Innovative Quebec meat processor turns disaster into opportunity to grow its upscale product range with advanced vacuum skin-forming technologies
Sometimes a fresh new start is what a company needs to rediscover its market mojo—even if that means starting totally from scratch.
For Henryville, Que.-based Viandes VP Meats, that rejuvenation process could not have commenced under more troubling and disastrous circumstances—namely a devastating fire that completely destroyed what was at the time a spanking-new, state-of-the-art, 45,000-square-foot production plant, freshly certified as a federal facility by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to enable the company to expand its markets outside of Quebec to other Canadian provinces.
“At that time we were only able to sell our products within the Province of Quebec due to our [former] facility’s certification,” company president Guy Paquette told Canadian Packaging in a recent interview, referring to the company’s original, 10,000-square-foot production plant that was already running at full capacity, offering virtually no room to grow for a business that clearly had its sights on expanding its marketing reach in
a major way.
Originally founded in 1985 by four Paquette brothers—Guy, Robert, Jacques and Mario—the upstart company was in many ways the siblings’ way of paying tribute to their father: a self-employed professional butcher who eventually expanded his craft into a successful grocery store enterprise.
With business going briskly over the years, the company relocated a couple of times to accommodate growing volumes, making a fateful decision to construct a brand new building from which it could proficiently serve the entire Canadian market and beyond.
“Since we wanted to expand across Canada, we simply had no choice but to construct ourselves a new facility that would allow us to not only increase our capacity, but also our market base and reach,” Paquette relates, recalling the massive fire on May 7, 2009, which gutted the entire facility just prior to its official opening.
“We were lucky that no production had begun at the facility at that time, and that no staff were inside,” states Paquette. “The only thing we could do after getting over the shock was to start building again.”
And much along the lines of the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes, build again they did—constructing a brand new greenfield, $16-million facility over about 10 months to restart the company’s production in late 2010, according to Paquette.
Currently employing 85 full-time people, the 82,000-square-foot, fully HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points)-certified building is not only an impressive physical structure—housing elaborate processing equipment used to turn over 30,000 kilograms of meat per week into a broad range of value-added beef, pork, chicken and veal products—but it is also a showcase of environmental manufacturing sustainability, according to Paquette.
“When the fire completely destroyed our plant, we didn’t want to simply rebuild—we wanted to redesign it and make it into an environmentally-friendly facility that everyone could be proud of,” states Paquette, complimenting the phenomenal architectural work turned in by Michel Pérusse Architecte during the design and construction stages.
“We tried to examine every detail of the building to see if we could improve the quality of the workplace while simultaneously bolster the building’s energy performance.”