The Western Expanse

Canada continues to reinvigorate the perishables trade from coast to coast and well beyond. Growers are developing new varieties and using more high-tech tools, and distributors are packing and shipping fruits and vegetables to the far corners of the world.

Our west-to-east trek showcases growing regions, packhouse innovations, wholesale markets, retail happenings, and all things fresh produce across the True North. For better coverage of this immense country from field to fork, there are two separate articles in this supplement: West (from British Columbia and the Yukon Territory to Manitoba) and East (from Ontario to Nova Scotia).

The Western Frontier
Many successful produce businesses call the country’s westernmost provinces and territories home with sustained, commercial production of fresh fruit and vegetables, including an expanding greenhouse sector.

These companies enjoy a number of unique advantages, including an expan-ding customer base as British Columbia and the Prairie Provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) are home to the country’s fastest growing population rate, representing a third of Canada’s residents.

David Karwacki, CEO of Star Produce Ltd., a distributor headquartered in Saskatoon, SK, with facilities in three other provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba) is a super fan of the region. “When I look at the advantages coming out of Western Canada, it’s the people—they’re loyal, trustworthy, and hard working.

“Our company started in Western Canada,” he adds, “and we’ve branched out from there. We’ve been able to draw great people into our company and have these people reach out across the entire produce industry.”

Roughly two-thirds of Canada’s population growth is due to immigration, according to Statistics Canada, as fresh faces arrive to take in the region’s beauty and bounty. “The [Western Canada] immigration forecast remains strong, with 35,000 immigrants arriving annually in Alberta alone,” notes Roy Hinchey, CEO of Thomas Fresh Inc. in Calgary. In response, Thomas Fresh has expanded into ethnic specialty produce. “Ethnic produce is relatively new to Alberta and Saskatchewan, so there is money to be made,” he says.

One category in particular continues to grow rapidly with the flow of new residents. “Our industry is seeing a greater Asian influence in Western Canada,” notes Ron Lemaire, president of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, “with more demand for what was once considered specialized produce now flowing through from international exporters like China.”

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