Episode 195: Michelle Huff
Jan 12, 2022
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‘Value added’ is a pretty popular term in the produce industry. It’s when someone takes a basic commodity, like a fruit or vegetable, and innovates the actual produce itself, its packaging, or turns it into something like a meal kit. But for some reason, no one has come up with a way to innovate beans, other than putting them in a can full of sodium and mystery ingredients.
Michelle Huff, who’s husband owns a farm, was constantly asking herself, “what does my husband grow that I can add value to, is innovative, hasn’t been done before yet checks the boxes of an actual, marketable product?”
Beans were the first thing that came to her mind, considering how time-consuming it can be to prepare them and if you don’t plan ahead to soak them overnight, you’re stuck using beans from a can. From 2011 to 2018, Michelle was wondering how she could take that same, incredible flavor profile you enjoy from scratch-made beans and provide it to consumers in an easy, ready made, and healthy package.
“One of the reasons I loved the product so much is they’re better tasting than canned beans and they’re a heck of a lot quicker than cooking them on my own. So often when I cook them on my own, they just get mushy and undercooked!” – Lori Taylor (6:00-6:11)
Bare Beans is a completely naked bean with just two ingredients: beans and water. They’re fully cooked, ready to eat and come in a convenient pouch. There isn’t any liquid, either, so when you tear open the pouch, you can pour the beans out and pop them in your mouth as a snack, add them to a salad or add them to a delicious recipe!
Bare Beans come in four varieties: black beans, garbanzo beans, red beans and pinto beans, which are the top four varieties of beans consumers are most familiar with and are purchasing. Michelle sources 100% of the beans from her husband’s farm and, as they grow, they plan to use small, local farmers in the area to make sure they keep utilizing the local economy and sourcing only the best beans.
Did you know that legumes, the category of produce beans fall under, are the only type of produce that technically are considered a vegetable and a protein? Bare Beans are a great, protein-packed snack to give to kids at sporting events or after school.
How do Michelle’s beans go from the field into Bare Beans’ cute pouches? The beans are planted in spring and harvested in fall. When it’s time to harvest, they dry the plant out (quit irrigating), but make sure the moisture content of the beans isn’t too high. Once harvested, the beans are taken to a local cleaning and milling facility where they go through a milling process and are then stored in bean boxes which are taken to Michelle’s facility.
The beans are given another comb through to make sure no sediment, rocks or potentially harmful plant matter are in there, then soaked overnight and added to a big kettle the next day. The home cooking process is simulated as much as possible, just as beans have been prepared for decades. This is how the beans get their great, delicious flavor! The Bare Beans team then drains them, packages them, takes them through a food safety process, and packages them in cooler boxes to be sent to retailers and food service companies.
Michelle’s favorite way to use Bare Beans is of course (being from Minnesota) a ‘hot dish’! Michelle bakes Cream of Mushroom soup, fresh tomatoes and chopped onions, ground beef, taco seasoning, Bare Beans black and pinto beans in a casserole dish and tops it off with something crunchy, like those last crumbles of tortilla chips left at the bottom of the bag.
Bare Beans would also make for a great and easy way to make black bean burgers, hummus, chili, refried beans, tacos, salads and much more! Even if you put them in your crockpot before you go to work, they’re still firm with a nice bite to them later in the day. They hold their structure and firmness, unlike a canned bean.
Ready to get your hands on some pouches of Bare Beans? Contact your local food service company and stay tuned by checking for updates on the Bare Beans website for local retailers who will carry these healthy, convenient snacks. You’ll be supporting a woman-owned and Native American owned business, and providing your family with a healthy, protein-packed snack.
How to get involved
- Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
- Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here.
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