Processors join forces to target gluten-free market

Oats are one of the crops used in the new venture.  |  File photo

Two prairie-based processors have joined forces to take advantage of each other’s strengths, particularly in the gluten-free market.

Manitoba-based Best Cooking Pulses and Saskatchewan-based Avena Foods announced a partnership earlier this month. No financial details were disclosed.

“The two companies’ operations and brands for the moment will continue as is, but there are anticipated new offerings that result really from shared proprietary technology,” said Margaret Hughes, vice-president of sales and marketing at Best Cooking Pulses.

Avena Foods operates in the gluten-free oat market, and Hughes said Best Cooking Pulses will have access to its Purity Protocol program that guarantees products free from wheat, barley and rye.

“With this move we’ll be able to access purity protocol lentils, peas and chickpeas,” she said.

“We sell into the gluten-free market now, but we do a lot of testing. It’s rare to get gluten hits, but we do get them.”

Both companies are also certified organic and have strong food safety systems, she said.

“We believe in what we’re doing really from the ground up, and that’s one of the ways that we came together. We realized the cultures actually are similar,” Hughes said.

Avena Foods has been providing gluten-free oats from its Regina facility and a network of about 90 growers in Western Canada since 2008. It is considered a leader in that market.

Best Cooking Pulses was formed in 1936 and ships internationally from facilities in Portage La Prairie, Man., and Rowatt, Sask., just south of Regina. It uses proprietary technology to split peas and process and mill pulse crops, and Avena Foods will gain access to that.

The partnership will result in new products, efficiencies and a stronger sales presence.

“Avena Foods is very excited to partner with Best Cooking Pulses,” Peter Samson, Avena Foods chair, said in a news release.

“BCP has a longstanding reputation for providing best-in-class pulse ingredients. This partnership will provide both companies with exciting new opportunities for our customers and our growers.”

Hughes, her sister, Trudy Heal, and Mike Gallais continue to own BCP. Last June, Ironbridge Equity Partners of Toronto acquired Avena Foods.

“Everybody’s been able to think quite creatively about how we’re going to come together, what strengths we can take advantage of and how we can make the most of this partnership,” Hughes said.

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