April 10, 2017
When the fourth generation of the Sprague family built their plant in Belleville, Sprague Foods’ historic family business (started in 1925) was specifically targeting a market who expect higher quality items on store shelves.
Sprague Foods has always had a desire to bring more Canadian farmed food to Ontario’s grocery stores. “People are looking for healthy, locally-grown food options,” says company President Rick Sprague.
The company has had such a long tenure of success because they know consumers want a variety of higher quality products. As such, major North American corporations have relied on them to create smaller batch products (e.g. meat-free) other plants cannot produce.
The Sprague Family has built a company with flexibility, resiliency and strong values. The Toronto Star (2017/04/01) recently recognized Belleville’s Sprague Foods Products for their innovation and Canadian leadership in food processing.
Proudly Made in the Bay of Quinte
While Sprague Foods has always produced products for other USA and Canadian companies, they recently ramped up production on Sprague Foods branded products as well. These products can be identified in stores via the “Proudly Made in Bay of Quinte Region” campaign, a QEDC initiative to allow residents to celebrate the origin of products they consume.
Belleville’s Loyalist College has been supporting food processing manufacturers with programs that qualify staff for work in the area’s strong cluster of manufacturing businesses. Recently Loyalist College and the QEDC teamed up to create Elevate Plus, a program to help underemployed residents re-skill for local jobs.
How Technology Increases the Need for Qualified People In Manufacturing
Sprague Foods is able to use globally competitive technology in innovative ways right here in the Bay of Quinte. The Belleville plant utilizes “Canned Heat” to steam the beans in the can without the liquid. This allows the processor to control the texture of the food by controlling the water absorption.
Sprague says, “It’s such a change from your usual experience of canned vegetables.” Ideal for Sprague Foods, the change makes their vegetables qualify as “produce” – and for the first time these Canned Heat preserved products can be sold in the produce section of local grocery stores. Sprague adds, “Seriously, these nutrient-rich, highly textured canned beans make great salad toppers!” Produce is the fastest growing section and gives the Sprague Foods products more exposure to a larger market.
“Desire for 100% Produced Canadian Products, and for more nutritional products, has significantly increased,” says Sprague. For example, organic foods (previously considered specialty products for a micro market) now have far greater demand in mainstream markets.
With increasing demand, Sprague Foods is looking for ways to source more and more products locally in the Bay of Quinte region. This will create revenue for the local region – and the other half of Sprague Foods strategy is to recruit staff in Belleville who share their vision.
The exciting transformation and leadership Canadian manufacturing is going through was recently captured in an article on Sprague Foods InQuinte.ca. “We’ve adopted a lot of technology and innovation,” explains Sprague. “But robotics aren’t a threat to jobs – the use of this technology in our plant increases our production, giving us the opportunity to create more jobs.”
With such incredible support and an extensive network of customers, both locally and internationally, Sprague Foods anticipates that their revenues will have tripled by the end of 2017 over early 2016. With over 30 full time employees and growing, Sprague Foods excels at providing convenient, quality food to the Bay of Quinte region.
Local Grocery Stores that Carry Sprague Foods Products
- Belleville: Marc’s No Frills, Campbell’s Orchards, Taste of Country, Bib’s Meats, Quinte Global Foods, Gilmour’s Meats, Grills Orchards
- Surrounding Area: Stirling Foodland, Parliament’s Foodland (Foxboro), Burnham Family Farms, Smylies Independent (Trenton)
- Picton/Bloomfield: Sobeys, Cannery Row, Sandbanks Store, Black Prince Winery, County Treasures
- Kingston/Surrounding Area: Schell’s Market (Bath), Amherstview Foodland, Sigrid’s Natural Foods, Costco, John’s Deli, Old Farm Fine Foods and No Frills and Country Traditions in Napanee
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