In 2009, Ann Blais set out to find a way to get nutritious meals to her elderly mother who lived across the province and needed assistance. What she didn’t expect to find along with the solution was a drastic career change, namely operating a franchise that makes a difference in the lives of seniors in her region.
“I like to know I’m doing something that benefits people like my mother. She had lost a great deal of weight due to the challenges created by some mobility issues that came with age,” said Blais. “You take for granted something as simple as having a nutritious meal. But my mother almost died living on cheese and crackers.”
In researching options, Blais discovered Heart to Home Meals, a service that provides seniors with home delivery of delicious, balanced frozen meals that are quick and easy to prepare.
Fast forward to the present day in which Blais, who is based in New Dundee, Ont., is now a Heart to Home Meals franchisee. On average, entrees are $6 and customers can choose from a growing menu of more than 150 items, from soups to entrees and desserts. There are no commitments or contracts, and delivery is free in most cases.
Some of Blais’ customers get a delivery once a week. Her team of nine, which includes drivers, sales and office staff, has become key points of contact for seniors in the Kitchener-Waterloo region who want to maintain their independent living lifestyle. In addition to delivering the meals and unpacking them directly into their customers’ freezers, their regular visits provide the opportunity to do something as simple as help to change a lightbulb, or to have a conversation. Experts in home and seniors care have noted the importance of having a regular check-in, especially for seniors with mobility issues.
The Heart to Home Meals model was established in UK by Wiltshire Farm Foods. Its goal is to keep seniors healthy and living independently in the comfort of their own home by eliminating the hassle of food shopping, preparation and clean up. The company’s chefs have skillfully created recipes that are carefully prepared to contain controlled levels of fat, sodium and calories. They also cater to many specialized diets, providing meals for specific needs such as gluten free, vegetarian, certain textures and more.
Since bringing on its initial franchisee in 2010, Heart to Home Meals has been growing operations and sales steadily in southwestern Ontario. For Blais, her business has had growth in sales since inception. Now, while that trajectory continues upwards, her rate of growth is significantly faster as more and more seniors, their families and healthcare professionals discover and recommend Heart to Home Meals.
By operating this franchise and working directly with seniors, Blais said she is getting a glimpse into her own future, recognizing the potential challenges she may face down the road. With people living longer and with growing numbers of seniors staying in their own homes, there is a lot of room for companies like Heart to Home Meals to be successful.
By 2031, StatsCan estimates the number of people 65 and older will double to 9.6 million, nearly a quarter of Canada’s total population. This growing segment is becoming a large consumer force. Seniors care and services is one of the fastest growing franchise industries in the country, more than doubling in the last seven years.
“I had never thought about franchising before – it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Blais. “It’s been a wonderful journey for me in terms of my career development. I didn’t realize that I would be doing much more than delivering food. Working for these seniors, the rewards are immeasurable.”