As the popularity of plant-based foods grows, so, too, do the retail opportunities for food manufacturers. Entrepreneurs are looking for new and often innovative partnerships with distributors across Canada, and sometimes over it.
Three Farmers has spent the past several years building a positive reputation for their plant-protein snacks through retail sales throughout North America. They’ve learned the value of an innovative and collaborative partnership throughout this process, both for the development of their products and their distribution. So when the opportunity to partner with Porter Airlines arose, the team at Three Farmers jumped at it.
“Porter is a great supporter of Canadian-made products,” Founder and CEO of Three Farmers Natasha Vandenhurk said. “They want to create a unique and quality experience for their passengers, and so they think outside of the box when it comes to the partnerships they create with their vendors.”
Announced in January 2023, the partnership between Three Farmers and Porter Airlines puts Three Farmers’ zesty cheddar fava bean snack packets on flights throughout Canada and the United States. Created at a special size for the airline, at 23 grams, it gives travelers a chance to sample the plant-protein-packed snack before purchasing it at home.
So far, the reception from travelers has been positive.
“The response has been great! We are already in the works to create more variety by offering new flavours later this year,” Vandenhurk said. “These snacks are whole roasted bean snacks, meaning they are minimally processed and you are actually consuming the whole bean with all of the nutrients intact. So they are high protein, high fibre, very low fat and they taste amazing.”
This new partnership is the first of what the Three Farmers team hopes will be many more to come. While they’ve already been distributing their products in several retail locations throughout North America, including Costco, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods Market and Loblaws, they’re hoping to expand their footprint in terms of both geographic and grocery chain footprint. Their overall goal, Vandenhurk said, is to make bean-based snacking mainstream and available to all households across North America.
Doing so requires strong partnerships, and a willingness to collaborate. While this involves expanding and strengthening distribution channels, it also means taking on new innovation challenges.
“You need to remain open-minded about the opportunities, listen to your customer and find ways to deliver on the need that they have. And stay creative; often the first iteration or concept that is suggested is not the final one that is accepted,” Vandenhurk explained.
Many consumers are looking for easy ways to add sources of plant protein into their diets, and snacks such as Three Farmers’ roasted fava beans, lentils and chickpeas are one way they can do so. The company’s partnership with Porter Airlines, and their expanding footprint in retail stores throughout North America, is further proof that Canada’s plant-based food and ingredients sector is growing, and acts as encouragement for other companies across the country to pursue innovative partnerships of their own.