It's in the bag: Super-Pufft brings innovation in food ideas to the majors

The beverages and snack aisles in Canada’s busiest supermarket chains and big box centres are bursting with variety and choice, and Canadians are eating it up. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the snack food product category has been one of the fasting growing sectors in the domestic market in recent years (at a rate of two per cent annually). In a recent survey, ACNielsen reported retail sales of snack foods at major grocery retail outlets totalling $981.4 million. That’s roughly two per cent of the value of total food and beverage shipments.

Despite the growing variety of snack food and beverage products on the market, production is confined to only a very few plants, the majority of which are in Ontario and Quebec. One of the goliaths of snack food manufacturing in Ontario is a company called Super-Pufft.

You may not realize it, but chances are that most readers have purchased quite a few Super-Pufft products. Over the past 12 years, the company has quietly been taking new and innovative ideas and turning them into market-winning products for other companies. Super-Pufft creates the snack food brands—potato chips, popcorn, cheese puffs, cheezies, juices, teas—for the private labels of multi-national and chain store clients such as Loblaws, Wal-Mart, and Shoppers Drug Mart, as some of the majors in the United States, Europe and South America. 

“Many people are familiar with our product. But few are familiar with the manufacturer or our plant in Mississauga,” says Yahya Abbas, President and CEO. “We are partners in the true sense of the word. We think through new products and ways to make our customers’ products popular and cost effective. We produce, package, label and sell products; we leave the marketing to our clients.”

Canada’s largest producers of snack foods and beverages

How did Super-Pufft become one of the country’s largest producers of snack foods and beverages? Abbas left his home in Iraq in 1979 to begin university in England. After graduating, he moved to Canada where he identified the market’s need for an integrated production facility. “When I started, no one was interesting in investing in the market,” says Abbas. “The facilities were old and outdated.”  So he invested his own money in a state-of-the-art plant Super-Pufft in 1987.

Within three years, Super-Pufft became the largest beverage company in the country.

Abbas believes the success of his company can be credited to three main attributes. The first is cost “effectiveness.” What we make is unique and none of the retailers can produce their own brand at the same low cost. We have mass volume that is hard to match.”

The second is the breadth of unique products. Super-Pufft is the only private label manufacturer in North America producing canister chips, the only company in Canada producing popular kettle corn products and the only company producing reduced-fat chips.

The third is the continued innovation of flavours and brands. Because Abbas views his clients as partners, he spends an inordinate amount of time thinking of ways to increase their incremental revenue. His recognizes that his research and development team is a key ingredient of his competitive edge and he charges them with the responsibility of coming up with innovative recipes and concepts to create the exciting new products that define his success.

“Our game is technology”

The company maintains its success by understanding that quality and consistency are critical to a brand’s performance in the market. Abbas keeps his plant running at optimum efficiency through both random and regular standards testing. “We keep everything beyond standards because the customer goes beyond government standard requirements. Also, we invest in technology. Our game really is technology, and we make sure to use it to our benefit.”

Super-Pufft has also taken extra steps to officially be recognized as a world class manufacturer. Early on, they saw the value of cultivating additional marketplaces and unique needs. To that end, Super-Pufft is poised to meet Canada’s diverse social requirements: they are COR-certified for Kosher, they have an Organic certification and are Halal to meet those requirements.

Perpetual innovation

“I have to be ahead of the curve, whether it be on the environmental, health or safety front,” says Abbas. “The industry is continually changing and these changes catch up with us sooner or later. I strive to be active and innovative so when the time comes and regulations are put in place, we will be ready.”

Super-Pufft’s “ahead of the curve” philosophy has paid dividends before. In 1998, years before it became a hot button issue in the food industry, they began omitting all trans fats.

The company is implementing a sustainability and environmental program that pushes Super-Pufft into a position of national leadership. These iniatives are currently directed at a one-third reduction of water and energy consumption by the plant and a reduction in packaging (“lightweighting of the product”). The idea is to use less fuel for transportation. This, along with further integrated waste management systems, employee programs and training and a dedication to continuous improvement, will mean a lesser impact on the environment for years to come.

Innovative thinking has led Abbas to where he is today; at the helm of one of the country’s most innovative companies in any field. Because they consider the technology, health, flavour and cost of their products, we don’t have to. All that’s left for the consumer to do is enjoy.