The next time you order takeout from your favourite restaurant, there’s a strong chance the fancy-hinged container, paper straws or pizza box are the handiwork of Gallimore Products Inc.

Since 2005, the Toronto-based company has been making compostable dinnerware, cutlery, and takeout boxes for the foodservice industry in Canada. What makes its Galligreen products so unique is they’re made of sugarcane, bamboo and corn.

“Gabriel Gallimore, my father, was a chemist by profession prior to incorporating Gallimore Products in 1985 and was completely fascinated by the chemical composition of products. After creating the Galligreen product line, he became focused on sustainability and promoting a better future,” says Gamila Gallimore, the company’s executive vice-president.

 “For a restaurant, it isn’t as simple as putting their food in just any container. It has to be in a high-quality product that will maintain the integrity of their food until it reaches their customer,” says the 30-year-old businesswoman. 

Striped paper straws in a frozen cocktail

“Our line of sugarcane hinged lid containers have been referred to as the ‘ultimate delivery vessel.’ It ensures product integrity, maintains heat, vents steam and ensures customer satisfaction. Of course, being 100% compostable is an added benefit,” she says.

But convincing customers across North and South America to pay significantly more for their innovative products than mainstream foam takeout containers was challenging.

“Fifteen years ago, the price difference was astronomical and it was hard for operators to commit to making the switch. Fortunately, it’s been a focus within the foodservice industry to make environmentally conscious decisions in choosing packaging products that are able to compost,” says Gamila, adding, “At Gallimore, our mission is to minimize our impact on the environment. Our customers see the value in that mission and that every step counts toward a greener future.” 

But she admits there’s a lot of confusion in the marketplace due to rampant “greenwashing.” 

“Biodegradable and compostable: these words may sound synonymous, but the labels are misleading. Just about anything can be biodegradable—even Styrofoam—breaking down after 500 years or more. Not everything can be compostable, which breaks down within 60 to 120 days. To be compostable, the item must be made entirely of natural materials such as sugarcane and bamboo or derived from a plant-based plastic such as polylactic acid (PLA).

“Simply put, a biodegradable material isn’t necessarily compostable, but a compostable material is always biodegradable!”

Eating takeout pizza out of the box

Galligreen’s products are put through in-depth testing to ensure they leave the least impact as possible on the planet. “It’s our passion for making a difference and by supplying more than 400 different compostable, sustainable, recyclable, and customizable products, we offer operators a variety of foodservice packaging options for their establishments.”

Challenges of COVID-19

With restaurant closures, dining-in restrictions and disrupted supply chains, the foodservice industry has been hit hard by COVID-19.  

During the height of the pandemic, Gallimore’s export sales were down 55%, but an increasing demand for takeout packaging was needed, quickly eating up their inventory.

“While the industry took a downward spiral, takeout and delivery were one of the few activities deemed low-risk. A critical part of the foodservice industry is disposable packaging, which directly impacts us. Certain packaging products became essential,” Gamila explains.

But keeping up with demand put a financial strain on the Canadian company and its 35 employees. A boost in cash flow was desperately needed, so Gallimore contacted its bank and found out about the Export Development Canada (EDC) Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) Guarantee. 

In partnership with financial institutions across Canada, EDC provides a guarantee for the majority of the money borrowed, encouraging them to increase a company’s access to credit.

“EDC’s BCAP Guarantee has allowed our company to expand into building additional stock that North and South America needed most during this pandemic. As many of our product sales declined due to the closure of restaurants, there were some items, including takeout containers and paper bags, where demand far exceeded the supply that we had on hand,” Gamila says. 

“EDC’s program allowed us to have the funds to finance and order significantly more stock ASAP, so we could help the restaurant industry during these unprecedented times.” 

Being a 30-year-old woman in a predominately male industry, the biggest challenge I’ve faced is people wondering how I’m old enough to be the EVP of our company and run our business. I certainly feel and have felt the judgments, or the double-takes, that I get when first approaching a conversation with someone new.

Gamila Gallimore  —  Executive vice-presidentGallimore Products Inc.
Gamila Gallimore, executive vice-president of Gallimore Products Inc.

Her advice for other women in trade

“Be yourself and have confidence in who you are. It has taken many years for me to be able to take that advice and really excel at it. I’ve been lucky to have been led by one of the greatest men I know—my father. He has taught me to set my goals high and push to achieve them no matter how hard they are.” 

Despite the global pandemic, she urges women to take action and follow their dreams.

“My advice is to just start—there is no better time than now. If you have something meaningful to solve with your business, then you can thrive in another market or markets. Don’t be afraid to pursue an unexpected path. It may just lead to the best journey of your life.”