Canadawide starts another produce brand

Montreal-based wholesaler Canadawide has introduced a second brand for its packaged fruits and vegetables to complement its Frescadel program.

Retailers can choose to sell Gaiapur or Frescadel, said president George Pitsikoulis.

Top packaged items include snow peas, sugar snaps, brussels sprouts and tree fruits, Pitsikoulis said. The company has added net bags to its lineup of bags, clamshells and sealed trays.

Canadawide consolidated its three facilities under one roof last year.


Chenail updates for CanadaGAP certification

Montreal-based Chenail Fruits and Legumes is working toward CanadaGAP’s new Option D certification, designed for repacking and wholesale operations and approved by Quebec’s major supermarket chains.

The certification came into effect for wholesalers on April 1.

Vice president Antonio Bono said work continues to retrofit the company’s building, which began last year.

The addition of 30,000 square feet of warehouse space brings the total to 120,000 square feet on two floors, Bono said.

Racking and lighting systems are all new, he said, and a new generator will allow the company to function if the electricity goes out.

A new machine allows the company to ice its own products.

The biggest plus has been the new refrigeration system, Bono said. Different refrigeration units allow produce to be stored by category, and the improved shelf life on products has brought positive feedback from customers.

Chenail has also added two staff members, he said. Jamal Baalbaki is the new salesman for smaller, independent retailers and foodservice, and Francois Karl Viau has joined in the traffic department and is in charge of the certification process.


Courchesne Larose plans 2015 expansion

Montreal wholesale giant Courchesne Larose is working on blueprints to double the size of its two-year-old building to nearly 250,000 square feet.

“We hope to break ground before the winter and move in summer 2015,” said Guy Milette, vice president international sales and business development.

The expansion will allow Courchesne to bring sister companies Bercy (organic) and Bar Imex (international programs) under one roof, said Milette.

Courchesne also is upgrading its food safety certification, he said, and expects to be certified by the Arlington, Va.-based Safe Quality Food Institute by the end of the year.

The company has hired Tarik Cherif to manage the certification process.

To meet the growing demand for direct store delivery, the wholesaler is increasing the size of its tractor trailer fleet from 40 to 55.

“If we get a call from a retailer, and we need to deliver same day to 60 different stores, we can do it easily,” Milette said.


Son steps up to president at Trudeau Farms

Gerard Trudeau, founder of St. Mathieu de Beloeil, Quebec-based Trudeau Farms, Les Fines Herbes de Chez Nous and Marvini Chez Nous, has appointed his son Vincent as the company’s new president.

“Vincent doesn’t simply sell products to customers,” Trudeau said.“He offers them customized promotional support.”

Trudeau said the transition would consolidate his achievements while allowing a young, motivated team to bring the company to a dynamic new level.

Along with growing herbs in Quebec and Asian vegetables in the Dominican Republic, he said Trudeau Farms plans to resume operations in Mexico to ensure a consistent, secure and more diverse supply, he said.

To keep up with food safety regulations, the company is now certified under the Global Food Safety Initiative.

It also has hired a chef to provide customers with exclusive recipes.


GNC Farms packs garlic flower stems

GNC Farms Inc., St. Lin des Laurentides, Quebec, is introducing a 3-ounce package of garlic scapes (flower stems) under the Henri & Co. label.

The twirly green stems from the garlic plant appear a month or two before the garlic bulb is mature. They’re usually removed and discarded, but can be sold and used raw or cooked for a delicate garlic taste.

“I’m not expecting a huge volume,” said Guillaume Henri, vice president sales and marketing, “but if we don’t have it on the shelf, we won’t be able to sell it.”

GNC is also continuing its small hard-neck garlic program, though Henri said the labor cost is extremely high and everything must be done by hand, from spreading the seed to harvesting the trimming the bulbs.

In February, GNC launched its new 1-pound parsnip bag in Loblaw and Wal-Mart, with a clear window and special material that gives the roots a longer shelf life.

Beets remain a big focus, both red and his 2-, 5- and 10-pound bag of colored beets.

“We had a good season last year and this year I expect Quebec will be flooded with beets,” said Henri, who imports U.S. beets to maintain a year-round program.

GNC is also planting its first savoy cabbage to complement its green and red program.


Boileau and Sons plans to plant more pears

Grower shipper Danny Boileau’s new pear trees weren’t keen on their first Quebec winter, with 2% to 5% succumbing to frost damage. But the fourth generation apple grower from Havelock-based Jean Yves Boileau and Fils plans to more than double his orchard this year, for a total of 3 acres.

“It’s small,” Boileau said, “but it’s our first year doing pears, and we want to make sure they can handle winter and give us enough fruit to be profitable.”

To encourage the trees to produce more fruit in the fall, he’s borrowed a technique that requires splitting the tree at the bottom and keeping two branches or heads.

“It cuts your pruning costs and brings a bigger crop,” he said.


Les Jardins A. Guerin markets new radish pack

Sherrington, Quebec-based radish grower Les Jardins A. Guerin has launched a radish cello pack complete with its new JAG logo plus nutrition and serving tips.

Pascal Guerin, this year’s intern for QPMA’s Cultivating the Next Generation program, said his colored and French breakfast radishes continue to grow in popularity.

Guerin normally teams up with a big Quebec lettuce producer to sell some radishes in the U.S., but exports get off to a slow start as he waits for the lettuce to mature.

“Some people buy 15 pallets of lettuce and two pallets of radishes to fill the load,” he said.

The end of the New Jersey season around the middle of June gives his company more space in the U.S. market for the rest of the summer, he said.

He hopes the low Canadian dollar will help keep the price a little higher this year.


Les Jardins Cousineau upgrades equipment

Martin Cousineau, director of sales, procurement and operations for Canada’s largest broccoli producer, St. Constant, Quebec-based Les Jardins Cousineau, is investing in new equipment to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

A new Italian transplant machine alone has saved the company 25% on labor costs, he said.

Acreage has increased about 10% this year, said Cousineau, and transplants were moved successfully from the greenhouse to the fields in early May.

Cousineau said he hopes to increase sales to the New England states and Michigan this year. His farm is located within an hour’s drive of the U.S. border.

Susan Doucet, sales and customer service coordinator, said Cousineau has given several presentations to local elementary school students in the past year about life on a broccoli farm from seed to table.

“The reception was wonderful,” said Doucet. “They can see how the broccoli grows at different times of the year and it really piques their curiosity.”


Les Productions Margiric expands capacity

Laval, Quebec-based Les Productions Margiric has doubled its acreage in Chatham, Ontario, bought another warehouse and outfitted it with new refrigeration.

“The Ontario chain stores insist that their produce be grown in Ontario,” said marketing director Mario Cloutier.

In Laval, Margiric has built a warehouse with three temperature zones, refurbished its packing line and tripled the size of its icing plant for broccoli.

“It gives us more room,” Cloutier said, “so when they say we’re going to harvest 15,000 instead of 10,000 today, we’ll have the space for it.”

The packing line with new flow pack machines can handle all the company’s peppers, romaine hearts and other chain store orders, he said.

Out in the field, the company is testing personal-sized watermelons and romaine hears.

“We think the chain market is going 90% with romaine hearts, so we’re going to transfer our lines,” he said.

“Next year we’ll probably do three full weeks of hearts and one week of romaine.”


Les Serres LeFort introduces Japanese radish

A Japanese turnip resembling a white radish is the newest organic vegetable from the greenhouses of St. Clothilde de Châteauguay, Quebec-based Les Serres LeFort.

“It’s sweet and refreshing,” said head of business development Andre Michaud. “You can eat it raw or cooked and also eat the leaves in a salad.”

To introduce the new turnip, sold under the Vog bio label, the company has worked with chefs for recipes on its website and promoted it on Quebec food shows.

Metro stores are also promoting LeFort products as part of their year-old local purchasing policy.

The grower introduced the first locally-grown greenhouse red peppers to the Quebec market last year and now offers organic peppers and cucumbers.

“We wanted to do something different,” said Michaud, adding it’s a challenge to keep yields high.

Another challenge is competing with field peppers in August and September. He said a late start for this year’s field crop could benefit his greenhouse peppers in July.

LeFort also grows hydroponic lettuce for Mirabel-based Hydroserre Mirabel, sold locally and exported to New York and Boston.

In winter, the greenhouses are heated with biomass to save on fuel costs.


Students help Quebec apple producers redesign package

Longueuil-based Quebec Federation of Apple Producers sponsored a student design competition in the spring as part of a plan to modernize its packaging.

The competition marked the end of a year-long study by a local research firm, which spoke to packers, distributors and produce managers to determine what they wanted in a package.

Those specifications were given to design students from the University of Quebec, Montreal. Three winning designs were announced and prizes awarded at a cocktail reception at the end of March.

“We asked the students to rethink the traditional plastic bag and present a deluxe package that could be used for extra fancy apples,” said federation president Stephanie Levasseur.

The designs, most with handles, will now be presented to chain stores and distributors.

“It would be fun if one or two got used for next year,” she said.


Quebec Produce Growers open farmers market

On June 14, Montreal-based Quebec Produce Growers Association opened a new permanent farmers market in Longueuil, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River directly across from Montreal.

General manager Andre Plante said the association invested $8 million in the project, designed by a prominent architect, and the city supplied the land and building, with its 700,000 square feet of space and 20,000 square feet of greenhouse space for spring flowers. Plante said the stalls can be open-air or enclosed depending on the weather.

The association opened its first public market in 1968 on Montreal’s south shore.


Ex-retail exec starts consultant business

After some 30 years in the food industry, much of it with major supermarket chains, Robert Beauregard is using his extensive expertise to help others build their business.

In January the former QPMA president launched his own company, Gestion Flexco, offering expert advice on fruits and vegetables.

“I can help customers get better products, variety and packaging,” Beauregard said, “or help solve problems with operations, logistics or transportation, whatever they need.”

Clients include Montreal fruit importer Agri-Mondo Inc., where he worked as marketing manager for the last few years, and new potato company Quebec Parmentier, he said.


Veg Pro adds salad to Fresh Attitude line

Sherrington, Quebec-based Veg Pro International has just introduced a Gourmet Trio of two red boston and one green oak lettuce in a clamshell under its Fresh Attitude label.

“The full heads are harvested in the field,” said Pierre Dolbec, vice president of sales and procurement.

Fresh Attitude salad kit sales continue to grow, Dolbec said, and the Greek salad with salsa dressing has been particularly popular, along with the Caesar.

The 5-ounce Fresh Attitude kale blend introduced last fall also is doing well, he said.

Buyers in New England are showing more interest in Veg Pro’s iceberg lettuce, he said.

“The fact that we also harvest for processing gives us a lot more opportunity to select iceberg for retail and get a very uniform pack.”

The company has also begun packing its carrots and onions under the Fresh Attitude label.

Veg Pro grows its winter crops in Belle Glade, Fla.