Saskatchewan flaxseed processor using high-quality flexible packaging to make its products shine on the retail shelf and in growing global markets
November 15, 2019
As an established member of the growing family of so-called functional ‘superfoods’ targeting today’s health-minded consumers, flaxseed may not always get the widespread praise and recognition it duly deserves for all its nutritional attributes.
But that may well change in the not-so-distant future thanks to relentless efforts of companies like the Regina-based CanMar Foods Ltd. to increase consumer awareness of this long-cultivated food and fiber crop thriving in the world’s cooler regions, with Canada, Saskatchewan in particular, providing an ideal growing environment for this hearty and versatile plant.
In fact, Canada currently ranks as the world’s second- largest producer of flaxseed just behind Russia, accounting for 579,000 tonnes of the total global flaxseed output of 2.7 million tonnes in 2016, according to the United Nations (UN)’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
Brought to Canada by European settlers about 400 years ago, flax is in fact considered to be one of the one of the first domesticated plants and, as such, a foundation crop of modern civilization.
These days, food-grade flax is also the key foundation underpinning the considerable commercial success of CanMar Foods on the global stage as a leading supplier of high-quality food-grade flaxseed to consumers, baking goods producers, and pet-food manufacturers in more than 20 countries worldwide.
Founded in 2004, “We are the largest food-grade processor of flax in Canada,” says company president Myles Hamilton.
“We have the Number One flax brand in Canada, sold under the CanMar brand name, and we also produce a growing range of private-label flax products,” says Hamilton, adding the company employs a proprietary patented process it developed for evenly roasting flaxseed to a consistent taste and identical color.
“Today we produce over 30 different SKUs (stock-keeping units) in a variety of packages—from 340-gram pouches all the way up to 900-kilogram totes,” Hamilton relates.
“Our product is used by consumers primarily for breakfast or baking,” Hamilton continues, “and it is also sold as an ingredient for bakery and pet-food products.”
As Myles explains, the company’s flagship CanMar brands of Milled Golden Roasted Flax, Whole Seed Golden Roasted Flax, and Cold Milled Golden Roasted Flaxseed are all processed at its state-of-the-art roasting facility in Regina, which runs a busy seven-days-a-week production schedule on year-round basis.
“The consumption of flax over the course of the year is fairly consistent,” Hamilton notes, “so there is not a big number of peak and valleys with our business.”
Such seasonal consistency is in itself a testament to flaxseed’s remarkable versatility as a nutritionally rich and healthy food supplement and ingredient offering a broad array of serving choices.
As CanMar’s website proudly proclaims, “It is easy to incorporate golden roasted flaxseed in the daily diet and in existing meals or dishes.
“Golden roasted flaxseed is an ideal meal component can be added to all kinds of food items and meal ideas, like adding it to your hot or cold cereals in the morning, or mixing it into yogurts and smoothies,” CanMar suggests.
“Furthermore, you can bake and cook with golden roasted flaxseed or sprinkle it over salads, vegetables, desserts and ice cream, or incorporate some roasted flaxseed in breading for fish and chicken for an extra crunchy coating.
“The possibilities are endless.”
Such cooking versatility is fittingly matched by flaxseed’s remarkably healthy nutritional profile and benefits, including high concentrations of “good for you” nutrients such as:
- The Omega-3 fatty acids, which play a key balancing role in the body to promote better cardiovascular health.
- Fiber, both soluble and nonsoluble, to help lower blood cholesterol levels and moderate blood sugar, while also moving stool through the colon more quickly to help bowel movements and improve laxation.
- Lignans, phytoestrogenic compounds that have been shown in studies of animals, and in early human clinical trials, to help protect against certain kinds of cancer, notably breast and colon, by blocking tumour formation.
In 2014, Health Canada formally approved a health claim linking eating ground whole flaxseed to blood cholesterol lowering—a major risk factor for heart disease—along with 10 other claims related to flaxseed’s evident benefits in controlling diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
The best part of all, according to Hamilton, is that roasted flaxseeds actually taste really good.
“Our flax is roasted to give it a nuttier flavor and nice a aroma which consumers prefer, with a taste profile that is truly unique to CanMar flax,’ he says.
“So while many consumers initially consume flaxseed for its nutritional value, they increasingly choose our golden roasted flaxseed for its taste and aroma!”
Naturally, product quality and safety are always on the mind for a company like CanMar Foods, and Hamilton says that being a vertically-integrated operation that runs its own farms—comprising 20,000 acres for conventional and 3,000 acres for organic farming—offers substantial competitive advantages.
“Because we control all the agronomics on our farm, we start with and manage the crop rotations in a way that allows us to get as clean flax as possible coming off the farm,” Hamilton explains.
“We also manage the entire storage, so that our product is not intermingled in large elevator operations, unlike our competitors.
“Our flax is shipped directly to our own state-of-the-art cleaning facility where we achieve a 99.99-percent-plus purity level, which is the highest in the industry.
“After roasting, the product is either prepared, whole-seed or milled, and then packaged accordingly based on our customers’ specific needs.”
To get its retail packaging right, CanMar makes extensive use of the innovative box-pouch flexible packaging manufactured by TC Transcontinental Packaging, one of North America’s leading flexible packaging manufacturers headquartered in Montreal.
“The box-pouch is unique in that it is in the shape of a box: it has a flat bottom so that it stands up very nicely,” says Roberto Travaglini, account manger for business development with TC Transcontinental Packaging.
“Since it is a box-pouch, it also takes up less store shelf-space by being more compact and rectangular— allowing CanMar to place more pouches in a display and thus increasing the number of packs that can be placed on a shipping skid,” Travaglini explains.
“In the long run, shipping more pouches per skid and using less skids to ship a bigger quantity equates to having less trucks on the road to deliver the product, thereby reducing carbon-dioxide emissions.”
As Travaglini relates, the box-pouches are made at his company’s TC Ultraflex facility in Brooklyn, N.Y., on state-of-the-art Totani box-pouch machines designed specifically for high-speed production of the so-called ‘quad pouches’ featuring flat bottoms and sides.
“These sophisticated machines are very precise during the manufacturing process,” he says, “ensuring that the finished pouches are perfectly hermetic.
“It is extremely important to have excellent seals on these pouches to prevent any ‘leakers’ that would allow oxygen to enter the packaging.”
Says Travaglini: “Since CanMar roasts its flaxseeds in a proprietary way, the seeds need to be protected from oxygen, as the product can become rancid if it is not protected from the elements.
“The very high EVOH (ethylene vinyl alcohol) barrier that TC Ultraflex uses in the construction of this pouch gives the flaxseeds the oxygen barrier protection that it needs to ensure the minimum 18-month product shelf-life.
“That’s why our Totani machines are tested regularly by our quality control operators to make sure that they meet the strict standards that this pouch requires.”
As Hamilton concurs, such meticulous attention to detail and customer service make TC Transcontinental Packaging a highly valued packaging partner.
“We have been very well-serviced by Roberto Travaglini, who has also been instrumental in helping us to further enhance our packaging design through the different types of materials and finishing options,” Hamilton states.
“Naturally, we really appreciate the quality and consistency of the packaging.
“It’s very easy to save a few cents per bag by ordering your packaging from Asia,” says Hamilton, “but when your production facility is out of bags and you’re waiting for late deliveries, the value equation diminishes very quickly.
“Production and packaging efficiency are very important to us,” Hamilton proclaims, “and we know when we open a box received from Transcontinental Packaging that we are getting exactly what we ordered, at that it will run perfectly on our machine.”
Citing the Regina facility’s internationally recognized SQF Level 2 certification for food safety from the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI), Hamilton says he is proud to be heading a company providing Canadian and global consumers with gluten-free, non-GMO, nut-free, egg-free and overall allergen-free product with a tremendous healthy upside.
“We have never had a recall,” says Hamilton, extending full credit to the Regina plant’s 31 loyal and dedicated full-time employees.
“Many of our employees have over 10 years of experience with the company,” he says, “and we have very little turnover.
“I think we’ve got a great culture and a highly skilled work group that are passionate about producing the highest-quality flax not only in Canada,” Hamilton stresses, “but around the world.”
Says Hamilton: “The flax industry is as competitive as many other industries.
“We are selling a commodity, and so as a company you have to provide a value-added product in order to ‘de-commoditize’ your product.
“I believe we have done that through our fully integrated operation from field to spoon and our state-of-the art production facility,” he concludes, “along with great consumer-friendly packaging supplied to us by Transcontinental Packaging.
“Nothing is more gratifying than getting letters from consumers telling us that our flax is different, how much they love the roasted flavor, and how happy they are to consume our products every day.”