Craft processor – farmer partnership to develop value-added local food

product-webBy Lilian Schaer for AgInnovation Ontario

Guelph – A small southern Ontario craft food processor is offering fruit and vegetable farmers the chance to add value to their crops.

Rootham Gourmet from Guelph is well known for its award-winning brand of jams, jellies, chutneys, sauces and dressings made with local ingredients that they’ve been marketing for over 30 years.

Now, with Growing Forward 2 support for a new state-of-the-art packaging line, they’re expanding to add co-packing services for Ontario farmers who have surplus produce, or are looking for a value-added product to sell in on-farm stores or at farmers’ markets.

“We already work with restaurants, entrepreneurs and small food manufacturers but now we can also help farmers to have specialty food products made specifically for their business to help diversify their product lines,” explains owner Will Rootham-Roberts.

“We make all our batches by hand and specialize in high quality, local production. Our focus is on all-natural, gluten-free Canadian products made with seasonal and local ingredients,” he adds.

Rootham’s production is limited to small batches of 75 to 180 litres of product packaged in bulk or jar sizes for either food service or retail sales. That’s ideal for seasonal sales or for small product runs to use up surplus fruits or vegetables that can’t be sold on the fresh market.

And unusual for a small craft processor, the Rootham facility is federally inspected, meaning products they manufacture can be marketed beyond just farmers’ markets or on-farm stores and into retail outlets in Ontario, across Canada and even internationally.

They’ll handle everything from recipe development to product labelling and nutritional information, details many farm businesses have little experience with and even less time to try to sort out but are forced to pay attention to if they get into the food business, Rootham-Roberts says.on-truck-web“You can come to us with your own recipe for production – maybe you have a great sauce that’s been in your family for generations and we can help standardize your production and make sure your product meets all food safety requirements,” he says. “We can also develop recipes for customers who are looking to find a home for surplus produce or a way to offer more products in the off-season.”

Rootham also meets strict food safety and traceability standards that home-based production can’t offer but are critical should there ever be a quality or safety problem with a product.

And for farmers seeking to target niche specialty food markets, they can offer specialized production to meet gluten-free, nut-free or sugar-free needs.

“With over 30 years in the business with our own line of products, we have a good understanding of the marketplace and what customers are looking for, and that’s expertise we can use to help farmers grow their own businesses too,” says Rootham-Roberts.

The project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

Photos source: Rootham Gourmet