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The coronavirus pandemic raised concerns about food security and supply chains, yet Sunrise Foods International experienced double-digit growth.iStockPhoto / Getty Images

When the coronavirus pandemic struck in March of 2020, it posed a challenge to food supply chains across the globe. Sunrise Foods International, a Saskatoon-based supplier of grains and other agri-food ingredients, was among those companies concerned about the potential impacts of this world-changing event.

“With the onset of the pandemic, like any industry, we were concerned about health and safety implications as well as logistics,” says Jake Neufeld, CEO of Sunrise Foods. “In the wake of global travel bans, we didn’t know initially how food supply chains would be affected.”

Sunrise Foods sources raw and semi-processed agricultural commodities and ingredients from a global network of producers and suppliers for delivery to customers around the world. The vast majority of the products, over 90 per cent, are certified organic.

The size and strength of its distribution network gave Sunrise Foods the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances, says Mr. Neufeld. Increased demand for consumer goods in the U.S., for example, led to congestion at ports and delays in loading and unloading of container ships. “Fortunately, as one of the largest importers of organic products into the U.S., we could move some products that might otherwise have gone onto containers to other types of vessels.”

In fact, Sunrise Foods has experienced double-digit growth since the onset of the pandemic, fuelled in part by the growth in demand for organic food. With restaurant lockdowns, consumers were buying more of their own food to prepare meals at home.

“Organic food has greater market share in grocery stores, and the shift to food retail helped organic demand,” Mr. Neufeld explains. “There could also be some underlying interest in healthy eating contributing to demand, at a time when people’s health is at the forefront of their minds.”

He credits the company’s base of producers for their support in helping to meet the rising demand.

Sunrise Foods was also determined to preserve reliability and continuity of supply, despite some logistical challenges, he adds. “Our goal is always to ensure customers never run out of product even if that means higher costs for us. Combined with our global supply base, our ability to maintain that continuity has not been compromised.”

Upholding the organic integrity of the supply chain has been a critical component of Sunrise Foods’ growth, Mr. Neufeld says. The company is an early adopter of the Organic Trade Association’s Fraud Prevention Solutions Program and is launching its new organic integrity and fraud solutions plan this fall.

“What sets us apart is that we have invested significantly in our compliance department, and one of our approaches is to use North American certifiers to certify our foreign operations,” says Mr. Neufeld. “Since we are not growing the product ourselves, we need to have best-in-class processes in place to verify that organic standards are met along the supply chain.”

“These efforts stem from the recognition that verifying compliance is essential for a well-functioning organic supply chain,” says Miles McEvoy, Sunrise’s organic adviser and former deputy administrator of USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP).

“Millions of consumers around the world rely on the veracity of the certification and the control system that ensure organic integrity from the farm to the market,” he says. “And thousands of farmers and handlers also depend on truthfulness and transparency in the marketplace.”

By taking a leadership role, Sunrise is helping to ensure organic standards are upheld by everyone – from farmers and food processors to handlers and distributors, Mr. McEvoy adds.

Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA). The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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