Challenge: Market development
Solution: Good planning and process improvement
Since Sylvia MacVey took over ownership of G.E. Barbour in 2011, the one constant has been focusing on change. Specializing in tea, nut butters and spices, G.E. Barbour, based in Sussex, New Brunswick, bills themselves as "merchants of flavour".
When MacVey consolidated the ownership of the 150 year-old company six years ago, the biggest challenges were that the company was not well known outside of Atlantic Canada and that it was not prepared to take advantage of emerging global trends. MacVey was able to bring together the right team to develop the right strategic plan for moving the company forward.
"Our research showed that the world was screaming for protein, like that available in the Barbours' nut butter products, says MacVey. We were this little factory in Sussex, and when opportunities started to emerge, people didn't even know we existed."
The company, small by global standards, has found its niche in specialty nut butter products that larger companies weren't interested in producing. Through strategic planning, process improvement and R&D, the company has become versatile and quickly adaptable to new types of products.
One of the first key change the company made was adapting their marketing to get them noticed outside the Maritimes. It invested in new market development and on being where their potential clients were. "Suddenly companies were noticing us, explains MacVey. And when contracts with a retailer, private label company or co-packer came up, we were on their minds."
The growth also prompted the company to look at efficiencies in their manufacturing processes through the implementation of lean initiatives. "Through lean initiatives, we were able to identify the best opportunities and to determine what efficiency processes we should invest in to get the most efficiencies out the other end," adds MacVey.
Early success led to a capacity challenge that also needed to be addressed. Because G.E. Barbour had the right strategic plan and the right investment partners, it was able to introduce new equipment and technologies very quickly. And not only did efficiencies allow the company to quadruple in output, it has also led to increased jobs for people in Sussex.
"A few years ago, no one was putting flax seed or quinoa in peanut butter, says MacVey. Our competitive advantage comes from the fact that we are able to offer our clients a continuous flow process; most companies in the sector offer specialty products through batch processing."
MacVey credits the significant and continued growth to continuously looking forward, to being on the right market path and to being able to access the financial and human capital necessary to meet opportunities head on. "When you get comfortable, you die. The world is changing so fast. What you used to know just doesn't count anymore. If you're not willing to change, if you're not willing to invest in where the market is going, then you will not survive."
Accessing financial capital is something the Government of Canada recognizes as critical to building, growing and scaling a business. With support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the government is helping G.E. Barbour gain further efficiencies and pursue growth opportunities. The investment of over $2 million to date, most recently for nut butter filling equipment, is helping G.E. Barbour continue to increase capacity and enhance its production line.
G.E. Barbour is a prime example of how innovation and resourcefulness fuel Atlantic Canada's economy, at home and beyond.
For more information on programs and services available to businesses in Atlantic Canada call 1-800-561-7862 or go to canada.ca/acoa.