Giraffe Food & Beverage Inc.

Rising above the competition

Giraffe Food & Beverage Inc. attracts customers through quality and organic growth

Brampton-based Giraffe Food & Beverage Inc.  has always been able to attract attention—and it’s due to more than having a clever moniker. Known for “sticking their necks out,” the food and beverage company has become well-known for offering some of the best foodservice products on the market—and are not afraid to adapt to changing markets, to make business work in Canada. 

Established more than a decade ago, Giraffe Food & Beverage is truly a family business. Started by her in-laws, Ellen Hurwitz, Director of R&D, tells CBJ that the company is owned by her husband, sister-in-law, and father-in-law, and several family members comprise the Management team, including her brother-in-law.  The family aspect of the business certainly has helped shape it—and Hurwitz is more than happy to share how closely Giraffe’s growth is related to its organic corporate structure. “With our own distinctive strengths and personalities, the family management team works smoothly and addresses the needs of both our customers and employees” Hurwitz says, as they guide the company growth together.

The company has “grown every year, and is now up to about 30 employees” Hurwitz reveals. Although the news is yet to be publicized, the company now needs more space to do business, and in the spring will move into a bigger, better facility to house its growth.

Innovation at the crux of the business

Ultimately, the emphasis for the company is on value, delicious products and innovation, which set them apart from the competition. They are industry leaders in Private Label foodservice products (think President’s Choice to understand what a mainstream Private Label product is), and focus on the critical role of research and development to keep their suite of products leading-edge.

The company’s R&D lab is fully-staffed with a team of Food Scientists, who are ready to adapt to customers’ ever-changing needs—whether they’re concocting a sauce, dip, or beverage.

“Our customers are relying on their suppliers, now more than ever, to bring ideas to them” Hurwitz explains. “They don’t have the time or the resources to do the research, so they’re relying on the suppliers to show them the next trend.” Giraffe is also members of different food organizations, like Institute of Food Technologists and Research Chefs Association, and these memberships help them stay on top of what industry demands.

In the hands of experts

One very unique service offered by Giraffe is their re-creation of customers’ secret recipes on request. Secret recipes, tells the company, are often time-consuming for restaurants and food stores, and often have variable results. “We specialize in scaling up of the back of the house recipes” says Hurwitz.

Giraffe has established itself in the market as a company who will do the dirty work and streamline recipes. The company’s Food Professionals evaluate and scale up customer recipes and manufacture them in environmentally-friendly recycled jugs. Yes, those jugs you see if you ever visit the kitchen of a restaurant that are filled with the wing or sauce flavours you know and love. 

Giraffe’s main customers are mid-sized restaurant chains and foodservice distributors.  The market has changed for the company since they started in 1997, and now Giraffe products are found all over the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean Islands. Giraffe products are available under their own label or under a customer’s.

The future for Giraffe

Hurwitz says there are several focuses for Giraffe going into 2010 and beyond, in order to expand the company’s market. “We want to get our orders out quicker, be more cost-effective for our customers, and also different packaging options. We are also looking to research how we can create a longer shelf life for our products—these are some of the ways we want to grow.”

Giraffe has always been able to expand to meet customer needs. Since 1997, Hurwitz says that “the customers have become more knowledgeable—and are starting to ask for more value-added products, like dips and dressings  without  trans-fats. Even the sodium amount is starting to be an issue”. However, the company is prepared as many food trends are cyclical. “Reduced-sodium trends come around like clockwork, every ten years or so”, so the company is always ready to change the product. However, although the products will change and the market will shift, Giraffe only makes changes, like cost-cutting, if those are not going to sacrifice quality.  

Although business has always been good, the company has been riding out the last of the GFC with a look ahead to continuing developing exceptional products—crafted by creative food experts. “Certain segments in the beverage sector are hurting. The market for luxury beverage items like frozen daiquiris has definitely dropped” she says, “but in other areas the company we’ve excelled, like in wing sauces and other sauces used in restaurants”. Hurwitz adds that Giraffe’s industry was hit much harder in the U.S., and the Canadian industry is “hanging in there”.

Moving forward

Of course, safety and excellence in the eyes of the public are paramount for a company with products reaching all areas of North America. Giraffe is a finalist in the Food & Beverage category of the Brampton Outstanding Business Achievement Award, and the company is proud to share that it is HACCP certified. They are one of the few manufacturing plants that boasts a C_TPAT Tier 2 status as well as holds a Site License with Health Canada in the Natural Health Product Directorate—which allows the company to manufacture fortified products like energy drinks and fortified smoothie mixes.

Regardless of whether or not the food and beverage is risky at times, Giraffe will always “stick its neck out” to take on the next challenge. Hurwitz’s message to potential customers:  she guarantees that “for those who are not familiar with our products, try us out, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”