April 2, 2009 By Andrew Joseph
Successful, fast-growing companies may be an elusive species in Canada’s battered manufacturing landscape these days, but for those who have their act together in terms of their people, production capabilities, product quality and work ethic as well as the Richmond Hill, Ont.-based co-packer Protenergy Natural Foods Corporation, growth in face of adversity can come as naturally as smooth-sailing in the boom times.
Operating out of a lively, 41,000-square-foot production facility a short drive north of Toronto’s northern outskirts, the five-year-old company has made huge strides as a contract manufacturer and private-label product developer of liquid broths, stocks, soups and juice products for some of the biggest retailers and CPG (consumer-packaged goods) manufacturers on the continent—today shipping a lion’s share of its output to a handful of select U.S.-based clients clearly impressed with the company’s production and packaging know-how.
Since discontinuing production of soya-based milk inherited from the eight-year-old facility’s earlier tenants, Protenergy has gone from strength to strength after nailing down its first key breakthrough account with the world’s largest retailer three years ago—in the process becoming true experts of the aseptic packaging process utilizing Tetra Pak’s high-tech aseptic filling machinery and its ubiquitous paperboard drink-boxes.
“It’s pretty much a turnkey Tetra Pak plant here today,” explains Protenergy’s vice-president of manufacturing services/process authority Bill Gamble, a 24-year beverage industry veteran who oversaw the company’s wholesale transformation from the tiny outfit he joined three years ago.
Today, the fully-equipped facility—boasting an inhouse product development lab and state-of-the-art customized blending and production equipment—runs a three-shift, five-days-per-week working schedule under some of the most stringent and demanding food safety protocols anywhere in the global food-and-beverage industry.
Currently turning out about 100 different SKUs (stock-keeping units) of liquid broth, stock, soups, juices and other aseptic products in various packages—including aseptic one-liter Tetra Brik, one-liter Tetra Prisma and 750-ml Tetra Prisma cartons—on its high-speed filling lines, the HACCP (Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Points)-certified facility expects capacity to soar to new levels later this year, following a planned installation of another Tetra Pak filling line.