November 2, 2023
In 1925, J. Grant Sprague built the first Sprague Foods cannery in the Bay of Quinte area. The family-run food processing business has been owned and operated by the Sprague family in the Bay of Quinte region ever since. At first, Sprague Foods was one of many canneries in the region and Sprague Foods processed local tomatoes and pumpkins, with products shipped to Montreal, Toronto, and Western Canada. In the 60s and 70s, the canning industry saw a shift toward consolidation and now Sprague Foods is the only cannery left in the region. Since 2009, Rick Sprague, J. Grant Sprague’s great-grandson, became the fourth generation president and has continued to grow the business, with healthy offerings and organic, natural, and local ingredients.
THE BAY OF QUINTE’S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
The Bay of Quinte offers many reasons why it’s a great place for food-processing businesses to grow. Since 1925, Sprague Foods has employed generations of local employees who are dedicated, hard working, and highly skilled. Currently, Sprague Foods employs 50 employees from the region. The Bay of Quinte area has a strong and skilled labour force.
Many businesses faltered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some were even forced to close their doors. Sprague Foods was not one of them. The demand spurred by the pandemic accelerated Sprague’s growth, thanks to the hard work of the cannery team.
Sprague knows that “your strength is in your home country, continent, or community”. His company aims to create foods that cater to local palettes, leading to the brand’s popularity both locally and in the hundreds of grocery stores shipped to throughout Canada and the United States.
Sprague Foods has remained committed to its independence, resisting calls to take shortcuts on quality to save costs. In this way, Sprague is different from other canneries. Their products are available throughout grocery stores, not just in the canned foods aisles but also producing cranberry jelly, soups, and health food products with a focus on Keto diets. As a cross-category brand, they’ve been able to grow massively.
Finally, Rick Sprague cites the support that the company has received from the region as a contributor to the company’s success. Sprague Foods has a great relationship with the local working group, QEDC and the Proudly Made in Bay of Quinte campaign, and retailers. Local retailers are as hungry for local products as their customers, creating a situation where both parties can help each other and share exposure. The Bay of Quinte region is a place where many multi-generational businesses thrive. Retailers and customers alike take the Support Local mantra seriously.
The Quinte Economic Development Commission (QEDC) provides information, connections, and resources for manufacturers in the Bay of Quinte. QEDC supports the region’s businesses and entrepreneurs as well as the local workforce.