This story is part of the agri-food sector series.
To learn more about export opportunities for companies in this sector, please also read Growing global population brings huge export opportunities for Canada.
Wonder what it takes to grow a globally successful food and nutrition business? Just ask Saskatoon’s Bioriginal. The world-leading supplier of nutritional solutions to the food and nutraceutical industries does it everyday, literally from the ground up.
Founded more than 20 years ago, Bioriginal has carved out a niche for itself by combining globally sourced ingredients ranging from hempseeds and flaxseeds to coconut to krill oil, to create innovative and efficacious solutions for food makers around the world.
Among its longtime biggest sellers are omega products, which provide a wide variety of health benefits ranging from heart, cognitive and skin to joint and inflammation benefits.
“By developing proprietary systems, we provide customized turn-key solutions for our customers that help them compete in a highly-competitive space,” says Bioriginal president Joe Vidal.
Bioriginal’s biggest market is the U.S., but the company exports around the world and has facilities throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia.
The company’s growth and market share have been fuelled by a commitment to working directly with the producers of the source material.
“In 1993, we started building relationships with our borage growers – providing them high quality borage seeds, offering advice during the growing season to improve their crops, and then buying back the seed after harvest to ensure only the highest quality seeds were used the following season,” says, Vidal. “More than 20 years later, we still use this closed-loop production system with our borage seed, allowing us to control the quality and supply of this ingredient from seed to product.”
Bioriginal regularly visits and audits its producers both to maintain relationships and ensure best practices are utilized.
“Our vertically-integrated supply chain allows us to offer traceability, transparency and control over our ingredients and products, from sea and soil to oil,” Vidal adds. “More than just control over the quality and supply of our ingredients, these long-term relationships throughout the supply chain give us early insight and knowledge into the industry and the supply situation of nutritional ingredients.”
In an industry heavily dependent on external and uncontrollable supply factors, it also gives Bioriginal the ability to anticipate future trends and supply and demand fluctuations which, in turn, enable the company to protect its customers’ businesses by providing longer-term price stability and supply.
What isn’t necessarily stable are global market conditions. With fluctuating demand, global competition and different regulations, exporting can sometimes be a maze.
“Each market is very different, including the regulations, but also in terms of customer expectations,” says Vidal. “Don’t presume that our standards and expectations are the same as their standards may be. Proactively ask questions to find out what they are looking for. What might seem like a small detail to you, may be a significant point to your customer or their market.”
That’s why doing your homework is crucial to being successful, he adds.
“It’s critical to take the time to learn about the market – what the market wants and what it values, its current state, and how you can meet a gap or need,” Vidal says. “If you export you have to be open to new concepts of how business is done. You must be creative and open-minded; take a global view.”
Bioriginal’s global outlook includes expanding further into India and China. Both markets are still in relative infancy in terms of their population’s awareness of the health benefits of Biorginal’s key products.
“But we have seen this start to shift in recent years as awareness of healthy diets and supplements grows, creating an ideal opportunity to enter these markets positioned as a global nutritional solutions expert,” Vidal says.
Sheer hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit woven throughout the company’s corporate culture have also contributed to the firm’s success.
“We have a passion for making peoples’ lives healthier as well as the drive and motivation to give the best to our customers and if something doesn’t go as planned, to always make it right,” Vidal says. “Our founding principles: ‘improving people’s health and the well-being of farmers,’ in large part, still drives what we do and how we do it today.”
He adds: “In our business it is not just about the product it is about the people. Anybody can buy products around world, but you need the right people – with the right skills and experience – to put the formulas together, to understand the market, to understand the health impacts and to put it all together to fit the needs of our customers and consumers.”