TWI Foods Inc.
For the past 25 years, TWI Foods Inc. (Crispy) has been delivering high quality, affordable goods to customers in the most efficient way possible. This driving force has proven to be highly effective, garnering Crispy loyal customers, not only in Canada, but across international borders, reaching US, UK, UAE, Europe and Australia. What began as a small production facility for cake rusk, tea toast and baked goods with a distinct South Asian flair, Crispy has grown significantly and quickly and made their brand a household name in a highly saturated market.
“As a company we’ve been in business now for 25 years and we’ve always had a strong focus on growth that has been largely at the outset of ethnic market as we cater primarily to the South Asian community,” says Zak Mashadi, Head of Business Development. “We focus on production effeciency to supply the mainstream market to retailers like Costco, Walmart and Loblaw’s, to name a few.”
The company has expanded their distribution network into the US and has also started looking at new and emerging markets overseas with distribution to countries like the UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and China. This speaks to the broad appeal of ethnic goods that has cross cultural relevance.
“In 2013 we moved into a 180,000 sq ft. facility to accommodate expansion, in which we have nine manufacturing lines and a second facility in Mississauga which has two manufacturing lines,” says Mashadi. “The way we strategically position ourselves is by looking forward to the next five to ten years which allows us to take on a lot of business that doesn’t require us to change many of our operations because we are already equipped to accommodate it.”
Crispy has a lot of available resources that they can turn around to customers quickly which makes them a flexible solution provider. “Our move to the mainstream market was an organic one, it wasn’t something we extended a lot of effort or marketing into; it was something that the market demanded, and as our products became increasingly understood by the ethnic market, and gained more presence in the general marketplace, other consumers began to take notice,” says Mashadi. “Cake rusk and naan bread are two of our top products that we constantly receive positive feedback on.”
Crispy’s products are gaining world-wide reputation for good quality-strengthening the brand through expansion of exports to new international markets, earning the company the top accolades winning last year’s The Ontario Food Exporter Award.
“There’s a benefit to being a Canadian company because “Canada-made” has great value and demonstrates that there is certain quality attached to the product,” says Mashadi. “Because we have great food safety regulations in this country, international consumers trust products that come from Canada, positioning our products as a premium item.”
There is an increasing pressure on retailers during periods of lower levels of foot traffic due to an increase in online sales, which increases the pressure on how they can drive volume. This is something Crispy takes into great consideration when it comes to their pricing, approach to promotions and trying to satisfy customers. “Some of our snacks are not easy to source because a lot of these items are difficult to make on a commercial scale so that’s where we identified a gap to make a stronger presence in,” says Mashadi. “Products like pani puri and namak para are outperforming a lot of the mainstream snacks in stores like Costco, which goes beyond ethnicity as customers are trying items that are innovative and different.”
“We place a high emphasis on quality; we’ve been able to source the best ingredients that produce high quality products that has helped establish our reputation,” says Mashadi. “Where we differentiate ourselves is that we ensure that our product caters to the palette of our daily consumers. We always take into consideration things like: salt levels and fat levels that can have negative health implications while maintaining a highly competitive price point that keep our customers happy. There is also a demand in organic and gluten-free products which are some areas that we are exploring.”
Crispy is a common name found in trade shows throughout the world, such as the IDDBA, a well-known trade show for dairy, deli and bakery in the US. “Trade shows are a great way to get our name out there where people often approach us asking how they can get our product into their region or at particular retailers,” says Mashadi. “One of the largest and fastest growing segments in retail is the ethnic space and we’re seeing a lot more demand for ethnic baked goods, naans, roti and flat breads.”
Retailers also face challenges when it comes to the shelf life of products. “Naan breads which are subject to moisture, have to maintain a certain consistency and texture and in order to retain that you typically would have to go through a frozen supply chain that would allow you to have seven shelf days in a retail environment which is often not enough and contributes to shrink or waste,” says Mashadi. “We have invested significantly into a technology in which we alter the atmosphere in which the product is packaged through “modified atmosphere packaging” which is effectively gas-flushing and replacing the oxygen content in the packing with nitrogen and CO2 which prevents typical organic activity and allows that same product to have a shelf stability four to six weeks.”
With the installation of this new technology that they have, Crispy is looking to making a much larger impact in the fried sector where there is a lot of demand, especially in ethnic foods as most of these are imported, the company can offer a Canadian-made solution that they can compete on both in price and quality.
“We will continue working to make stronger and larger inroads into the mainstream markets in both Canada and the US,” says Mashadi. “Everyone on our team contributes great ideas and solutions to a coherent vision; as we are always assessing and strategizing to keep in our forward momentum. We are excited about our prospective growth and the direction we are going in.”