Food processing firms ignite spark in rural economies

SASKATOON – The pre-dinner feast featured bright red packages of borsch, blue and purple jewels of berry jams and tangy meat sausages.

Flax chocolate bars, hot apple cider and flax bread were also displayed by members of the Saskatchewan Food Processors Association before they sat down for a banquet and their semi-annual meeting at the Willows Golf & Country Club in Saskatoon Sept. 22.

The highlight of the night for many was the news that October has been declared by the provincial government as made-in-Saskatchewan month.

This year, the consumer awareness program has been expanded from a week, and will include in-store demonstrations as well as advertising.

“We want to try and instill a sense of pride in Saskatchewan,” said the processors’ association president, David White.

Favorable environment

Food products made in this province are reaching markets outside Canada because people envy our “pristine” environment, he said.

White pointed out how processors can help strengthen rural Saskatchewan using his company, Drake Meats, as an example. He said the Lanigan-based firm had five or six employees less than a decade ago. Today it offers 60 jobs in a town of 225 people.

“That’s a lot of off-farm jobs.”

The association has 80 processor members and 20 associates in packaging and food-related businesses.

“We’re not the entire food industry, but have many of the province’s food industry leaders,” White said. These range from a national company like CSP Foods to small, one-person operations.

The Saskatchewan group is working with the rest of the prairie food industry on a common warehouse and joint freight system, White said.

And the direction they’re looking is not just east, but also south.

“Minneapolis is a good market for us.”

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