FreeYumm Family Celebrates Record Sales

FreeYumm Foods is enjoying a growing BC fan base, thanks to their recent local marketing initiative. After a successful series of outreach and promotional activities, including more than 80 in-store demonstrations and three consumer trade shows, the Vancouver-based family business witnessed a 50 percent sales spike during the first year of their campaign!

Created in a dedicated bakery and free from the top nine priority allergens, FreeYumm’s gluten-free, allergen- and vegan-friendly snack bars allow diet-sensitive consumers to purchase food with minimal planning, effort or stress.

After an initial local marketing project helped introduce FreeYumm in stores and create the first wave of brand awareness in BC, president Sarah Clarke again turned to buy local funding when it came time to accelerate sales and launch their new line of healthy cookies.

In addition to the ambitious circuit of events, Clarke credits the unique and professional marketing materials they developed with project funding, including in-store displays and shelf-talkers.

“Thanks to funding support we’ve been able to provide a consistent, strong brand image to the consumer, capturing their attention and clearly outlining the benefits of our local BC brand,” explains Clarke.

As a result of the project, she was able to secure a new listing with Thrifty Foods and continues to see growth with all existing retail outlets like Whole Foods Market and Save-On-Foods.

For Clarke, overtaking brands from out-of-province competitors and gaining more market share for BC businesses is almost as satisfying as the sales increase itself.

“We are seeing strong sales at all chains but beyond this FreeYumm has solidified itself as a legitimate brand in the industry, often outselling other leading brands,” she says, noting that she frequently hears from retailers reporting that FreeYumm is now their number one selling granola bar.

Good news not just for the FreeYumm family but for the many partners they rely on to provide locally sourced food, packaging and equipment.

Funding: $19,678 provided by the Government of British Columbia. (BL139, BL253)

Meals on Wheels Campaign Drives Growth for Lower Mainland Farms

Launched in 2007 by COO and Chef Marcus VonAlbrecht, MAVA Foods maintains a simple but powerful mission—to make food that is good for people and the planet, utilizing all natural, seasonal ingredients from local producers like 63 Acres Farms, Delta Fisheries and the Blue Goose Cattle Company.

One way it fulfills this purpose is by preparing food for Meals on Wheels in the Lower Mainland, a program that provides homebound individuals with nutritious, delicious hot meals at their doorsteps.

While it has already offered a lifeline for hundreds of local residents, Marcus felt they could do more.

“It’s been proven that when you buy from a locally-owned business, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses,” he explains. “We knew that by boosting sales of MAVA Foods’ meals we could benefit ten different companies in the Greater Vancouver Area, including local farms.”

Determined to increase sales by 200 meals a week (or $3,200 every month), MAVA launched a local marketing initiative, targeting senior citizens with an advertorial campaign in local publications like the Vancouver Sun and Province.

“We also wanted to provide at least 200 candidates with printed material explaining that by choosing us, they are choosing local farms and producers which strengthens both their economy and their bodies,” added Marcus. “This way not only seniors would benefit but local companies would increase their sales, enabling them to create more jobs and keep the money within our communities.”

In less than a year they had surpassed their goal, achieving a monthly sales average of $4,600, which has led to three new jobs at the MAVA facility, more purchase orders from BC producers and more investment opportunities for both themselves and their partners.

“Our suppliers frequently visit us at MAVA Foods headquarters to discuss production matters and improvements, and many of them have reported increased hiring due to growing sales volumes,” says Marcus.

With new suppliers like Hazelmere Organic Farm, Gelderman Farms and Bremner Foods joining their network, MAVA is now able to source 85 percent of their ingredients from BC producers and is hoping to eventually become 100 percent locally-sourced.

For Marcus, buying local is fundamental to MAVA’s business success and will continue to remain one of their bottom lines.

“The support of local marketing funding is essential to expanding the outcomes of this value chain and benefiting the entire BC community,” he believes. “It’s a win-win situation to all stakeholders involved.”

Funding: $4,410 provided by the Government of British Columbia. (BL286)

Local Start-up Changes Breakfast in BC

Anyone ever in line at a café or deli knows the familiar sight that fruit and yogurt cups present—what is less common (at least in BC) is a local, organic version of this popular staple.

Fortunately Chilliwack entrepreneur and passionate locavore Jillian Hull decided to fill the gap by undertaking two IAF projects that would help her develop, commercialize and market Jumpstarter, a unique BC product that now boasts mass appeal.

For Hull, the founder and CEO of JillyV’s Enterprises, the ability to access multiple funding sources for each phase of her venture was critical to achieving market success.

Agri-Innovation funding, for instance, enabled the development of the food technology needed to create the freeze/thaw formulation for Jumpstarter, a yogurt-based breakfast product layered with chia, oatmeal and low-sugar fruit compote that is now expanding the JillyV business.

“Being able to distribute nutrient-dense frozen products to vendors who then thaw and serve means we can distribute far beyond our current geographical capacity,” Hull explains.

So far Jumpstarter is the only dairy product in North America offering this feature, an innovation that has fostered broader opportunities not just for Hull but for her local partners and suppliers.

“We use local sources for our yogurt, including Avalon Dairy and Pacific Coast Fruit Products, as well as local distributors for all other products like oatmeal and chia,” she reports, adding they also use a local box manufacturer, refrigerated trucking and storage, and a co-packer in Chilliwack that employs about ten staff to assemble Jumpstarter.

In 2018 alone, Hull estimates the trickle-down effect on many agriculture and food-related industries will surpass $600,000 in increased revenues.

But moving the product to market was only half the battle.

Creating brand recognition in the increasingly competitive “whole meal replacement” category presented the next challenge in the Jumpstarter saga.

After repeatedly dealing with customers unaware of her company’s locale, Hull decided to undertake a local marketing initiative to highlight Jumpstarter as a truly proud BC brand.

“We consider ourselves ‘triple local’ as our product is grown, raised and made here in BC,” says Hull proudly. “Emphasizing this attribute offers a considerable marketing advantage as being ‘Made in BC’ has become synonymous with quality, cleanliness and trustworthiness.”

And thanks to funding for a comprehensive campaign that included online advertising, in-store demonstrations, and upgrades to their website, social media platforms and promotional materials, their sales have more than doubled and they are now available in most major retailers across BC.

“This year alone we added Thrifty Foods, expanded our reach with Safeway, added two new distributors, entered into food service/hotel catering, and have agreements with dozens of smaller retailers from hockey arenas to arts centers and organic grocers,” says Hull, who foresees steady growth and already has several new products in the pipeline.

As with their original product line, Hull plans to continue sourcing local ingredients and is looking forward to adding more BC agri-businesses to their network.

“Local is more than a buzz word or a marketing ploy,” she insists. “It’s a commitment to your community that creates a genuine bond and benefits all members, whether you’re making, selling or eating BC food.”

For more information about innovation funding visit iafbc.ca/funding-opportunities/innovation/

Funding: $8,263 provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through Growing Forward 2, a former federal-provincial-territorial initiative for the innovation project (INN244SP); $24,569 provided by the Government of British Columbia for the Buy Local project (BL293).

Innovation Front & Center at Project Showcase

Leaders from across the industry came together at the 2018 Showcase of BC Projects in Abbotsford to collectively illustrate some of the latest (and greatest!) ideas that offer a bright future for BC agriculture.

The event, held in conjunction with the IAF Annual General Meeting on April 12th, featured exhibits from close to 40 projects funded through IAF that are helping to fuel innovation and market growth in primary production and food processing.

Hedy Dyck, Chief Operating Officer for the BC Landscape and Nursery Association (BCLNA), was among many funding recipients who have witnessed significant impacts unfold for her sector thanks to project support.

“Showcasing BCLNA’s projects is important to the nursery industry as well as other sectors, as we learn from the diversity of projects and how they can enable industry to move forward to face challenges,” says Hedy. “It is a pleasure to work with IAF to find the pathways to address emerging issues and build a strong and vibrant industry.”

Programs like the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program proved particularly instrumental for a variety of sectors. For Dr. Saber Miresmailli, Founder and CEO of Ecoation Innovative Solutions, Innovation funding played a vital role in his efforts to advance crop health technology. With the development and commercialization of Crop Sense™, a wireless crop health monitoring system, growers can now identify where and when treatment is needed based on plant-generated signals before symptoms arise, significantly reducing crop loss, labour and pesticide applications.

Zuun Nutrition received Innovation funding to develop and commercialize an all-natural diabetic meal replacement drink, while Big Mountain Foods (BMF) accessed support through different funding programs to help expand their product line and grow their business. After developing the unique meat-free and allergy-friendly CauliCrumble Veggie Grounds with the help of Innovation funding, the family business turned to the BC Government’s Buy Local Program and the BC Agrifood & Seafood Export Program to revitalize their brand. The resulting increase in listings, sales and online exposure in both local and international markets is creating more lucrative opportunities for both BMF and their value chain partners in BC.

“With the increased demand we have been able to evolve from a small- to a medium-sized food manufacturer that is creating more jobs and sourcing more local ingredients,” BMF vice president, Jasmine Chamberland explains, noting that BMF has since employed several more full-time staff and now purchase truckloads of local ingredients instead of pallets.

Whether funding research into more sustainable pest control, technology to enhance animal welfare, or moving new products to market, we are proud to support BC’s leaders and innovators as they drive our industry forward one project at a time.

Project funding was provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

Funding for the BC Government’s Buy Local Program is provided by the BC Ministry of Agriculture.

BC Buy Local Award of Excellence

Congratulations again to Kirk Homenick, winner of the inaugural BC Buy Local Award of Excellence!

The president of Naturally Homegrown Foods was recognized in 2017 for his Buy Local campaign, ‘A Chip Close to Home,’ for not only continuing to drive local agrifood sales but also for creating several new jobs for British Columbians.

Recognized as Honourable Mentions were Merissa Myles, Co-Founder of Tree Island Gourmet Yogurt, for using Buy Local funding to connect with grocery buyers, celebrity chefs, and consumers about the benefits of buying 100% BC milk dairy; and Robert Pringle, CEO of the United Flower Growers Cooperative Association, who spearheaded the ‘Flowerful BC’ initiative to encourage consumers to ‘pick local’ when buying plants and flowers.

The BC Buy Local Award of Excellence celebrates one outstanding BC producer or processor based on the achievements of the best Buy Local marketing project—the campaign that was the most creative, strategic and effective in increasing sales and consumer engagement. The 2017 winner was announced at the BC Food Processors Association’s FoodProWest Gala in Vancouver.

Driediger Farms Enjoys Record Numbers

For locals and tourists alike, Driediger Farms Market offers an irresistible Fraser Valley destination, with an abundance of fresh and frozen berries, a bounty of BC products from other local purveyors, and events and U-Pick fields for day-at-the-farm fun.

While the Farm has already helped propel several BC businesses into another phase of growth, Rhonda Driediger felt they could do more and decided to extend their marketing efforts to a broader customer base.

With better roadway signage and a combination of print, radio, online and TV advertising, the Driedigers launched their “local BC all under one roof” campaign closer to the Vancouver region, as well as the Chinese- and Japanese-speaking communities (the former representing one of the fastest growing populations in BC).

According to Rhonda, communicating with their guests in their preferred language represents a significant milestone.

“Marketing directly to the Asian community is new to the Fraser Valley farming industry,” she explains, noting that this demographic represents a large number of BC residents that had little to no communication of the buy local message.”

In less than a year, it was clear that this had changed as both English- and Mandarin-speaking visitors flocked to the farm in record numbers.

“Our 2016 market season saw unprecedented sales results not only in revenue but in product volumes,” reports Rhonda, adding that project results in 2017 were almost equally impressive, despite crop loss due to poor weather.

In addition to revenue spikes in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Rhonda was thrilled to see the number of visitors to their Summer Festival grow by over 1,500, as well as a surge of Facebook likes to the tune of 22,000 and counting, and an expansion of value chain partners.

For Rhonda, the ripple effect extending to other agri-businesses is a testament not just to the project’s success, but to a key tenet of the buy local movement—maximizing benefits across the value chain.

“Because of the increase in traffic and sales, we’ve been able to expand our product assortment and add 11 new vendors at the market,” she explains. “Now that we’re a recognized brand within the community we’re able to increase exposure and sales for more BC products, including from more remote areas of the province.”

Part of that exposure is through in-store signage that features free advertising for their vendors with detailed information about the specific farms and manufacturers sold under the Driediger umbrella.

And with growing numbers of locavore converts, Rhonda is finding that public support is leveraging these efforts beyond all expectations, with visitors increasingly engaging online and tweeting and posting pictures of themselves with the Driediger signs on social media.

“The increase in visitors not just from the Asian community but from outside the Fraser Valley is proof of this campaign’s success,” she declares. “We are now the go-to spot for easy access to a diverse collection of premium BC products.”

Funding: $44,021 provided by the BC Government. (BL224)

BC Sales Soar for Big Mountain Foods

After wrapping up a year-long local marketing campaign across BC, Big Mountain Foods (BMF) was able to ring in the New Year with record demand for its increasingly popular Original Veggie Patty.

As part of the BMF initiative, the family business was able to revitalize their brand with funding to launch social media promos, host in-store and consumer tradeshow demos, and develop new product packaging and marketing materials.

According to BMF’s vice president, Jasmine Chamberland, results were almost immediate, especially following their in-store presentations.

“On average, each demo sold 100 units per store within a four hour period,” Jasmine reports, adding that for many shoppers, buying local proved as much a priority as eating healthy.

The Chamberland family has since witnessed growing interest from both consumers and retailers, leading to increased listings, sales and online exposure. By the end of 2017, BMF had gained over 1,000 followers on social media (many of whom are now actively promoting their veggie patty) and was also invited back to Veg Expo and Healthy Family Expo because of overwhelming customer response.

And with a 40 percent increase in sales by year end, BMF is equally optimistic about their 2018 forecast.

“Thanks to our new and enhanced marketing abilities we were able to get consumers talking about our company more than ever before and create a locally recognized brand that has opened the door to larger retailers,” says Chamberland.

With Loblaw and Walmart on their immediate radar (their largest accounts to date), the Chamberlands are expecting to double sales starting in 2018.

While Jasmine is excited to see instant acceleration, she is more interested in the long-term impacts on the business and the benefits unfolding for her community.

“With the increased demand we have been able to evolve from a small- to a medium-sized food manufacturer that is creating more jobs and sourcing more local ingredients,” she explains, noting that BMF has since employed four more full-time staff and now purchase truckloads of local ingredients instead of pallets.

Funding: $61,960 provided by the BC Government. (BL255)

Big D’S Sees Big Returns

The pumpkins are coming! And Daniel and Justine Ludwig, owners of Big D’s Bees Honey, couldn’t be more excited about this season’s Pumpkin Fest at Coastal Black Estate Winery.

The annual event at the Comox Valley family farm has evolved into a community staple, drawing droves of visitors every October to enjoy a day full of festivities, including corn and hay bale mazes, hay wagon rides, a petting zoo, pumpkin bowling and the climactic Pumpkin Chunkin’ Trebuchet, where revelers launch pumpkins over 380 feet.

While last year’s festival was a bit more eventful than they had bargained (their debut Corn Maze was laid waste by 80 kilometer winds and record-breaking rain), the Ludwigs nonetheless had special cause to celebrate as the 2016 Coastal Black Pumpkin Fest came to a close.

Not only were they able to successfully launch their new Pumpkin Spice Honey through their BC government-funded initiative, they were also able to enhance event promotions and highlight new varieties of pumpkins, resulting in a 147 percent sales increase over the previous year.

For the Ludwigs, the buy local model not only means better returns for their business, it also reflects a commitment to their community—a commitment clearly shared by thousands of customers braving unprecedentedly bad weather to support Pumpkin Fest.

“Despite historical rain counts for the Comox Valley in 2016, we still managed to host more than 10,000 people during the month-long event and raise over $10,000 for Ronald McDonald House BC Charity,” Justine proudly reports.

Almost as astonishing, the main impetus credited by the couple for driving both in-store sales and on-farm visitors was the surprisingly simple display totes developed for their pumpkins at grocery stores, featuring the Coastal Black Pumpkin Fest logo along with a buy local identifier. According to Daniel Ludwig, these sparked the greatest consumer response.

“We had terrific feedback from people who came to our farm—the display totes either prompted them to purchase our pumpkins from the store or encouraged them to come to the farm in October for Pumpkin Fest…or both,” he explains.

And thanks to a combination of print, radio and online advertising, the Ludwigs were also able to secure a loyal following for their new Pumpkin Spice Honey, now a seasonal favorite in the community.

“This project was invaluable for giving us more brand recognition for the name Coastal Black in local stores,” says Justine. “We should see a continued sales growth at grocery stores and at our event in years to come.”

Good news not just for the third-generation family farm, but for many other families who will benefit from a stronger local economy and the Ludwig sense of community.

Funding: $9,266 provided by the BC Government. (BL247)

20 Years & Still Growing

2016 marked a significant milestone for BC agriculture and IAF, as we celebrated our 20th anniversary in Abbotsford last April. Along with industry and government, IAF directors and staff reflected on a rich collaboration that has fueled agri-food industry growth, competitiveness and sustainability across the province.

IAF’s formation in 1996 proved a pivotal turning point in BC’s agricultural evolution, with industry gaining unprecedented management of federal adaptation funding. Starting with the Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development Fund and closing with the Canadian Agricultural and Adaptation Program, the adaptation era represents more than $21 million of project investments in BC alone.

While dozens of funding programs have come and gone through IAF’s tenure, each has indelibly contributed to BC’s agricultural legacy. But don’t take our word for it— in 2016, IAF commissioned R.A. Malatest & Associates to complete an impact study to assess the economic, environmental and social impacts of government investments delivered by IAF and the results speak for themselves.

For funding recipients through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program, federal-provincial funding allowed many to pursue more thorough research than would have been otherwise possible. Not only did project support result in new product lines for some, but several credit the funding for contributing to broader social and environmental impacts.

Michael Gilbert, founder of SemiosBio Technologies Inc. (Semios), is one of many who has witnessed multiple benefits unfold through his project. Considered a pioneer of precision farming in BC, Semios offers advanced technological services that combines data management science with agricultural best management practices. Using Innovation funding, Gilbert was able to implement and enhance a cost-effective application of pheromones for codling moth mating disruption. Not only has this allowed orchardists to minimize their use of inputs and reduce environmental impacts, but the Semios system also protects biodiversity by only applying species-specific pheromones that do not affect beneficial insects.

But the benefits don’t stop there. According to Gilbert, funding to develop the new technology also allowed him to significantly grow his enterprise in terms of managed land and workforce.

“The Semios team grew from five employees to thirty over the course of the project,” says Gilbert, adding that they have since expanded from managing only a couple hundred acres to nearly 13,000, comprising nearly 200 new clients.

Enhancing production and sharing best management practices is a cause shared by the BC Cranberry Marketing Commission (BCCMC). Thanks to government funding delivered by IAF, the BCCMC embarked on a five-year project to develop the BC Cranberry Research Farm, the first research facility of its kind in Canada and the fourth in North America. While the Farm was created with the aim of increasing cranberry production within Canada, it has drawn considerable interest—even longing—from all over the continent.

“We’ve had many cranberry researchers from all over North America, standing there with envy in their eyes wishing they had a centre like this to work at,” recalls Jack Brown, BCCMC chair.

In addition to providing BC growers with information to improve their plantings, researchers are also exploring the impacts of cranberry production on greenhouse gases, insect populations and soil and groundwater.

For Brian and Corin Mullins, owners of HapiFoods Group Inc., funding through the BC Buy Local Program and the BC Agrifood and Seafood Export Program was indispensable in securing their now iconic Holy Crap cereal in both local and international markets.

Thanks to in-store demos that served almost 7,000 samplers, Holy Crap sales soared from four bags to 25 bags per day in BC chain stores like Whole Foods Market, Overwaitea, Save on Foods, Choices Market and London Drugs, as well as at smaller independent grocery stores in BC.

HapiFoods then moved into the international arena, focusing on US and Asian markets, including Japan, China and Korea. Export funding enabled them to participate in 17 tradeshows that have created international brand awareness and generated international trade potential for the burgeoning enterprise.

“We would probably have done 10 to 15 percent of what we did if we were on our own,” Corin estimates. “Export and Buy Local funding was critical to our company’s growth by providing us with the means to ramp up production and marketing.”

These are just some of the many stories that illustrate the very tangible impacts that these investments have made over the years.

Since its inception, IAF has delivered $192 million in government funding to more than 1,700 projects that are helping to stimulate sizable growth for farm, food and processing businesses across the province. In terms of economic impact, the Malatest study found these investments leverage $1.85 for every dollar, totaling $355 million!

Although funding programs and priorities have changed over the past two decades, the focus of IAF remains steadfast – to support industry through each challenge and opportunity, building a stronger, more adaptive community and securing BC’s place as a leader in agricultural production.

Funding: $140,000 provided by the governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative (INN018); $218,133 provided by the governments of Canada and British Columbia (A0678.01, A0678.02); $44,326 provided by the governments of Canada and British Columbia through the BC Agrifood & Seafood Export Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, and the BC Government’s Buy Local Program (BL151, EX017, EX017.02, EX069, EX069.02, EX203, EX317, EX347).

Buy Local Project Reels in Customers

Skipper Otto’s Community Supported Fishery has a story to tell behind every fillet. And thanks to their Buy Local funded campaign, “Get to know your fisherman,” the BC company has hooked an avid audience.

Skipper Otto connects wild, local, sustainable, fair-trade BC seafood directly to consumers through an annual subscription service, offering customers complete transparency about which BC fisherman caught their seafood and where.

But as the adage goes, the medium is the message, and Skipper Otto decided the medium needed a little work.

With the help of the BC Government’s Buy Local Program, Skipper Otto launched an ambitious marketing campaign for their 2016 season, creating a strong, recognizable brand that clearly distinguishes their products from out-of-province competition in the crowded seafood market.

According to Director of Operations Chris Kantowicz, his team’s enhanced ability to tell their stories lies at the heart of their project’s success.

“With the right tools and training, we’ve become experts at telling the stories around our BC seafood products and the fishermen who catch them,” says Kantowicz, adding that even product labels are now devoted to identifying fishermen and BC locations, with each fisherman’s face and story on all products sold.

And it’s clear from the numbers that they’ve caught the public’s attention—by the end of the 2016 sales season their new customer base in BC had risen by more than 60 percent from the previous season, while their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram followers continue to multiply.

Kantowicz believes that telling the story of one BC fisherman on every label and sharing these stories with an online community has captivated the public and allowed Skipper Otto to reach new groups of consumers eager for this type of information.

“People want to support their local BC fishermen,” he emphasizes. “That’s evident from our continuously growing membership and the level of online engagement we enjoy—but they need to know how, and that’s where Buy Local benefits us all.”

Funding: $19,986 through the BC Government’s Buy Local Program. (BL169)