Focusing on heart health
Feb. 28, 2012
by Leo Quigley
Richardson International, Canada’s largest privately owned agribusiness, has selected heart health as the pathway to food processing success. And, with over 50 grain receiving facilities scattered across Western Canada and four export terminals in Eastern and Western Canada, the 155-year-old firm appears to have the resources to make it happen.
Canola, an oilseed crop created by Canadian researchers from the rapeseed plant, is used to make one of the healthiest cooking oils on the market. It is lowest in saturated fat, high in cholesterol-lowering mono-unsaturated fat and the best source of omega-3 fats of all popular cooking oils. Its value as a heart healthy alternative is rapidly winning over the food industry, particularly in those regions and countries where there is an aging population of Baby Boomers and where cardiovascular disease is a serious problem.
At the other end of the spectrum, canola is also the preferred ingredient for biodiesel manufacturing where the product is to be used in a temperate climate since biofuels made from canola remain fluid in cold temperatures, while most other alternatives congeal when they become cold. As well, the meal that results from the canola crushing process provides an excellent feed for livestock, especially dairy cattle.
The canola business has been an ongoing success story for Richardson. To expand its production capacity for heart healthy food products using canola oil, the company purchased Innovative Foods Corporation in 2011, a shortening and margarine manufacturing enterprise with plants in Mississauga, Ontario, and Sussex, New Brunswick. The purchase has made Richardson the only Canadian margarine and shortening company with manufacturing plants in both Eastern and Western Canada.
“It fits nicely with the business we’re in,” said Curt Vossen, president of Richardson International. “We’re already in the packaged products business, retail food service and industrial markets. Innovative Foods manufactured margarines and shortenings, and it’s close to Eastern Canada, the most populous region of the country.”
The purchase came on the heels of a C$15 million expansion to enhance the company’s existing canola packaging facility in Lethbridge, Alberta, and the addition of a C$1.5 million new research and development laboratory at the Lethbridge facility.
Richardson opened a C$170 million state-of-the-art canola processing facility in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, in June of 2010 with a processing capacity of up to 2,400 tonnes of canola per day (840,000 tonnes annually), producing 1,000 tonnes of fully-refined food-grade canola oil on a daily basis. Since its opening, the plant has tripled the company’s overall canola oil production capacity and complements Richardson’s canola crushing and packaging facility in Lethbridge, Alberta.
At the Yorkton opening, Hartley Richardson, chairman of Richardson International Limited and President and CEO, James Richardson & Sons, Limited, said in a statement: “The Yorkton plant underscores our optimism in, and ongoing commitment to, Canada’s food and agriculture industry. This investment represents a significant event in our company’s history and would not have been possible without the support of our customers.”
Within a year of opening the Yorkton plant, Richardson reached the milestone of processing 1 million tonnes of canola through its canola crushing plants in Yorkton and Lethbridge.
Richardson produces a variety of private-label margarines, oils and shortenings as well as its own Canola Harvest brand, shipping heart healthy products to roughly 20 countries worldwide. With a focus on research and development, the company recently introduced several new canola-based food products to the market:
•Bake-It Sweet, a non-hydrogenated, all-purpose baking margarine made with canola oil targeted at the baking industry. Gluten-free, it is ideal for cookies, cakes, icing, crumble-style pie shells and toppings and formulated for easy mixing.
•Bake-It Rollin, a non-hydrogenated, premium, roll-in margarine ideal for croissants and Danish pastries.
•Pop-It and Top-It, a popping oil and popcorn topping, containing only 7% saturated fat.
•Ice-It, a non-hydrogenated, trans fat-compliant icing shortening ideal for butter cream and ready-to-use icings, cakes, fillings, rosette decorations and other baking requirements. Ice-It contains 25% less saturated fat compared to high palm oil content products.
“Canola is, by definition, the lowest saturated fat on the market with only seven percent saturated fat versus palm oil that is over 50 percent and coconut oil that is over 90 percent saturated fat,” said Vossen. “If you can replace, proportionately, some of those tropical oils with canola oil, you’re really starting to reduce some of the saturated fat the consumer is exposed to.”
Vossen said the strategic location of Richardson grain receiving facilities in areas where growing conditions favor canola together with the growing demand for heart healthy food products has encouraged the company to increase its investment in oilseed crushing and food research.
“We’re one of the largest originators of canola seed in North America because of where our elevators are located, in the heart of where most of the canola is grown in North America,” said Vossen. “So being involved in that value chain with a very healthy oil just makes perfect sense.”
While Richardson is not into the genetic research business, it partners with bioscience firms such as Dow AgroSciences, which Richardson has worked with since the 1990s, to develop today’s high-oleic oil varieties. Richardson has worked with firms in the genetic science industry to develop new technology, test that technology and new products in field trials, and work with farmers in developing the necessary agronomics, contract acreage and to familiarize farmers with the products.
“We’re not in the business of being the actual R&D company. But we’re a good partner for an R&D company like Dow, Bayer, Monsanto or Syngenta,” he said.
“If you can work with these bioscience companies to improve the drought resistance or drought tolerance of a product like canola to these differing geographic conditions, you can keep the momentum going for the growth of canola acreage and for the use of the product, so it’s not one that becomes a tertiary product because of its growth range in North America.”
Canada produces more than 90% of the canola grown today in North America. Of that, Richardson represents more than 30% of the origination. Vossen said the key is to ensure that there is sufficient canola to meet the growing demand from buyers worldwide. Large industrial consumers of canola don’t want to be exposed to a situation where there may be insufficient supply and, as a consequence, they find themselves being rationed.
“To keep this growth up, you’ve got to have a crop that’s growing in total volume,” he said. “It’s important for us to keep moving canola acres up to a status that make it truly an important crop on a relative basis in North America.”
Richardson purchases one facility, will expand another
Richardson International Limited announced Jan. 25 that it has entered into an agreement to purchase Great Northern Grain’s grain handling and crop input retail facility in Nampa, Alberta. The sale was expected to close by Feb. 9.
The Nampa grain facility currently has 17,300 tonnes of storage capacity, a full cleaning line for wheat and canola and a 52-car spot on the CN rail line. The facility also has an 8,400-square-foot crop protection and seed warehouse for retailing crop input products.
This spring, Richardson will add an additional 14,000 tonnes of grain storage and increase the facility’s rail car spot to handle 104-car unit trains. The company will also add fertilizer storage and a 200-tonne per hour blending system. These improvements, which will increase grain handling efficiencies and offer retail fertilizer services, are expected to be complete by fall.
Richardson also announced on Dec. 22 that it is expanding its Richardson Pioneer grain handling facility in Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada to increase grain storage capacity and improve handling efficiencies. Richardson is building an additional 12,000-tonne storage facility with a full workhouse and a brand new office to complement its existing elevator in Estevan. The total storage capacity at the facility will increase to over 24,000 tonnes.
The Estevan expansion will increase shipping capacity to 50,000 bushels per hour and expand to a 112-car spot for shipping. A full cleaning line for wheat and canola will also be built at the new facility. FWS will begin construction in early 2012 and the project is expected to be complete by the spring of 2013. Richardson Pioneer’s Estevan facility will remain fully operational throughout the
About Richardson International
Richardson International has served farmers for a century and a half through its network of Richardson Pioneer grain elevators and crop input facilities across Western Canada. A worldwide handler and merchandiser of all major Canadian-grown grains and oilseeds, Richardson is recognized as a global leader in agriculture and food processing. The company is actively involved in all aspects of the agriculture cycle, from research and development to developing end-use products for customers in international markets. Headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Richardson has been recognized as one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies.
With one of Western Canada’s largest networks of grain-handling and crop production facilities, Richardson Pioneer provides farmers with agronomic information and advice, seed, crop protection products, fertilizer and grain marketing. Farmers rely on Richardson’s expertise to guide them through the entire production cycle — planning, planting, growing, harvesting and merchandising.
Richardson Oilseed Limited, a division of Richardson International, is one of the largest canola oil processors in the world. It is Canada’s oldest and largest fully-integrated crushing, refining, processing and packaging operations. As the first company in the world to market canola oil, Richardson has more than 50 years of specialized experience in the production of canola-based products. From seed crushing to oil extraction and refinement, Richardson Oilseed takes canola from the field and transforms it for use in a wide array of value-added products.
Through its canola crushing and processing division, Richardson produces bulk canola oils, feeds and value-added products for worldwide commercial and consumer use.
Richardson Oilseed’s packaged product division is recognized as an innovative manufacturer of canola-based oils, margarines and shortenings, supplying retail, food service, food manufacturers and industrial bakeries worldwide.