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Collaborating on food products

Co-op is more than a name.

Our name identifies us as a co-operative, an association of people with common interests who jointly own and democratically control the business.

For Co-op Week Oct. 16 to 22, we wanted to feature co-operation, including other co-operatives we work with to provide you with quality food products from Western Canada, Canada and around the world.

Local is sweet

Co-op sources its honey from western Canadian-based Bee Maid Honey, the only packer in Canada to source 100 per cent of its honey from its owners. Established in 1954, Bee Maid is owned by the Manitoba Cooperative Honey Producers and Alberta Honey Producers Co-operative Limited, which together have over 300 members, large and small, across the three Prairie provinces.

“Our co-operative structure means that we are able to truly trace our honey from our beekeeper’s hives to the store shelves,” said Bee Maid’s Shannon Bowden. “Our members tell us that being a member allows them to concentrate on keeping bees, while somebody else markets the honey for them.”

Some 60,000 honeybees visiting two million flowers are required to produce 450 grams, or one pound, of honey. Last year, Bee Maid produced 17 million pounds of honey. Overall, the Prairies produce 80 per cent of Canada’s total honey crop.

“Western Canada—with its wide open spaces, fresh clean air, rich fertile soil and sun-drenched summers—provides the perfect conditions for bountiful clover, alfalfa and canola crops for bees to forage and produce the mild, white Canadian honey prized for its taste.”

Co-operation is cool

Nova Scotia-based Scotsburn Co-operative Services produces Co-op Gold premium ice cream products. Formed in the spring of 1900, the co-operative began as a creamery – branching into animal feed, oil delivery and hardware for a time – but has now focused on making quality ice cream and ice cream novelties.

“What makes us unique is that we use our shareholders’ product, so we’re more integrated,” said John MacKay, vice-president of export sales and marketing, of the 100 dairy producers across Atlantic Canada who make up the majority of the co-operative’s membership. “We’re really well known for the quality of our product and that comes from the culture within our co-op.”

Scotsburn produces 18 ice cream flavours for Co-op in Western Canada, but MacKay said the company produces a couple hundred flavours and over 500 products. He added the most popular flavours continue to be old standards like vanilla, followed by maple walnut and cookies and cream; however newer flavours like chocolate peanut butter and strawberry and cream are making headway.

Co-op also collaborated with Scotsburn to produce its Saskatoon Berry Ice Cream, a finalist for the 2013 Retail Council of Canada’s Grand Prix New Product Awards.

Coffee is collaborative

Everything is new about Co-op’s coffee products: new name, new beans and new packaging. We have worked collaboratively with our roaster and suppliers to create a new line of 10 varieties from Central America, South America and Africa to create the new Co-operative Coffee label.

The Nicaragua beans are fair trade and organic, sourced from a co-operative in the northern part of the country. Reyna del Café, translated to Queen of Coffee, a co-operative of 169 members. This co-operative hosts member workshops, improves milling services and has a strong sense for environmental stewardship.

The full line of Co-operative Coffee is now available in Co-op Food Stores in Western Canada.

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