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BC Frozen Foods Ltd.: A Leader in Quality and Food Safety
British Columbia Frozen Foods Ltd., d.b.a. BC Frozen Foods Ltd. (BCFF), has been processing and packing competitively priced high-quality frozen fruits and vegetables for bulk, industrial, food service and retail customers since 1988, with a client base that extends from Canada to the Pacific Rim, Europe, Australia and Asia. Throughout the company’s growth, the BCFF team has stressed the importance of getting produce from field to freezer as quickly as possible to retain vital nutrients and seal in the freshest seasonal flavors. To assure this product integrity the Mission, British Columbia-based company works with growers within a close proximity to its Fraser Valley processing plant, ensuring that the fertile region’s tastiest treats can be expediently individually quick frozen in a food-safe environment for year-round enjoyment.
These services are delivered with the dedication to food safety and product quality that comes best from a family-run company. “We built our business on quality and have grown it with service and food safety,” admits Yasir Shah, general manager of BCFF.
BCFF is based out of the same plant the Shah family took over almost 25 years ago, though a second facility is currently being built to help the company expand. In its early days BCFF specialized in bulk processing and distribution, but over the last 15 years market factors have propelled the team to focus on expanding into the retail and value-added sectors.
Today BCFF processes a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Items that do not grow locally are sourced from suppliers who undergo a comprehensive approval process to ensure only the safest, high-quality fruits and vegetables arrive at the plant. Once they arrive samples are inspected and graded, and microbiology tests are conducted on them to validate supplier certificates of analysis. In the value-added sector BCFF produces signature vegetable and fruit blends like stir-fry vegetables and triple berry blends to petite peas and smoothie blends.
Additionally, BCFF has developed strong client relationships through reciprocal trade agreements, which enable the company to stock additional items and fill product demand gaps outside its own operations. “We deal directly with our customers and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Shah. “It has allowed us to interact directly with our customers and suppliers and receive their direct feedback on our products.”
In turn, clients can rely on us for prompt service, accurate answers, accountability, reliable market information and quick-to-market initiatives when required. “We are 100-percent transparent with our customers and this is the only way I will do business,” says Shah. “Our customers respect our honesty, hard work, and integrity.”
Furthermore, BCFF oversees seed propagation, crop development and harvesting of its various vegetables. “We have been investing heavily into the farming side of the operation for increased product security as the amount of land we require for production increases,” expands Shah. BCFF works very closely with growers during field selection and preparation, planting, fertilizing, growth monitoring, pesticide application, irrigation and harvest scheduling, and once harvested the BCFF team moves quickly to harvest and transport the product to the processing facility. In fact, over 90 percent of BCFF’s contracted farms are located with a 50-mile radius of BCFF headquarters, which facilitates the company’s involvement in the field management process. The company constantly monitors the maturity, moisture, weed control and tenderness of its fields.
Raising the Bar
Through the course of its operations BCFF maintains a strict first-in-first-out policy so that produce is processed and flash frozen to a subzero temperature as quickly as possible for repacking or bulk distribution. Behind the scenes the BCFF team is continually working toward greater food safety standards. “In the food safety world, status quo is never good enough, so we’re always improving our quality assurance programs and product integrity to ensure our customers only the finest, safest products,” says Shah. “Protection of my customers’ brands is of the utmost importance to our organization.”
Many of BCFF’s clients do business internationally and BCFF has invested heavily in technologies and systems to propel its food safety ratings to the top. BCFF is one of the only fruits and vegetable processing plants in the country equipped with x-ray technology on the production line to detect contaminants and nonedible particulates with greatest precision.
Every product is assigned a lot code upon entering the facility and BCFF takes a proactive and comprehensive approach to quality assurance and food safety. The BCFF facility holds several certifications, including a Canadian Food Inspection Agency Recognized HACCP facility, Oregon Tilth Organic Certified, Kosher Certified and Aib Superior Plant, and the company is currently undergoing its BRC certification. In addition, most of the company’s growers are now Canada Gap Certified with a plan to have all its growers certified by the end of 2013.
“We strive to exceed our customers’ expectations continuously and we are moving to becoming one of the few processors in the country that are certified through the BRC Global Standards,” expands Shah. “We’re very focused on becoming a leader in technology and food safety as we wish to be best-in-class.”
Technology for Tomorrow
More recently BCFF has been finalizing the construction of a significant state-of-the-art addition to its processing facility. The new space was originally going to be constructed and later fitted with new equipment, but high customer demand forced the company to work backward and purchase and install the new equipment ahead of completion.
When completed in the early part of summer 2012, the additional space will house all of BCFF’s cold-storage and re-packaging operations with seasonal processing still operating in the original facility. Even with the added cold-storage space, though, BCFF will only have enough room for day-to-day operations and finished goods, leaving bulk commodity storage to BCFF’s network of cold-storage partners.
“We have been very cautious about our growth, but the new facility will be a really important milestone for us,” asserts Shah. “In the past 10 years we have seen some significant growth due to our strong relationships with our customers, suppliers, bank, and our employees.” BCFF chooses to celebrate those relationships annually with a Supplier and Employee Appreciation Day, to recognize those employees and strategic partners who have gone above and beyond to help BCFF grow.
In the next two years BCFF will settle into its new home and stay ahead of food safety and quality assurance standards with the latest technologies and systems, while growing its products in beautiful British Columbia. BC Frozen Foods Ltd. is poised to find significant growth ahead and the new production capacity will solidify the company’s role as an industry leader providing the best tasty frozen fruits and vegetables the marketplace has to offer.