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Plant-based Pitt Meadows business pivots during pandemic

Naturally Splendid partners with Australian company on bringing meat substitute to Canada
Naturally Splendid employees working at a flow wrapper station at its facility in Pitt Meadows (Special to The News)

Naturally Splendid’s 2020 was not as wonderful as it would have liked.

The plant-based food manufacturer operating out of Pitt Meadows took a hit to their bottom line when COVID-19 changed the way we all live and work.

In March, its managers decided to shut down down the company’s 17,000 square foot facility on Airport Way for two months, while they figured out how to best keep employees safe, and keep the quality of the company’s product high.

At the same time, the market for their nutrition bars started to dry up.

“Good food isn’t cheap, and cheap food isn’t good,” CEO Craig Goodwin said.

“The staple granola, low-end, non-perishable kind of a bar that you could put in your cupboard; those were popular, but the high-end, niche bar market began to retract.”

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Naturally Splendid went from having 70 employees at its facility to just more than 20.

The ten-year-old firm recognized it needed to make some changes.

Seeing the success of products like Beyond Meat, Goodwin said the company saw an opportunity and partnered with an Australian firm to bring Natera Plant Based Foods to Canada.

“In addition to a burger, we offer plant-based Schnitzel, Kiev, ‘fish’, tenders and nuggets just to name a few,” Goodwin said.

Currently Naturally Splendid is importing the product from down under, but it is in the process of developing expansion plans for their manufacturing plant, in order to make the meat alternatives in house.

“We will invest between 1.5 and five million dollars into this facility,” Goodwin said.

“That would create [manufacturing] capacity in excess of 10 tons of product a day.”

He feels confident the new products will lead to long-lasting benefits for Naturally Splendid, as well as those who consume them.

“Plant-based nutrition has never been more popular, and this isn’t a short term trend or even a fad,” he said.

“This is a much-needed trend, and COVID woke us up to this. Everyone’s looking at their health and wellness.”

Naturally Splendid’s CEO also noted consumers are wising up to the ties between irresponsible animal farming and different virus’ spreading around.

“There’s a reason they call it avian flu and swine flu,” he said.

“It’s because that’s where the virus’ originate from.

“Unfortunately a lot of it arises from animal farming, and the conditions in which it’s done.”

The company expects to make a decision on the expansion by the end of January, and Goodwin estimates the new manufacturing lines could be up and running in four months.

For those interested in giving the meat alternatives a try, Meridian Farm Markets are currently carrying the Natera product line, Goodwin pointed out.

“Our products are perfect for the ‘flexitarian’ who is looking to change their diet,” he said.

“Whether it’s for personal health reasons, whether it’s recognizing that the animal processing industry is contributing to negative environmental impact, or whether it’s for ethical reasons, our line is perfectly suited for a person making a transition into that lifestyle.”

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