Canadian Packaging

The Sugar Rush


April 2, 2009
by Andrew Joseph, Features Editor

For what was once a luxury reserved for the rich and the upper classes, sugar has over the centuries evolved into a remarkably universal food additive and key ingredient in most standard modern-age cuisines—not only for making desserts and confectioneries but for countless other food products requiring a tasty boost of Mother Nature’s finest sweetener processed from sugar cane, sugar beats and other plant species.

And one could find just about any type of sugar there is—icing, yellow, brown, raw, soon-to-be-released organic, fruit-powder, etc.—at the 54,000-square-foot facility in northwest Toronto operated by Sweet Source Packaging, a feisty, privately-owned company with no fear of competing in a marketplace dominated by mass-scale industry giants.

“It is a very competitive industry,” says Pat Provenzano, who runs the 40-employee plant’s day-to-day operations along with business partner Mario Cedrone. “The sugar business is dominated by two major companies in what is essentially a virtual oligopoly.

“I think we have a lot of guts to go up against them,” says Provenzano, “but we believe there is room for a viable third alternative, and there’s nothing wrong with a little competition … is there?

“We offer a high-quality refined sugar product that is fairly priced,” Provenzano told Canadian Packaging on a recent visit to the Sweet Source plant, which upon completion will house 12 production lines, with combined capacity to pack over 300 metric tonnes of sugar per day.

“As long as we keep growing our market share like we’ve been doing since our inception,” he asserts, “we will continue to be a success story—local boys make good.”

And it’s been solid growth so far for the company, which packages about 30 per cent of its sugar—mostly the finer, smaller crystal-type of sugar that Provenzano says the competition often markets as a higher-end product—under private-label banners, with the rest used to produce the company’s own flagship brand.

With a growing customer base that includes such major retailers as Wal-Mart Canada, Costco Wholesale Canada, Loblaw Companies, Sysco Canada and a long list of independent retailers across Canada, the plant has become well-versed in the production of many different types of and sizes of packages to serve its diverse client base.

For retail products, Sweet Source packages sugar under its own brand in 500-gram stand-up pouches and in the traditional two-kilogram paperbags; while using 20-pound and 40-kilogram paper valve bags for its institutional clients. For private-label products, the company can produce anything from tiny 3.5-gram sachets and stick-packs to four-kilo paperbags and 10-kilo polyester bags with built-in carrying handles.