Hans Dairy: Providing consumers with a little taste of home

A variation of the article is published on the Taste Your Future website.

We spoke with Sarab Hans, President of Hans Dairy, about her family’s South Asian dairy company and asked her why she enjoys her job and how to build a successful career in the industry.

Let’s start with Hans Dairy.

Hans Dairy is one of the largest businesses in Ontario that specializes in South Asian dairy products. A family-owned South -Asian dairy makes products like smoothies, lassi, makhan, full cream milk, dahi and kheer with a South Asian flavour profile using all natural ingredients. The products which are made by sisters, Sarab and Mandeep Hans, provide consumers with a little taste of home.

The company has a 100% natural philosophy. All products are free of artificial sugars, flavourings, colourings and preservatives.

Hans Dairy smoothies

You can find these delicious products in Ontario and Quebec at select Coppa’s, Fortinos, FreshCo, Loblaws, Longo’s, Metro, No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore, Sobeys, Valu-Mart, Food Basics, Walmart, Your Independent Grocer, Zehrs and other specialty grocery stores.

An image of Sarab Hans and her sister

About Sarab Hans

Following a career in banking and finance, Sarab took over as CEO of Hans Dairy in 2006. She quickly realized that the food industry is tightly connected across the supply chain from farm through to retail grocery — and food and beverage manufacturers are sandwiched in the middle.

For businesses like Hans Dairy, this means having a very little control over the cost of ingredients and even less control over selling channels.

Manufacturing is also process-intensive and Sarab admits to working on the production floor for a full year to learn about the technical, food safety, and quality assurance aspects of the business. All of this is critical to success!

“My day is non-stop and I love it! On any day I might be getting feedback from consumers on our new products, talking with our technical experts on process design, reviewing business financials or working with Mandeep on sales and marketing. Our 30+ employees are family.” Sarab Hans, CEO, Hans Dairy

What about skills and training?

No two food companies use the same equipment or processes – there is a learning curve at a new company regardless of your job experience or education. Positions at Hans Dairy are available in production and management, and standard training for new hires includes reviewing GMPs, WHMIS training, health and safety, and use of personal protective equipment. Soft skills are also central to the company’s success. Employees work together collaboratively and within a team-based culture.

“When people join the team at Hans Dairy we want them to enjoy our culture. It feels like a family here, and this was always our main goal. It’s a family business, and it should feel like a family.”

The typical hiring process at Hans Dairy begins with placing job postings on Indeed and job banks, as well looking for graduates from Humber College and Centennial. Humber’s new immigrant programmes are one way Hans Dairy connects with new Canadians.

Frontline jobs at Hans Dairy

At Hans Dairy, all production jobs are frontline. This includes:

  • Production associates wear multiple hats and perform COP cleaning (dismantling equipment, manually cleaning and sanitizing) plus packing line.
  • Lead hand is responsible for making sure that operations run smoothly and safely. They help co-workers meet production goals and do problem solving with management.
  • Machine operators are responsible for setting-up, operating, and maintaining food production machinery. Floor supervisors are responsible for coordinating food processing operation such as monitoring sanitation standards, managing schedules, monitoring employee performance, overseeing manufacturing processes, solving technical issues, and training workers.
  • HTST operator/pasteurizer is responsible for operating and cleaning equipment used to pasteurize, produce, and store fluid milk and cultured products.
  • Sanitation operators perform two types of cleaning – COP (Cleaning Out of Place) and CIP (Cleaning in Place), which is cleaning with automation, temperature, flow rate, chemicals

About half of a frontline worker’s time is spent making food and the other half is spent on cleaning. New hires are often people with no food experience, but come from a distribution centre or other type of warehouse or manufacturing setting. Hans Dairy also employs new immigrants with a food science background and many immigrating from South Asia.

Of interest, women and men frontline workers at Hans Dairy have reached equal representation which makes for the perfect balance on the production floor.

What are some misconceptions about frontline jobs?

“People think it’s cold and wet but it’s actually temperature controlled! It’s not excessively wet. Also, the industry is just not top-of-mind. People apply to Amazon to work in distribution all the time, but don’t think about similar jobs in making food and beverages.” shares Sarab.

What’s changed at Hans Dairy because of COVID?

Along with the global pandemic came the recognition that people working in the food and beverage industry are essential workers.

Hans Dairy used to rely on staffing agencies for busy times, but they are no longer doing that. To minimize the number of people coming and going, they now have more permanent employees.

During the early days of Covid-19, Sarab and her sister Mandeep spent a significant amount of time speaking with employees to ensure that everyone understood how vital and protected they are. There was a huge increase in the use of PPE and lots of planning and protocols for a safe work environment. The team culture at Hans Dairy has ensured success — with employees adapting to changes in the workplace and staying positive and motivated.

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