October 27, 2008
by Pierre Deschamps
In the food industry, it takes many kinds of ideas, products and machinery to make the world go round—and Laval, Que.-based food processor and distributor CLIC International Inc. certainly provides a compelling case for variety being the spice of life.
Founded by president Assaad Abdelnour in 1979 and evolving into a dedicated import-export business in 1984, CLIC—an acronym for the Canadian Lebanese Investment Corporation—built up its client base over the years by being something of an equal-opportunity supplier to Montreal’s increasingly multiethnic population mix.
Sourcing its products from across the Middle East, Asia and Europe helped CLIC to grow into a thriving foodservice industry supplier of foodstuffs and staples that not only catered to the traditional dietary needs of immigrant communities, but also for the province’s French-Canadian population that has always displayed a special fondness for trying out new culinary innovations from exotic locales.
Originally operating out of a small warehouse located on-site at local a Metro Richelieu supermarket, CLIC has managed to grow in the proverbial leaps and bounds that would make any food industry upstart rightfully proud.
Today employing 185 people at six locations across Canada, the company’s processing and distribution operations have combined for total revenues of $32 million in 2006, with about a quarter of that total accounted for by exports to customers in over 30 countries worldwide.
Stocking more than 1,400 SKUs (stock-keeping units) at all times, the company boasts being a direct supplier of more than 65 different varieties of dried legumes and cereals and about 45 varieties of rice, including Basmati, wild, perfumed and braised rice.
In addition to being able to cut out the middlemen by purchasing some of these staples directly from wholesalers, CLIC also teamed up with Agriculture Canada and local farmers and growers to initiate the development of lentils, chickpeas and fava or broad beans right at home in Canada—raising them, in fact, to high-enough quality to attract new export markets in the U.S., Caribbean, parts of Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The company’s diverse mix of customers—convenience and ethnic-food stores, natural-food shops, hotels, hospital and restaurant suppliers, foodstuff converters, independent distributors, cruise-ship operators, supermarket chains, etc.—is fittingly matched by the broad array of recipes in which its products end up, representing the best of Arabic, Asian, Indian, African, Latin-American, Caribbean and eastern European culinary traditions.