Buy BC Helps Local Company Harness Flour Power

Anita’s Organic Mill is out to inspire and connect British Columbians through the love of baking. And thanks to their recent Buy BC project, the Chilliwack company has not only successfully launched their newest service, Anita’s Bake Club, but has also introduced their new line of gluten-free products into the local market.

An artisan-quality and certified organic and kosher mill, Anita’s produces white, whole grain and sprouted flours, cereals and mixes sourced directly from local farmers in Armstrong and Creston.

With the addition of their new bake club (an online membership-based model designed to educate and connect baking enthusiasts) as well as new marketing materials including recipes, baking guides and videos, Anita’s has seen a sizeable uptake in consumer engagement, awareness and sales.

According to vice-president Jayda Smith, brand recognition has grown steadily month over month, with their social media presence and number of followers similarly expanding.

“Anita’s Bake Club was particularly successful with more than 1,500 new members registered through our website,” she reports. “These signups allow us to engage directly with customers creating meaningful connections, brand loyalty and enhanced revenue.”

By the end of the project Anita’s sales were up 36 percent and their new line of gluten-free products launched in 100 local stores.

The company is now focused on expanding their reach within natural channels across Canada and will be opening a bakery in their new Chilliwack facility this fall.

For Jayda, having support to more actively engage local consumers and promote their products as ‘made in BC’ has offered a measurable competitive advantage against imports.

“These results could not have been achieved without the funding of this project,” she declares. “We now have the tools in place to continue increasing BC consumer preference for our brand, further supporting our local farmers and strengthening the BC food processing industry.”

Funding: $38,663 through the BC Government’s Buy BC Partnership Program. (BBC036)

Simplifying Organic Certification

An innovative, province-wide online tool is now available for producers seeking organic certification! Thanks to a project led by the Certified Organic Associations of BC (COABC), the once onerous application process has been radically streamlined to save operators time, paperwork and money.

According to Jen Gamble, executive director of the COABC, the online system fills two sizable gaps for the province’s organic sector.

“Previously there were no certification bodies in BC that offered a live online application process,” explains Gamble, adding that the information captured will also populate a database to supply better statistics, another first in BC.

While data on the organic sector is in high demand, it is difficult to access and has never been consistent or reliable.

“Now with accurate numbers we are better positioned to identify gaps and predict potential areas for growth,” anticipates Gamble. “We are already seeing the capability of the system to provide concrete information in the long term.”

And with BC’s mandatory organic regulation taking effect, the project proved especially timely for the many producers and processors now required to verify their products have accredited organic certification.

For the COABC, ensuring that the increasing numbers of transitional organic operators can access a supportive and user-friendly platform was a top priority, especially given the unfamiliarity and discomfort many farmers feel with online navigation.

To address the technology challenge and ease the transition, the COABC developed user guides and supplementary how-to videos to assist new entrants and have also trained their own staff to offer tech support via phone and email. And to ensure users without access to internet or computers are not excluded, certifying bodies will continue to offer a non-digital alternative until applicants are familiar with the new tool. (For those who simply need to renew their certification, Gamble promises the initial data recorded will re-populate in subsequent years to considerably expedite the renewal process.)

So far feedback from stakeholders across the sector has been largely positive, and the COABC continues to offer training sessions when necessary to ensure a smooth transition for those coming onboard.

In addition to simplifying the application process and enhancing data collection, Gamble is delighted to see numerous other benefits unfolding because of the project, including increased collaboration and communication within the sector and a clearer understanding of the role and benefits the COABC brings to the sector.  

“As we shift into a high-tech future, tools like this are vital to the success and sustainability of the organic sector, and we are confident the system will see widespread adoption and sustained use,” she predicts.

Funding: $117,568 provided through the former federal-provincial Safety Net Fund. (A0818)