The St. Rémi region in Quebec has long been lauded as Canada’s “vegetable heaven” for its rich soil, accommodating climate and prodigious nature of the agricultural industry there. What Niagara-on-the-Lake is to Canadian wine, St. Rémi is to its vegetables, with lineages of growers going back over 100 years.
One of the leading operators in St. Rémi is Saladexpress, a vegetable processing company that supplements the food service, hotel and retail sector with over 15 million kilograms of fresh produce grown in St. Rémi that gets to consumers within a day of being harvested.
Proudly and loyally Canadian, Saladexpress was founded in 1989, and was later acquired by distribution king Leslie Jonas in 1995. Jonas reinvigorated the company with a vision based on farming basics: simplicity, freshness and nature, while focusing on the retail needs of the food services industry, of which freshness and availability are paramount.
2010 marked another milestone for the company, when the Fonds de solidarite FTQ bought Jonas’ shares, becoming the major shareholder under an agreement that prioritizes a Canadian owner and that the company remain in the St. Rémi region.
“The factory that Saladexpress works out of is over 100 years old,” says Saladexpress President Mario Latendresse. “This address has been providing for the economy for a century, and is in the Top 5 employers of the area. It’s part of our history, and is a part of our future. Saladexpress is preparing for a long life and a prosperity that will naturally benefit the community.”
Despite having such a colourful past, the present has never been better for Saladexpress.
Growth, says Latendresse, is “staggering”, thanks to growing demand for a variety of healthy foods. To better serve this need, Saladexpress acquired Nutriplus, a provider of bagged spinach also from Quebec, to augment its product staples, which also includes potatoes, lettuce and onions. This, on top of two additional food produce companies acquired from Quebec City.
“There are three motivating factors for our strategic acquisitions,” continues Latendresse. “Taking them out of the competition, for one. Enabling us to provide products we didn’t have in our portfolio, for another, and adding to our strong management team is the other.”
“We are the assistant cook to all our clients. We provide value, healthy product for the food service, retail and hotel industries,” says Latendresse.
“Saladexpress is fully committed to making life easier for its customers and consumers by providing them with prepared products that are ready to eat or cook, without preservatives. The company understands that time is a valuable resource for everyone.”
Saladexpress’ region is Eastern Canada, including Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces. Saladexpress perceives its competition to be from California, and stacks up quite well comparably. “We aren’t trying to compete, but we prefer to look at the California as competitors and one of our edges and advantages is definitely our proximity. We can finish processing salad at 2 a.m. and could reach the store the next morning, the salad could hit the cart of the customer within 24 or less.”
Saladexpress’ mantra is to “spares no effort to provide fresh produce of top quality, preservative-free, ready to cook or serve. Its commitment to customers’ satisfaction is expressed ‘from field to fork.’” Doing so ensures the utmost in freshness and nutritional content, increase customers’ opportunities to “eat a healthy diet of vegetables that are rich in fibres, vitamins and nutrients.”
“The freshness cannot be at a better level,” says Latendresse.
Saladexpress realizes achieving its goal of ‘from field to fork’ in a matter of hours requires a know-how and commitment to a sound distribution system and a strict adherence to food safety regulations and FSSC 22000 safety certification — one of the highest standards in the industry.
This holistic approach to business permeates the entire operation. Saladexpress has an exhaustive recycling program, a sound environmental program, and priority on contributing to the social welfare of its clients and employees, such as job creating, employee values, training and buying locally.
“Through these channels,” says Latendresse, “Saladexpress can be the dynamic, practical, responsibly and creative company we all work for it to be.”