British Columbia food and beverage processors learn to lean

News release

April 25, 2019 - Victoria, British Columbia - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Two British Columbia (B.C.) processing companies providing unique beverage products are among 14 companies that have participated in the B.C. Lean for Food Processors Program, which helps businesses improve production capacity, labour productivity and operating margins. 

The B.C. Lean for Food Processors Program is being delivered to small, medium and large processing companies throughout B.C. The cost-shared program includes three days of formal training for managers and key production staff that focuses on applying lean tools and approaches. This is followed up with two days of on-site training and coaching. 

A wide range of B.C. processing businesses have participated in the B.C. Lean for Food Processors Program, including dairy, pet food, health foods, meal kits and beverages. The companies have ranged in size from three to five employees, to more than 100, and are looking for ways to improve efficiencies in their production processes.

Squamish Water Kefir, brewed by self-described nutrition nerds Sabrina and Kristin, has provided a tasty, fermented drink to its customers since 2015. The primary objective of its lean project was to reduce the bottling time to meet demand. Its improvements included: 

  • reduced bottling time, increased throughput and improved productivity of the process; 
  • eliminating the motion involved in handling the bottles by streamlining of the production process; and
  • establishing clear business goals and increased staff engagement by including them in the problem-solving process.

In Surrey, Route 18 Real Food produces and sells a line of drinking vinegar concentrates from unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Its objective was to scale up production and deal with production waste. Its success included:

  • improved food safety, record keeping and recall programs; and
  • optimized commissary and bottling processes by standardizing their workflow and training staff to improve consistency.

B.C.'s food and beverage processors produce approximately $9 billion worth of food per year, representing 70% of total agrifood revenues. Over 30,000 British Columbians are employed in the food and beverage processing industries.

Funding for the B.C. Lean for Food Processors Program is provided through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial investment that includes $2 billion in cost-shared strategic initiatives delivered by the provinces and territories, and $1 billion for federal programs and services through March 2023.


"Our Government is proud to support British Columbia’s food processing sector through the B.C. Lean for Food Processors Program. This investment provides the knowledge and skills B.C. processing businesses need to improve efficiencies in their production and operations to remain competitive, and ensure their continued growth."

- Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, Marie-Claude Bibeau

"There are more than 2,500 food processing companies in B.C. providing us with some exciting value-added products including, meat, seafood, dairy, fruit and vegetables, wine, beer, soft drinks, condiments and bakery items. These innovative folks do it all. The B.C. Lean for Food Processors Program is a great resource to help our sector streamline efficiencies to remain competitive and ensure their continued made-in-B.C. success stories."

- B.C. Minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham

"Our lean project opened our eyes to how small, specific changes can create huge results in our production facility, streamlining our efficiency and saving money we didn’t even know could be saved. We made changes in our current set up and, even more importantly, are now armed with knowledge and tools to help make decisions as we grow and increase production capacity. This project was a game changer for us."

- Squamish Water Kefir Company Owner, Sabrina Horlyck

"The results from the B.C. Lean for Food Processors Program have been completely unexpected, as they have exceeded our goals and expectations. We have been able to improve our manufacturing, food safety and bottling process, and, at same time streamline our logistics, marketing program and customer service department. The lean processing knowledge has moved us from learned principles to a new company mindset."

- Route 18 Real Food Company Owner, Rhoda Chilcott

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Justine Lesage
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food 
613 404-1168 (cell)

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
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Dave Townsend
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Agriculture
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