Manitoba vegetable purée maker seeks global markets

Baby food purées | Canadian government’s $2.5 million loan allows company to expand operation to commercial scale

A Manitoba company is planning to turn locally grown culled vegetables into purées for baby food, soup and sauces.

Canadian Prairie Garden Puree Products will work with market quality vegetables and vegetables that aren’t suitable for table consumption because of visual defects, said Kelly Beaulieu, vice-president of the Portage la Prairie company.

“The vegetables and fruit produced in Manitoba are of premium quality, and the purée format we developed is a superior method for providing global export opportunity,” said Beaulieu.

The federal government announced April 10 that it would loan the company $2.5 million, which will allow it to expand its operation to commercial scale.

“This project is a great example of what we are trying to achieve with our investments in innovation and commercialization,” Portage-Lisgar MP Candice Hoeppner said.

Beaulieu said 30 to 50 percent of Manitoba’s vegetable crop is normally culled.

The plant that Beaulieu has used for the last two years can produce 500 pounds of purée per hour. The small-scale machine was installed to produce samples to the food industry to demonstrate the quality of the puree.

She said industry response has been positive.

“We’re providing ingredients to secondary processors, so basically the processors that create baby food, soups and sauces,” she said.

“Our unanimous response from processors was that they’ve never seen purée as nice as this.”

The company can produce a purée with vibrant colours and a high nutrient content because the vegetables are steamed during the cooking process.

“We have a new process that’s never been used for this type of processing before. And we have an exclusive on it (in North America),” said Beaulieu.

No preservatives or colours are added to the purée, which means it is a natural product made solely from vegetables. The technology steams and sterilizes the vegetables, which produces a purée with a two-year shelf life at room temperature.

The federal loan will allow the company to build a new processing plant with technical assistance from the Food Development Centre in Portage. It will generate 7,500 lb. of puree per hour.

If all goes well, Beaulieu said the new equipment would be installed and operational next winter.

In the meantime, Canadian Prairie Garden will produce and sell purée to restaurants and food service companies in Manitoba.

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