Haskapa: From Nothing to National Award Winner
By Larry Martin
It kind of reminds you of the kids’ story, The Little Train That Could! Ten years ago there was no one even dreaming about selling products of the Haskap berry, a few people had the bush in their gardens as ornamentals (I have three in mine, not far from my two Saskatoon berry trees). Hardly anyone had heard of these bushes that are native to northern Japan and Russia.
Then someone with entrepreneurial spirit had an idea that was translated to a vision of what could be, that was translated into a plan. The plan started by planting 11 acres of this berry that looks like a large oblong blueberry and tastes like a cross between blueberries and raspberries. It was said to have great anti-oxidant values.
Haskapa, the company, invested in considerable research to understand the food values, as well as to develop optimal production and freezing practices. Of course, since there was no market for them, the company needed to invest in product development and marketing. Initially, they have come up with jams, relishes, chutneys, and even a Haskap berry gin.
We wrote about them last fall in our newsletter as a potential investment for farmers. Now, they have captured a lot more attention as their marketing plan has been successful in Nova Scotia. They will soon have 140 acres of product that they can use for more products and more geographic reach across the country. They were awarded Food in Canada Magazine’s Leadership Award in its May 2016 issue and it was a top-10 nominee for SIAL’s Product Innovation award in 2015, among many others. Increasingly the products are getting national exposure through articles in newspapers, magazines and television. Even Dr. Oz has featured them!!
The people behind the company obviously provide patient capital as the process to get to where they are has required considerable investment that may not pay off for a few more years. What interests me is the innovative mind-set that took a chance, had a vision and turned it into a well thought-out operating plan.
It’s a great story to watch as the plan unfolds with each marketing step synched with the production step. From my outside perspective someone clearly has done a wonderful job of planning and implementation because it’s very clear how marketing and distribution have been timed to be in step with expanded production.
It’s a story for which the company is to be congratulated.