Seeing & Seizing Opportunities

Corbicula Pollen Ltd.

Until COVID-19 hit, for two years Corbicula Pollen relied primarily on farmers markets and community events to sell their products. Suddenly these events were either cancelled or had heavy restrictions. The company had been using a third party to process the raw materials they provided, and the Refresh Program enabled them to pivot to in-house production. By processing and packaging the bee pollen themselves, they’ll save money and have better control and stability. The Refresh program facilitated this pivot by helping Corbicula purchase their own equipment and by introducing them to other processors and food industry support programs. They have partnered with another Refresh participant to co-locate, saving both companies considerable money. Through Refresh, Corbicula was introduced to other Ministry programs and they are pursuing the B.C. Agrifood and Seafood Market Development Program to develop a marketing plan. Refresh gave them access to industry experts who guided them through sales and distribution plans, health regulations, and budgeting. Their Refresh plan also includes launching a new e-commerce platform which will extend their market potential far beyond the B.C. borders.

About the Company  

Corbicula Pollen Ltd. is British Columbia's first Bee Pollen processing company founded by 3 friends with a passion for local, authentic, and minimally processed bee pollen.  With respectful bee husbandry and environmental consideration, they deliver a trusted Canadian product.

Location: Langley, BC

Website: https://corbicula.ca/

Key Takeaways: 

  • Planning is essential to completing a successful pivot and prepare for the long term.
  • Consulting with industry experts is a great way to solve problems and enables better long-term decision making.
  • Other food processors can be great partners and resources.  

Taking Control of Distribution

Sterling Springs Chicken (Falkland Farm)

The COVID-19 event had a significant impact on the business, as they lost 80% of sales in one week. Realizing that in order to keep their business strong in the face of this new challenge, they would have to regain control of their sales and distribution channels. The decision was made to focus on growing their farm store operation to be the major hub of their sales, instead of having to rely on other channels. The Refresh program was extremely helpful in this transition.  It helped them to formulate and implement a pivot plan to make their business more resilient in the face of future unprecedented events.  They gained useful and relevant information, and were guided by knowledgeable industry experts. They were very grateful to have had this opportunity, and are certain their business will be stronger as a result of participating in the Refresh program.  


About the Company  

Sterling Springs Chicken (Falkland Farms) is a vertically integrated agri-food business located in Falkland, BC. They hatch, raise, and process their own chickens, and make sausages and further process products in their on-farm sausage kitchen. They sell to high-end restaurants and wineries, at farmers' markets, and from their farm store.

Location: Falkland, BC

Website: https://www.sterlingspringschicken.com/HOME.html

Key Takeaways:

  • An increased online presence is crucial to reach a larger audience who resonate with your unique story and values
  • Product diversification can be both a business stabilizer and growth opportunity
  • Leading cross promotion and joint venture opportunities can elevate business stature in the community

Creating Efficiencies & Increased Profit Margins

Culturalive Fermented Foods

Melanie Furman has been running a successful business for ten years, but COVID-19 threw some unexpected curves that left her just hanging on. As a single mom, all of a sudden she was juggling single parenting, home schooling, and running her business. She then lost her employee and had to cut back on production. Melanie has product in several stores on Vancouver Island and some Gulf Islands, but she had also relied on the farmers markets for sales, which of course closed with the pandemic. Another challenge was the increased interest in her fermented products as people looked for local, immune-boosting foods. She couldn’t keep up with the demand from store owners.

Making her products is physically demanding, and through the Refresh program Melanie has been able to purchase some much needed equipment that can help her make more product in a similar amount of time, with much less physical strain. This operations adjustment will allow her to expand production so she can meet consumer and retail needs, with larger profit margins.

About the Company  

Culturalive ferments locally sourced, mostly organic vegetables and herbs to make probiotic and enzyme-rich sauerkraut and kimchi. Products are sold on Vancouver Island and many Gulf Islands.

Location: Salt Spring Island, BC

Website: https://www.culturalivefoods.com/

Key Takeaways:

  • There is a specific process and language to write proposals. 
  • Getting a second party’s perspective on business and operations can enable better decision-making  
  • Creating a business and financial plan allows for a good foundation of details to use for future funding or loan opportunities  

From Closure to Expansion

The Roasted Chickpea

Fresh produce is essential to create The Roasted Chickpea meals & products. When COVID-19 arrived, owner Kayla Heddle could not rely on a fresh food supply from grocery stores, and many places who previously stocked her meal prep products closed down during those initial few months. This led to a four-month business closure. She had been considering a new exciting project and the Food Business Refresh Program enabled her to enhance her business with a focus on her line of chia puddings. Healthy and dietary/allergy friendly, they can be mass produced allowing for a larger distribution reach throughout BC. While she knew she could take this product to the next level, access to Refresh coaches and food industry experts along with support from other food processing businesses throughout B.C. were fundamental in jump starting this new project. She still provides healthy meal prep products to her local community, but is now able to expand her business with many growth opportunities.

About the Company  

The Roasted Chickpea is a plant-based gluten-free meal prep company serving local grocery stores, coffee shops and private clients in the West Kootenays. The Roasted Chickpea aims to fill the gap for those on the hunt for something quick, delicious & nutritionally dense, while also suiting special dietary needs & preferences.

Location: Castlegar

Website: www.theroastedchickpea.com 

Key Takeaways:

  • As tedious as it may seem, developing a business plan and financial forecasts are imperative to the success of a company. 
  • Having deadlines and others hold you accountable ensures a steadfast momentum towards goals.
  • Help and support from outside sources is crucial for perspective, validation, and advice.

Building to Grow Distribution Capacity

Queen B Kettle Korn Ltd.

For three years, Johanna Faccini has been making celebration-worthy popcorn with quality ingredients selling year-round in several Okanagan stores, and through hotels and fruit stands in the summer. In 2019, she moved into a shared space with a noncompeting food processor who had to close due to the pandemic. Sales dropped due to the COVID-19 market impact, and now being the lone tenant, Johanna was overwhelmed trying to decide the best way to stay in business.

Johanna deemed the coaches, quality of information, expert advice, and resources from the Food Business Refresh program to be exceptional. They helped her identify her strengths and how she can take advantage of their installed capacity, brand, and market trends to increase sales once again. To accomplish this, the company needs to develop a marketing strategy and promotion materials which will increase visibility to drive more sales and assist in attracting distributors and wholesalers outside the Okanagan Valley.

About the Company  

Queen B is a family-owned popcorn company based in Kelowna. Their products are crafted using Non-GMO popcorn and gluten-free ingredients.  Their selection includes vegan, low sodium and zero sugar options.  They sell to various grocery stores, retailers, and at markets.

Location: Kelowna, BC

Website: www.queen-b.ca  

Key Takeaways:

  • Develop a marketing plan that clearly identifies competitive advantage, strategically positions products, and creates a story that connects with the consumer.
  • Create supporting sales tools including photographs, sell sheets, content, and images. 
  • Prepare information for distributors including current sales, pricing, sell sheets, quality, production, and product samples to enable them to drive more sales.