How much do you know about innovative Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs? This article is part of a special feature showcasing exciting initiatives occurring in Atlantic Canada’s innovation ecosystem. Here, we will introduce you to the success of innovative men and women across the region that are making an impact on the economy. This special feature is sponsored by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Barbours is a household name in the Maritimes. A company as old as Canada itself, you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn’t had a cup of King Cole Tea.
But since 2014, the Sussex-based company has been working hard to expand beyond the region by breaking into international markets, particularly through its nut butter division.
“We’ve been in the nut butter business since the 1930s, so after I took control of the company in 2011, we identified nut butters as an opportunity for us to expand our business and we started that growth in 2014 in a serious way,” says Barbours president Sylvia MacVey.
“Mostly, we identified opportunities for export. The history of Barbours has been Maritime centric. One of the strategic shifts in our business would be to become an exporter, initially, mostly to the United States.”
Since then Barbours has expanded its co-manufacturing divisions and now ships products all over the U.S. MacVey says Barbours has made a name for itself by working with medium-sized, innovative nut butter producers that bigger competition often ignore.
“The competition is much bigger than we are and they don’t want to do the medium-sized runs. They’re not interested in the small, startup, innovative and really interesting nut butter offers, so that’s where we specialize – in highly innovative, highly specialized products.”
With a growing presence in the U.S., Barbours’ sights are now breaking into the global market.
“The goal for Barbours overall is to continue to grow. We are looking at Europe now and have been doing a little bit in Asia,” says MacVey. “We’re about expanding our export opportunities both in the U.S., Central America and Europe and other opportunities that may present themselves, but we’re actively hunting in those three.”
Barbours’ expansion over the last several years couldn’t have been done as quickly without outside support. MacVey says assistance from partners like the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) helped them expand their facility’s capacity.
“One of the first things we’ve had to do to be set-up for this is we had to expand our capacity,” says MacVey. “The capacity we had initially when I took over was pretty small, so we had to upgrade our equipment and we made a lot of investments in modernization and expanding capacity, some of which was helped by ACOA.”
She said organizations like ACOA and Opportunities New Brunswick also helped the company make important global connections.
“Between ACOA and Opportunities New Brunswick, we’ve had a lot of help on trade missions and setting up contacts,” says MacVey.
It’s partnerships like this that have helped Maritimes businesses like Barbours expand quickly and compete globally.
“It helps speed the process. We would not have been able to ramp-up as quickly as we did without it,” says MacVey.