Brad Duggan (left)

Brad Duggan (left)

Rogers Foods expands eastward

Rogers Foods introduces new packaging to aid in its expansion to eastern province markets.

It’s hard to imagine anything earth-shattering about porridge.

Maybe that’s because it has been a staple food for so many people for so long.

For most, porridge is simply a no-nonsense breakfast choice, something that requires boiled water and not much else. But it gets little fanfare considering the nutritional benefits it offers (research has shown it lowers blood cholesterol due to its soluble fibre content).

Rogers Foods, in Armstrong, is doing its part to put porridge, along with its other hot cereals, back in the limelight. Well, at least when it comes to grocery shelves.

Thanks to a simple re-design of its packaging, Rogers is ready to expand distribution from Western Canada to include the eastern provinces as well.

By the spring of 2014, Brad Duggan, Rogers’ national sales manager, expects the products will be carried by almost every major retail banner across the country.

Duggan, who works out of Rogers’ Burnaby-based corporate office, said the reason behind the re-design was twofold. First, by switching from the old pillow packs to a self-standing design, consumers are more likely to notice it.

“We’ll now have a billboard effect as our products stand up on the shelf,” said Duggan, who notes the packages are also re-sealable for increased storage life and added convenience.

“Consumers can read what the brand is and read the ingredients and the weight.”

The other change is a reduction in the size of the package (from 1.35 kilograms down to 1 kilogram), so as to better fit on the smaller shelves used by the majority of grocery stores. Duggan said there will be a corresponding lowering of price. He expects the 1kg bags will sell for less than $4.

“It (new size) increases our opportunity right across Canada,” said Duggan. “Western Canada represent 33 to 35 per cent of the population. So really, we have left behind 65 per cent. With this new packaging, we expect to go coast to coast.”

To accommodate the changes, Rogers recently upgraded its 35-year-old packing system at the Armstrong plant.

President Vic Bell said after considering other options, the decision to make the capital investment was the best way forward.

“We found that by having the machine here, we could beat outsourcing,” said Bell, adding that contracting out production would also mean a loss of control over quality. “The reality is we’re doing eight different products on this machine, and to outsource eight different products it would be difficult.”

The new production unit arrived at the end of June, and while Rogers is still working out a few bugs in the process, Bell said it is already showing great promise. Fully operational, the U.S.-built machine will produce 40 bags per minute.

Rogers is packaging four hot cereals and four baking cereals in the new bags. Included in the hot cereal line are large flake oats, porridge oats, steel-cut porridge oat blend and porridge oat ancient grain blend.

The baking lineup includes nine grain cereal, oat bran, wheat bran and wheat germ.

To encourage consumers, Rogers is printing recipes on the packaging to show the different ways the product can be used.

Bell said the expansion, combined with increasing consumer awareness of healthy food options, make this an exciting time for the 62-year-old company, which employs a staff of 108 (55 at the Armstrong plant).

“It’s exciting for us because for the first time we are seeing real interest in our hot cereals and oat-based products.”

Added Duggan: “We’re getting a great response in Eastern Canada. We were having success in the brand even with the pillow packs, so it shows the strength of the product.”