· By Sarah Goodman
Melanie Ang is a Badass
Melanie Ang is an avid hiker, backpacker, and marine biologist. She’s also the badass CEO and Founder of Off the Path Provisions, formerly Backcountry Wok, which offers healthy and delicious meals served up in sustainable packaging for people on the go.
Who are you, and what do you do?
I am a marine biologist turned food entrepreneur. I am the founder of Off the Path Provisions, and we make dehydrated vegan meals in compostable packaging. How it works is you add hot water to the heat resistant bag and seal it up, give it a little shake and 15-20 min later, it rehydrates into a Thai green curry, or a fried rice dish, which are perfect for a camping meal, on the go, and at the office.
So you were a marine biologist and ended up in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) food space. How did that happen?
It all stemmed from a specific backpacking trip to the Wild Side Trail in Tofino. We were there for about a week and packed a bunch of dehydrated meals and snacks. At the end of the week-long trip, there was a whole garbage bag full of meal packaging. Many of us were doing our masters in environmental science and were trying to live sustainably day-to-day. Still, when we went into the backcountry, we’d accumulate all of this waste. We brainstormed on how we could reduce our waste, and from there, I started dehydrating my own meals that I packaged in mason jars. The jars were heavy, so I also used silicone stasher bags. I started sharing them with people on the trails and friends, and people wanted to purchase them, so it spiralled from there to what it is today! It started as a side project, and now I spend all of my time doing it.
What do you love about it?
I love branding and packaging. I’m such a nerd about it. I go to the store, and I’ll literally take photos of packaging I like, and I’ll purchase products because of the branding.I feel like, especially now, there is more of a push for sustainability and people trying to come up with sustainable packaging, and I love seeing that incorporated in the CPG space.
What are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to face so far?
A big one for me was overcoming my own insecurities about being an entrepreneur. My training is in science, so I had no business experience and didn’t fully believe in my capabilities to lead the company and see it through to my vision. The more I do it, the more I realize I love the different components of running the business and that not having a business background isn’t unique among entrepreneurs. So ultimately, for me, it was really just getting over myself.
How would you like to see Off the Path grow?
I would love Off The Path to be all about sustainable meals and inclusivity and expand beyond just Asian food. As I grow my team, I’ve hired many people with different cultural backgrounds, and I’m inspired by the different types of foods they eat every day. We’re expanding into Indian dishes as a start. We also have a couple of pasta dishes in the works, and I’m excited to incorporate other types of cuisine. Secondly, we’re mostly selling in the camping and outdoor space, and we’re excited to bring Off The Path to the everyday office and on the go. We already have a lot of people saying they eat our meals when they aren’t camping, so it’s an excellent opportunity to expand into a new market.
What do you do to nourish yourself? (both in life and nutritionally)
I eat Off the Path meals! Starting this business has made me more aware of what I choose to consume, mainly because many of my friends and colleagues are people in the natural goods sector. I’m more aware of what I eat and trying to make healthier choices. The outdoors is a big part of my life, and while the first couple of years after starting the business was sometimes rough because you’re so busy that you sometimes forget the passion or the reason you started the company in the first place. So for me, I’ve realized I need to take time to just go outside, go on a backpacking trip, and remember why I started the company. It helps me connect with my customers, and it also inspires me to continue to do what I do every day.
What do you look for in a snack?
Flavours, cool packaging, and nutrition!
What is something that people don’t know about you?
I love singing. I make a lot of road trips to do trade shows, and I find myself often in the car alone for many hours going to all of these shows. I always play rap songs and memorize all the lyrics to them.
How can people find Off the Path online and learn more about your products?
Our website is the best place to go to check us out at www.offthepathprovisions.com. There you’ll find a store locator where you can find stores across Canada that stock Off the Path meals.