s son who lives in Vancouver.
Galya Loves Food picked up an immediate following, mostly through word of mouth. Overwhelmed by the growth of their business in a short time, Sarner and Sarner-Lati express their appreciation for family, friends, and customers who have helped kick-start their success.
“I’ve learned so much in the last year,” says Sarner. “If you have a product and vision, don’t let anyone stop you.”