89 years in the bag (and counting) for P.E.I. Bag Company

Posted on June 28, 2024 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments


P.E.I. Bag Company’s production facility in the early 1950s (photo credit: P.E.I. Bag Company)

Producing product packaging for sugar, shellfish and spuds, P.E.I. Bag Company has been operating for nearly 90 years. What started with a simple fabric bag made for potatoes has grown into a diverse line of products for companies across North America. Still family-owned, operations continue for the long-standing company on Prince Edward Island.

Getting started

Prince Edward Island’s long history of a thriving potato industry inspired a business venture between Lorne H. MacFarlane, Silas H. MacFarlane and Leslie F. Simmons. In 1935,  the three entrepreneurs decided to create a packaging business for island spuds. Their first product was a simple potato sac made of jute—a rough fibre material often used for making twine or rope (similar to burlap).

In 1936, the business was officially incorporated as P.E.I. Bag Company.

A modern view of P.E.I. Bag Company’s production facility in Bedeque, P.E.I. (photo credit: Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Product expansion

Over the next 80 years, P.E.I. Bag Company expanded beyond burlap potato sacs to create materials for clients in agriculture, dry goods and aquaculture industries. The company began making woven leno mesh materials, paper products, FIBC bags for bulk storage and transport, waterproof poly bags and more.

Now with clients in Atlantic Canada and the U.S., P.E.I. Bag Company offers a complete range of services from initial concept and design to printing and production. Its products package flour, sugar, turnip, animal feed, mussels, carrots, lobster and (of course) potatoes.

In 2018, P.E.I. Bag Company received federal and provincial funding of nearly $1.5 million to invest in new equipment to modernize processes and grow capacity from 25 million annual printing impressions to over 45 million.

A line of reusable shopping bags made by P.E.I. Bag Company (photo credit: Nancy Russell/CBC)

Reviving old to new

Provincial legislation that banned plastic shopping bags in 2019 created an opportunity for P.E.I. Bag Company. In response, the organization launched a new product line—a selection of premium reusable shopping bags made of jute and burlap. Their design is reminiscent of the company’s history of making potato bags from the same material since its early days.

Increasing concerns about the environmental effects of packaging materials have also led to higher demand for recyclable and compostable materials. Although some products like potatoes have traditionally been (and largely still are) packaged in paper, consumer preferences resulted in swaps to transparent material, so spuds could be inspected before purchase. A recyclable and compostable material like poly has been used in some cases to meet this demand.

Paper (left) and jute (right) potato bags made by P.E.I. Bag Company (photo credit: P.E.I. Bag Company)

Still in the family

Today, operations continue for P.E.I. Bag Company at its headquarters in Central Bedeque, P.E.I. Making packaging materials for production facilities across North America, its product line includes vegetable packaging, burlap sacs and paper shopping bags, as well as promotional products. Still in the family, the organization is now owned by descendants of the three entrepreneurs who started it all 89 years ago.

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