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Oxford Frozen Foods making $8.54-million capital investment to improve packaging

Oxford Frozen Foods in Cumberland County has grown since its first processing plant opened 50 years ago. The company has expanded several times including an $8.4-million upgrade in 1998.
Oxford Frozen Foods in Cumberland County has grown since its first processing plant opened 51 years ago. The company has expanded several times including an $8.4-million upgrade in 1998. - Contributed

Project being supported with $2.135-million NSBI business development incentive

OXFORD, N.S. —

Oxford Frozen Foods is making a $8.54-million capital investment that will create an improved packaging line to meet increasing demand for export and increase efficiency and production levels.

The company, that last year celebrated its 50th anniversary in Oxford, is receiving a maximum of $2.135-million in innovation rebate through Nova Scotia Business Inc. upon completion of the project that will begin later this year and be completed by the first quarter of 2020.

“It’s about trying to improve our overall quality while also allowing us to put more product through at the same time,” Jordan Burkhardt, director of administration with Oxford Frozen Foods, told the Amherst News on July 17. “It really comes down to creating new markets. This allows us to expand the market for wild blueberries by being able to put more product through.”

The largest producer of wild blueberries in North America, Oxford Frozen Foods also processes and packages carrots and battered products. It’s the world’s largest supplier of quality frozen blueberries.

Burkhardt said Oxford Frozen Foods is working very hard to open new markets for Nova Scotia blueberries as well as its other products. To meet that demand, he said, it has been looking at ways to increase output while being more efficient and effective in its processing capabilities.

Having the option of the business development incentive from NSBI helped with the decision to proceed with its own capital investment

“We’ve been growing and this is an area that had need. By having a rebate program like this available helped the decision to move forward because there is a lot of up front spending with a project of this kind,” he said.

Burkhardt said instead of a new processing line, the project involves new technology within the facility. In certain areas there will be new conveyors, but it’s about improved equipment in the process.

“It will allow us to ship our product in a more effective manner and with higher quality,” he said.

Burkhardt could not say if the project will lead to new jobs at Oxford Frozen Foods, but it will enable the company to remain effective.

“It’s not so much about adding better jobs as it is creating better jobs,” he said. “This enhances the workstation and makes it better for the current employees.”

To be considered for an innovation rebate, a company’s total project cost must be between $2 million and $15 million. An approved rebate is up to 25 per cent against eligible product cost.

The program provides financial incentives on projects that enable companies like Oxford Frozen Foods to increase innovation capacity through private sector capital investments or the adoption of new technologies and business processes.

“NSBI developed the Innovation Rebate Program in consultation with Nova Scotia companies,” NSBI president and CEO Laurel Broten said via email. “They know investing in their business can drive more innovation, capacity, and export competitiveness. But investing a significant amount of capital is not a decision taken lightly, so the innovation rebate helps companies plan financially and make decisions to proceed or proceed more quickly than they otherwise could.”

Broten added NSBI needs to support exporters in order to remain globally competitive.

“We need to continue to support exporters to grow through innovation as they diversify and enter new markets. We must continue to focus on the long-term development and growth of the industry. In the case of Oxford Frozen Foods, the marketplace for wild blueberries is competitive and agri-food is a key sector for targeted growth in the province, so it’s win – win.”

Oxford Frozen Foods employs more than 500 people in Oxford as well as at factories in both Maine and New Brunswick.

Last year, during the company’s 50th birthday celebrations, company CEO John Bragg expressed optimism about the blueberry industry even though the past few years have been tough ones because of a glut of product due to bumper crops and low prices for producers.

Bragg said consumption of blueberries is growing and in the industry, including his company, is working hard to open new markets in the Far East – especially in China.

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