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Fruit d’Or: From Bog to Table

(www.organicwellnessnews.com)

by Marni Andrews

Fruit d’Or, the world’s largest producer and processor of organic cranberries, has been successfully introducing their new retail dried fruit snack line called Patience Fruit & Co. since last Spring. The name, which was inspired by the extra time required to produce a quality product, has six SKU’s, three Whole & Soft (from 113 g to 142 g unit size, eight to a case) and three Classic (from 196 g to 283 g unit size, six to a case). Sweetened with either organic apple juice or a little sugar they contain no other ingredients aside from organic sunflower oil (less than 1%).

Patience is distributed through most major food retailers and natural food stores in Canada and is being introduced to the U.S. through nearly 600 supermarkets in the next two months. Shelf cases and display racks are available.

After being in the retail market for several years, Fruit d’Or decided to develop this side of the business as their client base expanded. The new business is completely different than their bulk business so needed separate expertise and a different business model, says Vicky Samson, Key Account Manager, Eastern Canada for Fruit d’Or.

Fruit d’Or is a leading supplier of cranberries and blueberries in bulk and has been a pioneer in organic cranberry farming since 2000. The company is located in Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, Quebec (pop. 700) which they call “a small corner of nowhere” where life is lived “at the rhythm of the cranberry.”

Without chemical fertilizer or pesticides, their berries grow more slowly and weeds are removed by hand. Their production process is unique to Fruit d’Or and they say only that it is both longer and slower than that used by conventional producers in order to end up with a bigger, juicier and tastier berry.

More than half of Fruit d’Or’s cranberry-producing areas, which are all local, are farms owned by shareholders of Fruit d’Or. The rest is from growers who are partners, confirmed Samson. The main growing challenges are insects and weed control but with all the growers concentrated in the same area they have developed strong expertise that enables them to produce higher yields than other organic fruits and without the problems of small fruits or rotting.

The better average yield we get from organic growers is at least 25% lower than conventional production, which is not bad, says Samson.  While yields vary greatly from one grower to another and one season to another, and depend also upon variety and the soil, typically Fruit d’Or’s yield is between 130 to 200 bbl/a compared to between 180 to 280 bbl/a in conventional. So their best organic growers are producing more than lower yielding conventional farms.

Another innovative Fruit d’Or product is their Whole Cranberry Powder, made 100% from their cranberries under the brand name Cran Naturelle for their Nutraceutical division. With high levels of proanthocyanidins (PACs) it is the purest, all natural, high quality, whole food cranberry powder on the market, according to Samson.

Since not all cranberry products on the market are crafted to Fruit d’Or’s standards, they recommend food & beverages or supplement buyers ask four questions before purchasing. Where are the cranberries from? Are they conventional or organic? What are the ingredient proportions? What food certifications does the producer have?

Even Fruit d’Or, with their constant emphasis on quality, continually works to improve their practices around sustainability. For example, they have broadened training for employees, ensure traceability of incoming produce and processed products, constantly improve recycling methods and are using a “closed circuit” culture whereby collected rainwater and melted snow are used to irrigate the fields.

The profile of the cranberry continues to rise in the natural foods world. Rich in flavonoids, phenolic compounds and antioxidants, its healing applications show no signs of slowing down. Research is even being done on the cranberry in relation to type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Canada is the second largest producer of cranberries in the world after the U.S. Other Fruit d’Or products are organic cranberry seed dry extract, organic cranberry seed oil and organic cranberry tea powder. They are sold in bulk only.

Fruit d’Or will be exhibiting next at BIOFACH 2016 from February 10 to 13 in Nuremberg, Germany followed by an active schedule including Natural Products Expo West in March and SIAL Canada in April.

Nova Scotia Organics is #1

(www.organicwellnessnews.com)

by Marni Andrews

Nova Scotia Organics, a Canadian organic herbal products company based in Halifax, has accomplished something remarkable. With their recent USDA organic certification for the entire product line, they now have the only full line of all USDA-certified organic vitamins, minerals and herbals on the Canadian market, with about 40 SKUS. The company, formally known as Naturally Nova Scotia, has rebranded itself to reflect this certification.

Founder Nancy Smithers says she changed the company name because “the word ‘naturally’ does not say anything, but ‘organics’ means quality and no chemicals.” She says it feels good to move from being a firm with products made with organic ingredients to one with all products 100% certified organic.

Smithers has been a pioneer in the field of all natural (and now certified organic) supplements for more than 20 years. As with many entrepreneurs, she entered her field in an unexpected way. In 1993, her sister, a physiotherapist, asked her for a supply of natural healing remedies for her practice. Smithers, who had grown up immersed in nature, researched local plants.

With the help of a herbalist, she learned what could be produced locally. Smithers started with tinctures of typical medicinal herbs such as borage, dandelion root, echinacea, red clover, heal-all, calendula and chamomile to target colds, female issues, immunity, allergies, pains, and coughs. “I incorporated in the first year of operation because I knew I would sell the tinctures,” she says.

While there were no major obstacles because she started small by wild crafting herbs, she found that preparing herbs in her kitchen was a problem. She needed a larger facility and purchased a 250-acre property she calls “the farm” five minutes from her house. She began growing her herbs there and followed organic farming practices, without synthetic herbicides and fertilizers.

The early years were full of lessons learned, starting with the basics of identifying different herbs as seedlings. Smithers grew seedlings in the greenhouses and transplanted them in the summer. She survived by hiring summer students.

And then came the selling. “This was a challenge because I was very nervous about going into stores and selling my products even though I realized they were wonderful. People asked me questions I was not expecting,” says Smithers, who adds that the first year was tough trying to explain to people why they should choose her products rather than others.

Her advice to anyone considering the same path is to plan carefully, have a vision and be realistic about where you are going. And don’t grow too fast too soon.

“Don’t be afraid, but be careful,” she cautions. It is a complex industry “that big pharma has gotten into, and they have a lot of money. I could have done something easier in life, but I love what I do. It is not a business for the faint of heart!”

Her other early lessons were economic. With no government funding available, Smithers was facing a considerable investment in machinery. “When I first started there was not much equipment around for my industry. My herb press came from the U.S., and my first freeze dryer from the U.K. My first labeling machine came from Canada and my first encapsulating machine from India,” she explains.

The purchase of the freeze dryer came when she realized after several years of producing tinctures that her market was looking for a pill format. And then came the challenge of tableting.

“Tableting certified organic ingredients is not easy because you can’t use flow agents, silicon dioxide, magnesium stearate, all the things that non-organic people use to keep tablets together,” says Smithers. “I had to hire a tableting expert to show us how to get the tablets to stick together. It is always a learning curve when you are in an industry like this!”

Smithers has promoted her products through the annual Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) shows in Toronto and Vancouver and has advertised in magazines. She got a distributor in Canada and made the bold move to expand into Japan in 1999 because the Canadian market was small and she had to spend a lot of money on research.

She also knew she wasn’t yet ready for the U.S. market. “Certified organic was not mainstream, and (U.S) consumers did not understand its importance. The Japanese appreciate organic products.” Opening a firm in Japan is no different than opening up somewhere else,” says Smithers. “The thing I had to learn was the culture. I have been in the Japanese market for 16 years, so I am accepted.”

Today, Smithers sells three-quarters of her products outside Canada. The primary export markets for Nova Scotia Organics are the U.S. (which she entered last year and will be focusing on this year), Japan and the European Union. In the next five years, she hopes to expand quickly in the U.S. market.

Her best sellers are Nova Greens in Canada, Berry Beauty products in Japan and certified organic multivitamins in the U.S. She employs between 10 and 20 people in Nova Scotia, including her son.

Smithers is very excited to change her encapsulated line to a certified organic capsule, a breakthrough for the market. “There is no other website with this kind of comprehensive line of only USDA-certified organic supplements,” she says. “Many people sell one or two certified organic products but not everything. I never have and never will produce anything that is not organic certified.”

Nova Scotia Organics will be exhibiting this season at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California, March 10-13.