Superior Foods, a food distributor and meat processor based in Thunder Bay, is carving a niche for itself as a sustainable partner in the regional food system in Northwestern Ontario. With owner Luis Alves at the helm, the company’s focus is directed at local procurement.
Alves entered the scene in 2007 after seizing an opportunity to merge his existing distributorship called LA Quality Foods with an established meat, poultry and grocery wholesaler whose long-time owner was retiring. A loan from the Northwestern Ontario Community Futures Development Corporation Investment Pool, led by Thunder Bay Ventures, helped him seal the deal and ultimately led to the creation of Superior Foods.
“Not only did Thunder Bay Ventures provide crucial financial assistance that helped me secure financing from the bank,” revealed Alves, “but the general manager has served as a mentor, helping me every step of the way.”
Thunder Bay Ventures is one of 24 Northern Ontario Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs) funded by FedNor. CFDCS offer free business advice and workshops, as well as commercial financing to entrepreneurs and those looking to start a business in its catchment area.
“Supporting Superior Foods was an easy decision as its Local Made Easy Initiative aligns well with our five key priority areas,” stated Royden Potvin, General Manager of Thunder Bay Ventures.
In 2013, Alves approached farmers in the Rainy River District with a plan to offer them a market for their beef while supporting the Rainy River District Regional Abattoir – also a recipient of a Northwestern Ontario Pool investment – with his business. Since then, he has been providing his customers with local options by offering Northwestern Ontario beef alongside national meat products.
In addition, Alves has strived hard to create efficiencies that result in fair prices for farmers and buyers alike. Recognizing that geographic isolation is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in Northern Ontario, Alves has stepped in, reducing farmers’ transportation costs for feed and equipment by sharing loads and making use of backhauls wherever and whenever possible.
“Recently, we negotiated a partnership whereby Canada Malting supplies us with grains that don’t quite meet their requirements, providing them a market for their grain while our farmers get access to a supply of nutritious feed at a discounted rate,” explained Alves. “We run the barley by-product to Rainy River farmers and return with sides of beef making the transportation run more economical. This way, everyone wins.”
Alves said he also has a similar arrangement with the Mennonite community in the Desbarats area. “They grow produce for us and we’ve arranged barley feed for their cattle. It helps bring their prices in line so they are competitive.”
Originally starting with four employees, Alves says that number has jumped to 10 and there could be more once he has completed a 1200 square foot retail space expected to be ready by December 2018. In addition, he’s looking at other means to grow his business, such as processing wild game and adding a smoking facility to produce smoked meats. Finding quality local food at a reasonable price is truly a labour of love for Alves.
Superior Foods is just one of 35 deals that the Northwestern Ontario investment pool partners have financed as of June 30, 2018 during its 13-year history. In all, the pool has invested $15,073,000 which has in turn leveraged more than $111,795,000 from other sources. These investments have supported the creation or maintenance of 195 jobs.
To find out more about realizing your business dream, contact Thunder Bay Ventures at 807-768-6650 or your local Community Futures Development Corporation.