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The New Ope's!

June 12, 2012 at 10:21 AM

First, I want to thank YOU, our wonderful friends and family members who have kept Ope’s going for nearly 10 years. We would not be here without your amazing support, word-of-mouth advertising, and continuous enthusiasm and encouragement to help us stay in business during our rough years. We started as the world’s first and only healthy vegetarian fast food restaurant in 2001, but quickly learned that Ope’s was just ahead of it’s time and after two years of restaurant business, decided to switch gears to wholesale production so we could take our food to areas where people wanted heart-healthy, earth-friendly, locally-produced food, and where we could sell to institutions making a difference in the health of our community (a huge thank you to all of the places currently selling Ope’s items!) … so in 2003 we closed the doors of our restaurant locations and launched Export Ope’s LLC.

Today, as we approach our 10-year anniversary, we are switching gears again. After months of research and recipe analysis, we are proud to launch the NEW OPE’S. We have a new Ope’s Team (including a few of our very loyal and dedicated Ope’s Team members who have been with us since the restaurant days!), we have a new direction, new goals, and a new positive energy illuminating from our products that we want the world to be excited about … and while our philosophy of making a positive impact on the health of our community and planet is still our number one focus, we believe education and inspiring people to eat healthier and be active is essential to the SUCCESS of our company.

SO, what exactly has changed?

Opes_Sandwich_Label_Breakfast.jpgWell, first we are excited to introduce the new labels. Veggie Burgers, Stuffed Sandwiches, and Cookies have a clean, crisp, colorful look to the labels now that reflect how our food tastes. We have become Vegan Certified, meaning that you can be assured that everything within our facility, every ingredient, right down to our cleaning supplies, are free of animal products and by-products. We also have our Made in Michigan logo displaying our commitment to using the freshest and most locally grown or produced ingredients from our state. And finally, we have included a new logo, “Made with Positive Energy” with a runner who just may remind you of the Ope’s family members who have the extreme passion of providing great tasting foods AND who love to stay active.

PositiveEnergy_Logo_Black.pngWith our new designs came the plan to introduce new products. The new products include a delicious Breakfast Sandwich made with kale grown right in our own Ope’s garden (thanks Jilly!), a Mushroom/Onion-Pizza Sandwich that combines our number one selling Pizza Stuffed Sandwich with our portabellas and white onions for a mouthwatering Pizza-style meal. We have new cookies, and we will be rotating new flavors in for every season to mix up the tastes.

Which brings me to our next big decision to step away from our 100% organic USDA certification. While we are still certified organic and maintain an organic standard for all of our products, we have done extensive research and taken many polls from our friends, and after much collaboration have decided it’s much more important to work with our local farmers where we can see where our produce is grown and use it directly from our own gardens and the gardens in our area the minute it’s picked fresh. Many of our area’s farms, including our own Ope’s garden, can not financially afford going through the USDA organic certification process, and yet we know and see that no chemicals are being used and trust our local farmers more than organic produce we might be getting from as far away as Mexico … it just doesn’t make sense to us that we should buy organic during our summer months when we have the best produce growing in our backyard! We absolutely will continue using organic certified produce (and ingredients!) whenever possible, but we do not feel it is right promoting local business when we ourselves aren’t supporting our local farmers. We are hoping you agree!

CertifiedVegan_BW.pngWhat does this mean for the labels? It only means we can not list “organic vegetables” on our labels because they may not be USDA CERTIFIED organic. However, we are always available to answer questions on where our produce came from and we give you the OPE’S PROMISE that we will only use the cleanest, freshest, most local produce possible during our growing season, and we will use organic certified vegetables the remainder of the year, even if not reflected on the label!

Finally, our nutrition is changing slightly on the Sandwiches because of another very difficult decision to switch to a new cheese company. We are well aware of the allergies and special dietary restrictions of many children and adults, and the difficulty they have with finding products they can be assured have not been cross-contaminated. Being a vegan company, we had to find a vegan cheese that was not cross-contaminated with nuts, soy, milk, casein, or any milk protein remnants. We DID find a cheese that met all of our requirements, but the nutrition is a lot different than the rice cheese blend we were using before … SO we had another tough decision on whether to use rice cheese that might have traces of nuts, soy, and dairy therefore losing our vegan certification AND creating a large allergen statement on our label OR switching to an entirely vegan cheese that is higher in calories but much healthier overall for our friends and family? We decided to switch. The tastes are still the same, the cheese is delicious and melts and looks like dairy cheese, but it is tapioca based and is gluten-free, vegan, and heart-healthy. It’s an amazing cheese, and has won several awards for being the best-tasting vegan cheese on the market, and we hope that you agree with our decision to be more cognizant of allergies!

With the change in cheese, we also added a rice protein to the spelt flour to create a higher-protein, higher-fiber meal, yet we reduced the use of a raw turbinado sugar and actually use organic agave syrup which helps sustain a lower glycemic index (so they can still be consumed by diabetics!). The carbohydrates in the Stuffed Sandwiches are all COMPLEX carbohydrates which keep your heart beating, so we continue to avoid all REFINED (bad!) carbohydrates and any processed sugar or flour in all of our products.

SO … new look, new ingredients, new products … it’s a NEW OPE’S … and we can’t wait to hear the feedback and thoughts from all of our wonderful supporters. THANK YOU for your inspiration, your comments, and your support as we launch the NEW OPE’S, we are truly blessed to have such a great community and we appreciate you more than you know! MAKE IT A GREAT DAY!