At Konscious Foods, It’s All Good (& Disruptive) — In Every Way

Simon Mainwaring
6 min readFeb 26, 2024


Photo Provided By Konscious Foods

As a younger man, Yves Potvin found himself cycling across North America, from Montreal to Vancouver. He intended to work in architectural design. “I didn’t find my place there,” says Potvin. Potvin describes himself as receptive to messages from the universe, a lot like a radio with a fine-tune dial. “So, when a friend said, ‘Why don’t you become a chef?’ I said, ‘Hmm, that’s interesting.’” I love being with people. I love hospitality. I love feeding people. Food brings joy to people getting together … I want to travel [and] discover the world …”

“I was receptive … and for me, it really sank in.” He thought, “Well, the worst thing that’s going to happen if I become a chef is that I’m going to eat good food for the rest of my life.”

That he did! And the 66-year-old fed millions in the meantime. After training classically as a chef, Potvin built and sold two brands that defined eras in the plant-based food movement: First, Yves Veggie Cuisine, since 2001, part of The Hain-Celestial Canada, ULC group (Fun fact: the first fresh veggie dog in Canada was a Yves Veggie product). Next, in 2003, he founded Gardein, a pioneering plant-based protein company, which was acquired by Pinnacle Foods, a subsidiary of Conagra, in 2014.

With the founding of Richmond, British Columbia-based Konscious Foods in 2020, the renowned chef and entrepreneur was aiming for no less than a CPG hat trick on his persistent mission to provide delicious plant-based and sustainable food options to the masses.

Same But Different

With Konscious Foods, however, Potvin is expanding opportunities for a wider audience to enjoy high quality veggies, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Now, it’s through more specialty products. The company started with first-of-their-kind frozen vegan sushi, poke bowls, and onigiri (Japanese compressed rice balls), all of which are easily available in the freezer aisle.

“I must be a little bit of a masochist,” Potvin confesses, “because I have a tendency to innovate where nobody has gone before.”

For Potvin, there are two categories of entrepreneur: pioneers, and settlers. The former risk their necks in uncharted territory. If they survive, then the settlers sweep in to reap the hard-plowed fields. “‘Thank you very much,’ they say. ‘We’ll just harvest this land now.’”

Potvin mentors many businesspeople, and hears a lot of business concepts — a lot. “‘OK,’” he says to all of them, ‘I have three criteria. Are you the first? If not, are you the best? And, are you different? If you have two out of the three — first, best, or different — That’s good.’ My first business [Yves Veggie] … set the standard” because it checked all three boxes. Which means that “anybody that comes after you must be as good as you, at least. If not, they don’t have a chance.”

Of course, the whole “first, best, different” triad of ideals that stack the cards for companies to succeed financially, provides an industry model, and turn founders into legends like Potvin, has over the past four decades or so evolved rather dramatically. The rules of the game and its table stakes now comprise a passionate purpose to solve major problems, a mission to help make the world a better place for us and our cohabitants on the planet.

Of course, “eating plant-based foods is one of the easiest ways to make the world a better place,” says Potvin.

That’s what the “Konscious” part of Potvin’s business name means. A purpose deeply rooted in providing alternatives to traditional meat-based products most of us still rely upon. Especially in the frozen food category, still rife with pizza, TV dinners, and desserts. Konscious Foods, like Potvin’s previous brands, aims to marry the convenience we all now require in in our über-busy lives, with more healthful and environmentally friendly options.

That’s why Konscious Foods is so committed to transparency in all its sourcing and production processes, ensuring consumers can make informed choices that align with their values, says Potvin.

But how do you help consumers understand — no less, even find — your product when it occupies an entirely new category such as “frozen sushi?” With Konscious Foods, Potvin deliberately intends to offer alternatives to the alternatives: options besides Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, et al, he says.

“The sushi onigiri and poke bowls are a new category. So, one of our challenges is that people are not accustomed to buying frozen sushi, so they say, ‘Why?’ And then they try it, and they say, ‘Oh, it’s like pizza. I always have it in my freezer. I can have it when I want it.’ But there’s still a reluctance about it.

“That’s why demo is a big part of our program,” says Potvin. The in-store demonstrator shows potential consumers how they can microwave the product — say, Spicy ‘Sno’ Crab roll — for a minute, then eat it. “Or you put in your kid’s lunch box and it’s ready to eat for lunch,” he says.

Next Course

For its innovation and “wow-worthy” taste, Konscious Foods won the 2023 NEXTY AWARD — Best New Frozen Product for its frozen vegan Tuna California roll.

Konscious Foods operates according to a couple of mottos, one of which is, “Why choose between feeling good, doing right in the world, and eating amazing food? You can — and should — have it all. In fact, you should have it all served right to you, ready to eat.” But how could a company, even with state-of-the-art “high-speed lane” manufacturing facilities, ensure that its products are both affordable and available to consumers across different demographics so that everyone can “have it all?”

Accessibility and affordability initiatives are a key concern, and continuously underway, says Potvin. Before launching, the company spent a full year working with R&D and leadership teams, supply chain partners, and industry experts to try to keep costs reasonable (think $8.99ish). It wasn’t easy. “Some of our ingredients can cost $150 a pound,” says Potvin.

The company is growing. It closed a seed funding round in 2023, raising CA $26M from Protein Industries Canada (PIC) and two other investors to expand foodservice and retail in North America.

Funders such as PIC are seeking to support companies innovating solutions-based approaches to environmental challenges such as overfishing and ocean contamination, which are destroying the global fishing industry (and all that entails) as well as bedeviling many regional ecosystems.

One of the top funding initiatives involved partnering with Whole Foods in the US to create a new ready-to-eat vegan seafood product line “exclusively created by Whole Foods Market.” For now, the line includes two types of rolls available fresh.

Never willing to rest on his laurels, Potvin says, “I’m still right now focused on making this business all it could be. A new business is like a young- born; it needs a lot of attention.”

Kitchen Confidential

Potvin is a “give-back” kind of guy. Today, in addition to running Konscious Foods, he and his wife own and run a cooking school in Vancouver called Pacific Institute of Culinary Art (PICA). He teaches the culinary arts to about two hundred students, but focuses on the entrepreneurship angle, always with hard-won wisdom. “Basically, I tell them about Anthony Bourdain taking his life,” he says.

“The industry has a lot of ups and downs. It has a bad reputation, a lot of drugs, a lot of alcohol … a lot of stress, a lot of hard work.

“[But then] I tell them, basically, don’t [sell] yourself short.” Potvin reminds his students that with only a culinary certificate like the one they are pursuing at PICA, he managed to create wildly successful companies such as Gardein, in which he had 300 employees, including many MBAs and PhDs, all working for him.

“I tell them, ‘Follow your passion, but find your place. Find your place.’” In other words, they don’t have to follow an obvious, traditional path. “You could be a [food] writer. You could be a food stylist. You could be a chocolatier. Don’t think you’re [necessarily] going to be a chef behind a stove sweating the rest of your life.” There are infinite options for what a person can do with a culinary foundation.

Finally, Chef Yves counsels all his students to embark on a long, arduous adventure after graduation. Not unlike his 80-mile-a-day, your-house-on-your-back cross-country cycling trip during which he realized architecture would not be his “place” in the world.

“Find your place,” then make your mark. And remember, he teaches, “You change the world one step at a time.”



Simon Mainwaring

Founder/CEO brand consultancy, We First, bestselling author of We First and Lead With We, host of podcast, Lead With We.