Food co-op purchases organic juice company

The Ontario Natural Food Co-op bought Black River Juice Company as a way to bring more local products to Ontario

Ontario Natural Food Co-op (ONFC) has acquired Black River Juice Company Ltd., the first purchase of this kind for the co-op.

Headquartered in Mississauga, Ont., ONFC is a member-owned and directed wholesaler, distributing more than 4,500 grocery, refrigerated, frozen, bulk and household items to natural and organic retailers. ONFC also produces and distributes a line of locally produced natural and organic products under the Ontario Natural Food Co-op brand.

“We’ve looked at our strategic plan and want to be more proactive in bringing strong local products and brands to the Ontario market,” said Randy Whitteker, general manager of ONFC. “We see opportunities in building a stronger made-in-our-backyard food system, which we think ultimately is the most sustainable and resilient food system.”

Black River is a 25-year-old brand that specializes in premium organic juice. “There is a very strong alignment of cultures between Black River and ONFC, as well as a focus on quality and health,” said Whitteker. “ONFC’s interest in building strong Ontario-based agricultural products is reason why a strong Canadian company with all the tradition of Black River was of interest to us.”

In terms of plans for the juice brand, Whitteker said job No. 1 is getting to understand the juice business. “But ultimately our goal is to strengthen the top line while maintaining and securing a stable base.”

Asked if further acquisitions are part of ONFC’s growth strategy, Whitteker said the first acquisition isn’t necessarily the last. “But at the same time, it’s not really the business that we’re in. In this case, it was just an opportunity that presented itself and that fit with what we’re doing,” he said. “Any future acquisition would have to have a similar strong alignment and fit what we do.”

Black River Juice Company president Keith Wallace will stay on board for the foreseeable future. “We are very pleased that Black River will continue to make quality fruit juices in Ontario with ONFC,” he said in a release. “It is an excellent fit and we take comfort that our brand and product line will reside within a co-operative environment that shares our beliefs.”

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