October 28, 2008
by Andrew Joseph
The way today’s hyper-competitive packaged foods business is often portrayed as a virtual battlefield of some sorts, having a company’s history rooted in real-life war drama may not be such a bad thing at all.
It certainly hasn’t done any harm to Lilydale Inc., a thriving Edmonton-headquartered poultry products manufacturer that was originally founded in 1940 for the primary purpose of supplying the Canadian and British armed forces with eggs during the Word War II.
While today’s Lilydale is in many ways a different corporate animal from its original ancestor—having in fact gotten out of the egg business altogether back in 1972—the company has never shied away from its feisty competitive streak that has enabled it to become one of Canada’s largest poultry processors, employing over 2,700 employees at three hatcheries and seven manufacturing facilities across Canada.
“Since 1940, we’ve been proud to provide Canadian families with safe, wholesome, premium-quality chicken and turkey products,” says Michael McRae, vice-president of the company’s further processed products (FPP) division, explaining that by the time the 1950s rolled around, market demand for processed chicken products soared by 250 per cent, while egg sales saw a 25-percent decline—leaving Lilydale with a fairly simple choice for its next strategic direction.
The company started diversifying its product range in 1974 with the launch of the still-popular Lilydale Flavour Baste line of pre-seasoned turkey products for the Safeway Corporation, followed by a period of sustained expansion into the further processing business and also trying its hand, with like success, at processing beef and pork products.
With hundreds of different products in its portfolio and solid export markets in the U.S, Mexico, Russia and Japan—the privately-owned Lilydale today enjoys annual revenues of over $500 million, with 75 percent of its business accounted for by brand-name products, and the rest by private-label manufacturing.
McRae points out that each of the company’s manufacturing operations—including the turkey processing plant in Abbotsford, B.C.—is fully-certified to the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) accreditation for food safety, while also complying with all the pertinent CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) regulations.
Employing about 200 people, the Abbotsford facility is primarily responsible for production of Lilydale’s three core turkey product lines:
• fresh and frozen, grain-fed, whole turkeys retailed under the Lilydale brand-name;
• the Tailgate line of turkey sausages and pepperoni made from 100-percent lean turkey meat, spiced with a distinctive blend of seasonings that are naturally hardwood-smoked for an authentic flavor;
• the Roast & Boast line of pre-prepared whole-turkey roasts, which picked up a top prize in the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix New Product Awards competition in the deli, meat and seafood category.