Thursday, December 13, 2018Canada's Leading Online Business Magazine

Atlantic Mist Cranberries

The native cranberry

Atlantic Mist Cranberries Inc. was formed when a group of cranberry farmers in New Brunswick decided to join their time, energy and resources to market the fruit. The co-op consists of 10 growers who realized the value in pooling their resources to expand their market reach. For a long time, cranberry growers in New Brunswick were doing business in the fresh fruit market. Naturally, the bulk of their sales were for Thanksgiving—both American and Canadian—and Christmas. The cranberry market, however, has a large and profitable demand for processed cranberries. Companies buy product to process into canned sauces, jellies, juice, sweet and dried berries and other packaged goods. Atlantic Mist Cranberries was formed to help New Brunswick farmers tap into the Grade-A frozen fruit export market.

Cranberries have long been a successfully harvested crop in New Brunswick. Native to Canada, cranberries have grown naturally for thousands of years. Therefore, they respond favourably when cultivated in this environment. President of Atlantic Mist Cranberries Larry Brown says that New Brunswick is an optimal environment for growing, producing an above average product. “Processors are often surprised at the high quality of our product” says Brown. This is just one of the many reasons why expanding the business is paramount. The province has a natural ability to grow incredible product. Ocean Spray, the industry leaders for cranberry juice products, have put significant money into their processing plant in New Brunswick—a testament to the provinces growing capacity.

On-site packaging and freezing

The most exciting addition to Atlantic Mist Cranberries is the new state-of-the-art packaging and freezing facilities built in Richibucto Village, New Brunswick. This will allow the company to diversify its products and increase its marketability. These facilities, owned by the farmers themselves, will enable them to expand into the export market, thus adding value to their crops. Funding for these initiatives was secured through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) Business Development Program, who provided a $500,000 repayable loan to the group. As well, the Province of New Brunswick assisted the company with an investment of $363,400. The Premier of New Brunswick, Shawn Graham, commented to the Canada News Centre, “The Province of New Brunswick is proud to be a partner, investing in such an important project for Kent County and New Brunswick.”

How exactly does this equipment work? Essentially, there are two parts to the process in the plant: the receiving station and the freezing and repacking station. In the receiving station, cranberries are brought in from numerous farms to receiving stations. Loads are then segregated so that each lot comes from a specific farm and can be tracked. The receiving station then cleans and sanitizes the cranberries and bins them accordingly. The freezing and repacking station freezes the cranberries and packages them into boxes, ready for export. The benefit of this type of facility is the element of quality control: there is a very sophisticated colour-sorting mechanism which picks out blemishes on the fruit and ensures a perfectly uniform, top quality batch in every box. Brown comments, “Only the best products are for export”. In fact, the company has a goal to be known for its quality and to be the primary cranberry processing facility in the Maritimes.

Recession market and future growth

Like any other business, the effects of the recent economic recession have been felt in the cranberry business. “Financial events have hurt everyone and this industry is not immune to that. Prices have dropped from an all-time high in 2008 to a low not seen for 10 years,” comments Brown. “It’s a challenging market.” The challenge, however, is being met with fervour. To counter the lull, Atlantic Mist Cranberries is in the midst of recruiting a marketing manager who has the expertise to help them tap into the European export market. According to Brown, this is the strategic element needed to effectively increase the company’s profit margins.

Hence the growers who own Atlantic Mist Cranberries are pooling their resources to pay for marketing the products. A marketing plan has just been drafted by a consultant and approved by the board and a variety of initiatives are intended in the future. Board members are also hoping to receive funding to assist with marketing costs. The beauty of the business model is that the investors of the packing and freezing facilities are the very growers of the products themselves. The growers have put a large investment into the infrastructure, so increased returns go back to them. It is a model which encourages a sustainable source of income for agriculture in the province of New Brunswick. Cranberries are a growing industry and the popularity of cranberry products in North America has increased significantly in the last 10 years. The future of Atlantic Mist Cranberries is indeed looking rosy.