2019 Product of the Year, Gold

Updated: Mar 12

story by Leslie Javorski, foodwords.ca



It’s hard to find a no-additive, 100% vegan meal kit, but one that is authentically flavoured Mexican? Almost impossible. Jackie Thomas of Lita’s Mexican Foods has made it her focus – and with great results. Her Tinga Taco Meal Kit took first place as the 2019 BCFB Product of the Year. Congratulations to you!

There’s a simple reason she won. It’s a good product. A tinga is shredded chicken (sometimes beef) in a red chili sauce but not Lita’s. It’s plant-based (made from jack fruit) and 100% vegan, but by anyone’s standards it’s delicious.

What you get is this: 6 uncooked, organic tortillas and a bag of authentically seasoned cooked filling. You toss the tortillas on a hot, dry frying pan for a minute each side while the pouch contents heat up. Then, fill the tortillas and eat. That’s it. A healthy dinner for two that really is ready in six minutes.

Because it has no preservatives, the meal kit occupies the frozen food section of the store. The attitude about frozen food is changing thanks to consumers recognizing that freshness can be frozen without any deterioration. The Tinga Taco Meal Kit fit right into this profile.

Like many small food processors starting out, Jackie and her husband Argelio Santos, who is also a company founder, didn’t know what they were getting into. Jackie just wanted to make the kind of uncooked, northern Mexican tortillas Argelio was used to – with two differences, no lard and organic. She did it and started selling them at the farmers markets. The next thing they knew they were renting a certified kitchen and developing meal kits.

It’s one thing to get the food to taste authentically Mexican with the right spices, but selling it in a grocery store was a complete mystery. So Jackie did a smart thing, she hired experts. First she hired Good to Grow, a food product development company headed by Andrea Gray-Grant and precisely followed the advice. Jackie got herself a photographer and a graphic designer, then Ideon Packaging made her product look professional. Her meal kits say ‘grocery’. Jackie is proud to have it exactly as she wants inside and outside the box.

If you’re wondering about the name, Lita’s Mexican Food, it’s a shortened version of abuelita, a diminutive Spanish word for grandmother. Jackie and Argelio’s young daughter couldn’t say the whole thing so Lita it became. Naming the company Lita was a natural as it pays a homage to Jackie and Argelio’s mothers in New Brunswick and Mexico, who taught them about food and hard work.

And work hard they do. So what is next for them? Jackie has more plant-based meal kits in development and, as always, they are driven by Jackie’s desire to fill us up with authentic Mexican flavours.