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This article was published 1/3/2010 (4348 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It will be the first evidence of a major rebranding and new strategic focus at Granny's Poultry, a Manitoba poultry producer co-operative that has been around for more than 50 years.
"The whole idea is that chicken and turkey are good for you," Jason Wortzman, Granny's new director of marketing and product development, said about the new strategy. "We really want to exploit that and use it as a strong message."
New logos and merchandising are in the works and will likely be introduced during the first half of this year, said chief operating officer Craig Evans, but the process runs much deeper than that.
The 180-member co-op -- representing a little less than 60 per cent of the chicken producers and 100 per cent of the turkey producers in this province -- is not fooling around.
For more than a year it has been working with researchers at the Richardson Centre for Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods at the University of Manitoba to come up with ways to enhance the nutritional properties of Granny's poultry products.
The process will lead to various styles and cuts of poultry infused with flax oil or chicken and turkey that have been fed with a mix of flax seed, boosting heart-health Omega 3 fatty acid levels.
"There is a big focus on health and wellness now," Wortzman said. "It's about more than sheer volume. What we are trying to do is add value to what we do."
In addition to products with added Omega 3 that would receive the Heart & Stroke Foundation's health check, there are other things in the works.
For instance, an investigation is underway to access eggs and potentially start introducing so-called heritage turkeys into the Manitoba market.
Those birds contain historic characteristics not found in the more commercially produced turkey. They take longer to grow and do not have the same proportion of white meat (more popular with North American consumers), but many say they taste better and may have better health characteristics.
Granny's is still researching the niche breed which, not surprisingly, commands much higher prices on the market.
"We could imagine packing these up with dry ice and UPS-ing them all over the place," Evans said.
Helga Wheddon, general manager of Manitoba Turkey Producers, said the 50-plus commercial turkey producers in Manitoba are all for working on new ideas in the industry.
"Turkey producers welcome any change or development in the turkey industry that would result in greater sales and growth in the industry," she said.
Farmers know all about the importance of quality and how to add value.
And as the representative of those producers in the commercial marketplace, Evans said Granny's has a supportive group of owners behind it.
In fact, the presence of the producers themselves might become part of a value-added push at Granny's.
"The fact we are a co-op resonates well with consumers," Evans said. "They are trusting of farmers and they should be.
"We are not a major food manufacturer like Maple Leaf and that plays to our advantage."
Among other things, Granny's is looking at starting to post producer profiles on its website and eventually would like to include coding on all its packaging so consumers can link back to see exactly where the poultry was produced.
If Granny's wants to try to compete head to head with some of those large competitors -- especially outside the friendly confines of Manitoba -- it can't do it with commodity products.
"Granny's is smaller and can move a little faster and maybe get in under the radar screen with higher-value products that address those hot-button consumer issues such as convenience and health and wellness," said Dave Shambrock, executive director of the Manitoba Food Processors Association.
"And Granny's advantage is that it is vertically integrated," Shambrock said. "It represents the producer."
Bird is the word
at Granny's Poultry
Granny's Poultry Co-op is the only turkey processor in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and it ships turkeys across the country. Since the chicken market is more competitive, most of Granny's chicken sales are local, but it does ship some product overseas.
$120 million -- Granny's annual sales
430 -- Number of Granny's employees, including 380 at its Blumenort processing plant and another 50 at its Transcona head office.
180 -- Co-op members, including about 130 chicken producers and 50 turkey producers.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.