From healthy oils to delectable pastries, the floor at this Canadian trade show was bursting with items to entice U.S. consumers.
By Richard Turcsik
Watch your back, olive oil. You have some serious competition from Three Farmers Camelina oil. It is making its way South of the Border from Saskatchewan and was one of dozens of unique products lining the aisles of the SIAL Canada show, held May 11-13 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, that will soon be lining the shelves of U.S. supermarkets.
“Camelina oil is healthy like a fox,” said Elysia Vandenhurk, director of product development, with Canpressco Products, based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. “In one tablespoon you are getting 4 grams of omega-3, but the great thing about it is it is very stable with a 475-degree smoke point and 12-month shelf life. A lot of our customers love it as a dipping oil because it has a great grassy flavor and as a salad dressing because it is lighter than olive oil. It is also great for sautéing, roasting and searing meats.”
Vandenhurk said Camelina is a 100% Canadian product grown on the Saskatchewan prairies from ancient non-GMO seed. “Toronto is our first market outside of Saskatchewan that we are targeting and we are looking at British Columbia. We definitely want to target the States, too,” she said.
The odds are in her favor given that more U.S. grocery buyers were checking out SIAL to source unique products and merchandising ideas.
2011 marked the first year SIAL was held in Toronto and the show’s sponsors were happy with the turnout.
“You have to come prepared as an exhibitor,” said Francois Gros, president of Imex Management, the Charlotte, N.C.-based firm that manages the show for SIAL. “You have to tell your clients that you are there, and organize meetings in advance. We do this in the USA Pavilion. We work with some various export promotion groups and for a very small fee the exhibitors can be part of that program and then when they arrive they already have meetings set up with importers. The trade shows that are going to be successful in the future are the ones who will be putting an emphasis on these speed meetings,” Gros said.
“We’re seeing more and more chains from the U.S. coming to Canada because they are looking for different products,” said Theresa Syer, director of sales and marketing for Toronto-based Patisserie Cocoa. As an example she pointed to a box of her company’s French Macarons, bite-size almond paste pastries that look like mini pastel hamburgers. “This is the hottest item. Everybody is asking for this because they can’t find it in the States outside of California. This is an authentic French recipe. Our chef is from France and we brought the machine in from France, so nobody can replicate it as well as we can.”
One of the reasons executives from Culinary Destinations, a Toronto-based manufacturer of frozen all-natural Asian-inspired hors d’ouvres, attended SIAL was to gain distribution in the States. “Our brand is not really represented very well in the Northeast and that is why this show is important to us to find distributors and brokers,” said Kam McCormick, director of business development.
She was offering passersby samples of Korean bulgogi chicken in a spring roll wrapper and mu shu pork potstickers. “It’s just a little bit of a twist on a classic,” she said. “We’re doing some more unique flavors and emerging flavor profiles, so our items are familiar to people yet different.”
Officials at Supreme Pierogies, a Mississauga, Ontario, Canada-based manufacturer of the J.J. Wilk brand of frozen pierogies, were keeping busy stuffing toothpicks into samples of their stuffed potato dumplings. “We use a homemade recipe from back home in Eastern Europe,” said Maciej Pasternak, sales manager. “The key to good Pierogies is very thin dough and a lot of filling,” he said, noting that Supreme makes 16 different varieties. Distributed in the U.S. by Dairy Fresh Foods, Pasternak said J.J. Wilk Pierogies are sold in Detroit and three other U.S. markets. “We are looking to further expand in the States.”
John Vlahos, an administrative associate with Laval, Quebec, Canada-based Pilaros, was sampling a unique treat imported from Cyprus: Spanakopita. What the heck is a Spanakopita? Think of a giant fillo dough spiral Danish filled with spinach and cheese. “We actually have a huge interest in the States from the Northeast through South Florida. Right now they are very popular in Costco. Costco loves them. Our extra virgin olive oil in Costco is probably the most popular olive oil in all of Canada,” he said. “We also have a cream-based version that is like a custard filling and is great sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon on top and maybe some honey.”
Jesper Jonnson, president of the Beaconsfield, Quebec, Canada-based La Danoiserie bakery was touting his thaw-and-serve sandwich breads, rolls and other products. “We are going more and more into healthy products,” he said, pointing to Triangle rolls with 8.5 grams of fiber that are imported from Germany. “We have six different countries represented here. We take the best from different manufacturers and compose them into one big brand.”
ITO EN, a Japanese ready-to-drink tea manufacturer that maintains U.S. operations in New York, had a booth at SIAL to test the waters for what products to export to Canada. Currently its only product sold in Canada is Oi Ocha, because it is labeled in English/French/Japanese. “Part of what we’re doing is getting some feedback from customers as to what they are interested in. Is it expanding on our traditional line with traditional Japanese packaging or is it the Teas’ Tea line, which is really more for the American market?” said Jim Hoagland, senior vice president of sales and general manager.
Gilbert Landry, administrative director of Grenville-sur-la-Rogue, Quebec, Canada-based Veo Springs was hoping to get U.S. chains to stock his Canadian spring water. “We have a very strong customer base in the Quebec Province and Eastern Canada, but we’d like to expand to the American market. We’re a Canadian company and we know that Americans liking their northern neighbor will have a nice attraction. Canada has a reputation for purity. We think there is a good market for us and we’d like to develop it in the near future.”
Canadian (Beef) Bacon
Richard L. Janzen was using his spot at the Beef Information Centre booth to bring home the bacon—literally. He is the chairman of Canadian Beef Bacon Corp., a Calgary, Canada-based company that has created Canadian Beef Bacon. It is sliced like traditional pork bacon but made from beef belly. “We said ‘Why can’t we make bacon from the belly of the cow?’ So over a seven month process with three scientists and different ingredient companies we came up with a profile that really works,” he said. “Once we get the Beef Bacon up and running we’ll be coming out with Beef Ham.”
To support its launch, mini BLTs on proprietary Maple Buns were being sampled. “The neat thing is, when we got our nutritional panel back we had 50% less cholesterol and higher protein than pork bacon,” Janzen said.
At its booth, Toronto-based Uzel was displaying its line of Gemlik olives and oils. “Our olives are packaged in a unique aseptic package that makes a nice display on supermarket shelves,” said Eleni Ejsmont, sales and marketing coordinator. “Our olives are processed according to the traditional method giving them a much longer shelf life than the chemically processed ones.”
While the SIAL floor was largely composed of food manufacturers, there were nonfoods and technology vendors too.
Craig Petryniak, general manager of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada-based Tahoe Marketing Group, a division of Overrunz International, was displaying the America’s Fresh line of liquid and powder laundry detergents and other cleaners distributed by his firm. Manufactured by Fresh Industries, which maintains U.S. offices in Miami, the liquid detergents are made in Canada, while the powders hail from Mexico. “Our biggest feature is our entry level price point,” he said. “We retail for about a third of the price of national brands, but our products perform very well. For everyday use it is a great value. We are in talks with some retailers about private label.”
The next aisle over, Jim Booth, senior sales representative in Ontario for Concord, Ontario, Canada-based Digi Canada, was showcasing his company’s new line of digital in-store signage that is powered by lithium batteries. The E-Labels line includes units designed for temperature-sensitive produce and perishables cases. “The best thing about our system is that it is e-friendly and gives the grocer total control over individual stores and an entire chain. You can be sitting on the dock and change prices in all of your stores in 10 seconds,” Booth explained. “It saves a lot of time of having to print out special labels and price changes and then having to send out all of the tickets to the store.”