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Kinnikinnick Foods expanding thanks to government investment

A local specialized food producer is about to expand, thanks to a major government investment. This week the federal government announced it is loaning Kinnikinnick Foods $1 million.

The Edmonton-based company, which is already one of the largest of its kind in the world, specializes in gluten free products for people who have celiac disease.

“If you’re going to be a celiac, Edmonton is a good place to be a celiac,” said Don Briggs, President, Canadian Celiac Association Edmonton Chapter.

Briggs says Edmonton, and particularly Kinnikinnick Foods, has a lot of options for gluten free products.

After a year of research, Kinnikinnick Foods has developed a new line of soft bread and buns that is unlike any product the company has produced before.

The President and CEO of Kinnikinnick Foods says the products have better taste and texture and are a bit less expensive than previous products.

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“It used to be that you really had to be celiac to eat some of the food, it wasn’t that wonderful,” Jerry Bigam said adding, “The new bread and buns that we’ve got now, they’ve got great crossover. They just taste good, they’ve got a great nutritional deck.”

“You don’t often hit a home run but, occasionally you do and we believe this is what you would consider to be a home run.”

Bigam says the products require specialized equipment to produce. The money from the government will be spent on that equipment.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that we get our productivity up so that we can produce enough of the product to meet the demand.”

And the demand in Edmonton is growing. According to Health Canada, about one percent of the population in Canada suffers from celiac disease.

“But, for every person diagnosed, they say there are 97 that aren’t diagnosed,” said Briggs.

The immune system of a person with celiac disease reacts negatively to the presence of gluten in the diet, causing damage to the inner lining of the small bowel which reduces the person’s ability to absorb nutrients such as iron, folate, calcium, Vitamin D, protein, fat and other food compounds.

“I’m all for Kinnikinnick getting a government grant. In the last year they have improved their products just unbelievably. People just can’t wait to get into the store,” said Briggs.

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Bigam says the government money will be huge for the expansion and growth of Kinnikinnick Foods.

“You want your brand to be at the top as quick as possible, and that’s what will happen with this capital investment,” he said adding, “We’re probably looking at a minimum 25 percent growth this year, with a continued growth in that range for the foreseeable future.”

He says that growth will primarily come from the sales of the new soft breads and buns, and overall things are looking great for the company.

“In the past three weeks we’ve added just under 3,000 new stores in terms of stores that are carrying the new soft bread products. That’s pretty remarkable.”

Bigam says all of the new equipment should be installed within the next month. Once that happens, Kinnikinnick Foods will be producing 20,000 loaves of bread and 40,000 buns per day.

With files from Ross Neitz.

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