Best Cooking Pulses (BCP) was a family-owned Canadian company active in the pulse industry as a trader and miller since 1936.
In the early 30s, farmers Stephen Heal and Chauncey Eckert, based in the Fraser Valley of BC, decided to grow peas for a local canner. However, it was the time of the great depression, and before the first crop had even come off, the canner had gone broke. The partners found themselves launched in the pea business with plentiful field peas and markets. The pair were able to sell the peas into the Quebec soup trade and BC Pea Growers was born.
Best Cooking Pulses Staff, 1942
Stephen eventually bought out Chauncey’s interest and was joined in business by his three sons: Jack, Ronald and Geoff. By the 1960s, BCP had milling operations in all four western Canadian provinces.
Many people contributed to BCP’s success over the years. Of special note are Dorothy Bird Smith of Armstrong, BC, and Howard Braden of Portage la Prairie, MB. Dorothy began as a bookkeeper in June 1943, eventually becoming BCP’s controller and a company shareholder. She retired after 52 years of service. Howard also spent over 50 years with the company, first in Portage, then managing the Creston, BC, plant until his retirement.
Stephen R. Heal
In the early 1990s the brothers parted ways. Geoff took over full control of the pea splitting, and pea hull fiber (made from a by-product of the splitting process) and pulse flour on the prairies, to be known as Best Cooking Pulses (BCP). Throughout the 1990s, Geoff Heal with his daughter, Annette Heal, worked to develop processes and markets for pea hull fiber and yellow split pea flour.
Following Geoff’s death in 2004, daughters Trudy Heal and Margaret Hughes, together with Mike Gallais, managed the two BCP locations: the pea splitter in Rowatt, SK and the pulse flour and fiber mill in Portage la Prairie, MB. In 2011, Geoff Heal was posthumously recognized by the Canadian Special Crop Association for his lifetime contributions to the pulse industry. He received the CSCA Industry Appreciation Award.
In October 2011, The Globe and Mail Report on Small Business identified BCP as one of “Ten food companies that are changing the way we eat”. In 2012, the company was awarded an Agricultural Marketing Excellence Award from the North American Agricultural Marketing Officials. The Food Beverage Manitoba named BCP 2016 Company of the Year.
Since merging with Avena Foods Ltd. in 2018, the company has continued the tradition of developing innovative, value-added pulse ingredients from whole and split pulses, and pea hulls.
Mike, Trudy and Margaret, 2016.