Made with Local takes a bite of Canadian snack bar market
Posted on July 27, 2021 | By Simon R. Smith | 0 Comments
A Dartmouth maker of locally-sourced snack bars and granola mix is hoping to bite off a bigger chunk of the market after striking distribution deals with several large grocers across the country.
Made with Local, which started as a stall at Halifax’s Seaport Farmers’ Market in 2012, now sells its naturally-sweetened snack bars and granola mix across Canada through retailers like Sobeys, Loblaws, Well.ca and Costco.
Founder and CEO Sheena Russell began making the certified B Corporation’s “real food bars” at her friend’s café after hours with “as many local ingredients as we could get our hands on,” she said. But, as demand grew, she decided to outsource production to two social enterprise bakeries—one in Nova Scotia and one in Toronto.
“For me, there has to be purpose alongside people and profit,” Russell said. “So, that’s been my favourite thing about the company—to grow it in partnership with these incredible organizations and help to provide work and training opportunities for people living with barriers to the mainstream workforce.”
All Made with Local products are handmade at the two bakeries, she said, adding that The Flowercart Group in New Minas, N.S. makes real food bars exclusively, while the Toronto facility makes both bars and granola mix using as many Ontario-made ingredients as possible.
Made with Local expanded its production to Toronto after the company signed its distribution deal with Costco in March of this year, Russell said, which more than tripled production of its bars from the 40,000 a month that come out of the New Minas facility.
But the company’s first commitment to growing a “purpose-led” business, Russell said, was fostering partnerships with local farmers and food producers to source ingredients, like dried fruits, organic chocolate, oats, nut butters and honey for its products.
“Every single ingredient that we use is sourced with intention,” she said. “We are committed to having real-life connection to where the food that we’re using to make our foods is coming from.”
Asked why Made with Local uses honey to sweeten its snack bars, Russell replied matter-of-factly, “because it’s local,” and added that the sweetener is also an “amazing natural preservative.”
The company’s partnership with its first honey supplier, Cosman & Whidden Honey, began at the seaport market, where the Wolfville apiary also had a stall. “We’ve never even remotely entertained doing any other kind of sweetener other than honey,” Russell said. “Lots of bars out there are made using brown rice syrup or dates … I don’t have a strong sightline on those ingredients.”
It’s this desire for supply-chain visibility that Russel says separates Made with Local from other consumer packaged goods producers. “It’s a different type of relationship we have with our production facilities and with our suppliers that’s very much about communication and partnership and shared prosperity,” she said.
It’s also helped the company earn recognition as one of over 4,000 B-Corp Certified businesses, which Russell said had been a goal of hers for some time.
“It’s a huge amount of work,” she said. “It makes you dive super deep into every aspect of your business and excavate data around really proving that you walk the walk.”
The company has delivered over 100 pallets of its granola mix to Costco locations across Eastern Canada and expects orders to keep increasing in size, Russel said. The company is now preparing for the busy back-to-school season.
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