Everspring Farms Ltd

New opportunities in functional foods sprouting up for Ontario producer
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Forrest Lancaster

The functional foods and beverages market is a multibillion dollar industry and it’s expanding every year as consumers search for more bang for nutritional buck. Ontario-based Everspring Farms Ltd (Everspring) has been well ahead of the demand curve in the functional foods sector. Interest in Everspring’s sprouted grain products has sparked significant expansion for the family-owned business in the last couple of years.

“We have noticed a trend in consumers wanting more nutritious and less processed foods,” shares Dianne Donaldson, the owner’s daughter and the Everspring’s quality assurance and product development manager. “About 60 percent of our sprouted grain customers want organic over conventional. By volume, our most popular is sprouted wheat. Flax, chia and quinoa are also popular due to their health benefits. It gives the baker the opportunity to add a healthy complexity to traditional recipes.

Using the ancient practice of sprouting grains and seeds to produce functional foods ripe with health benefits, such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, Everspring moved into a recently renovated, state-of-the-art, 75,000-square-foot plant. Adding value to a wide range of primary agricultural commodities is now Everspring’s passion, but its story begins on the farm.

Respected roots

Everspring’s diversified agricultural-food business started as a hobby in 1985 for co-founders Dale and Marianne Donaldson. “My background and my wife, Marianne’s, are in farming,” shares Dale Donaldson, president of Everspring. “We started the operation with a flock of 200 geese in 1985.”

The Donaldsons stumbled into sprouted grains in search of an antibiotic-free, all-natural poultry feed for the farm’s ducks and geese. In 1991, Everspring officially incorporated and started to venture into the health food arena.

Today, located in Ilderton and Seaforth, Ontario, the farm still has an alliance with a network of breeder farms and produces geese and ducks of several breeds in a natural and bio-secure environment.

Everspring has its own processing plant, employing 20 people and supplying 100 percent natural products such as Muscovy Duck, marinated duck breast, Pekin Duck and more to restaurants and gourmet food stores and fresh markets throughout Ontario. “We’ve been doing the poultry part for more than 20 years,” shares Donaldson. “But more recently, the health-food aspect of our business is growing substantially. We’ve become a producer of our own retail brands of sprouted grains, pulses and seeds, as well as supplying functional ingredients to a wide range of companies with similar goals.”

The farm meets the functional-foods field

Using technology and emerging research, Everspring has emerged as a major player in the functional foods sector producing under license patented SmartGrain, a sprouted flaxseed product with omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA ingrained into the seed through the sprouting process. Everspring’s organic grains and seeds are sprouted for 24 to 48 hours, after which they are dried. Drying stabilizes all of the benefits of the ancient sprouting process and also ensures a longer shelf life. After the drying stage, the grains or seeds are left whole or are milled into a flour product.

“These products are considered more digestible, especially for people with wheat-based intolerances,” explains Donaldson. This is because seed germination creates a high concentration of starch degrading enzymes that convert difficult-to-digest starch molecules into vegetable sugar or glucose, which is more easily assimilated into the digestive system.

Sprouting also results in the spontaneous formation of digestive-friendly lactobacillus bacteria, more commonly known as probiotics, which aid in the digestion of all foods. Aside from digestive benefits, sprouting seeds also increases vitamin levels and the antioxidant capacity.

Packing a value-added punch

At the end of the day, Donaldson says it’s about adding value for conscious consumers. “Our business exists to help people improve their lives through the food they eat – that’s the idea we’re trying to bring to life,” he ensures.

Everspring is also packing up more value for private label clients as a one stop shop for product development and production needs, assisting clients from product development right through packaging and shipping. The company’s production and packaging facility in Seaforth is certified HACCP, kosher and organic, offering custom sprouting, milling and sifting, specialty blending, single-serve pouches, retail and bulk packaging.

“The greatest things out there come from people with a vision to bring to life new ideas and products,” shares Donaldson, who says he enjoys the creative process of product development the most. “We’re keeping this creative spirit alive.”

Donaldson says he sees Eversprings’ creative vision and drive to add value taking off outside of Ontario and into the larger U.S. market. “There are some major players interested in what we’re doing,” he reveals.

Right now, there are opportunities sprouting up across the board for Everspring Farms Ltd., as the family-owned company continues to achieve great gains in functional foods.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Buckhorn Canada, Inc.