Fraser Valley Packers
Fraser Valley Packers (FVP) has been operating in Abbotsford, British Columbia, since 1999. The vertically integrated processor, packer and distributor specializes in locally grown and harvested raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Over the last 15 years, FVP has grown significantly and is now a leader in the industry. Working closely with area growers, the company offers high quality, healthy products to consumers in Canada and the United States, as well as overseas markets.
Joe Gill, president and CFO of FVP, has been with the company for six years and works with a team of experienced managers and employees to process and market these high-quality berries. “This business was established by four partners who wanted to process their own blueberries,” Gill recounts of the company’s history. “Not long after that, they brought in local growers and added raspberries and other mixed berries. We work by contract and have become one of the larger processor packers on the West Coast.”
An international reach
While the business is based in Canada, FVP also works with growers and processes berries in the Northwest United States. Gill and his team show strong dedication to the highest standards of food safety. Domestically, employees take responsibility to adhering to the standards of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Teams in the U.S. follow USDA and FDA guidelines to ensure customers across the globe receive only fresh, tasty and safe berries. “Our berries are of very high quality,” Gill notes. “We offer fresh and frozen berries to our customers, which include larger brands, such as Dole and California Giant.”
The team’s foray into the international market is no happy accident. Gill and his team recognize that there are huge opportunities abroad as foreign demand grows. These quality small fruits have been shipped all over the world. Major markets include Japan, Korea, China, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. “Chile and Mexico are big right now,” Gill adds. “There is a lot of competition and we are able to set our produce apart through our high standards of quality.”
To keep up with this expanding market, FVP sources berries from more than 3,000 acres of berries. The business has two processing facilities in British Columbia totaling an approximate 50,000 square feet. Much of the company’s product is hand-picked, but mechanical harvesting has helped increase production rate and improve efficiency.
The team also recently established a partnership with a group in Surrey, British Columbia, for a joint venture that has increased yields.
Berries have seen a jump in popularity in recent years due to health benefits. FVP has benefited from this jump, especially with blueberries which have been proven a rich source of antioxidants. Naturally, the driving factor behind this market growth has been growing concerns over the health and safety of foods. While this shift in consumer habits has been a boon for the industry, Gill says it has come with some challenges.
This is part of the reason we work so closely with our growers,” he explains. “Quality is big, but consumers also want traceability. People want to know where their food is coming from. Overall, berry consumption has gotten a good name and gone up in consumption. The industry is going well.”
To help manage this growth, Gill and his team are working on internal efficiency goals. Part of that is determining key performance indicators that best serve the organization as a whole. “We are working with a consultant on that now,” Gill explains. “Some key components are how our growers rate their happiness working with us. We want to make sure that we pay our partners well and on time. The prices are market driven and we try to be on top of that.”
FVP is also working to promote labor growth within the industry. The work is hard and takes dedication. Labor prices are rising alongside other overhead expenses, which makes growth challenging. All in all, Gill foresees steady industry growth despite the challenges. His background in accounting and farming offers him a unique perspective in the industry that helps him to build relationships while maintaining quality and efficiency in his operations.
In the coming years, Gill and his team intend to ride the positive trends in the food market. Looking ahead, the business has set goals to grow within Canada while also making a mark on foreign markets. Maintaining a strong dedication to high quality berries, Fraser Valley Packers has a bright future providing consumers around the world with healthy, tasty and safe produce.