About Sprague Foods
We are an independent, family-run Canadian cannery, preserving quality foods since 1925.
We produce high-quality can and jar food products, including beans, soups, sauces, beverages, and desserts. We specialize in making healthy, organic, vegetarian ready-to-eat dishes.
We have an expanding line of products under our Sprague brand. We also produce for a select group of private labels. We distribute our products throughout Canada, the US, and Japan, however, we are best known locally.
We are committed to sourcing high-quality ingredients, locally where possible, with a focus on health and nutrition. We understand that great products require great ingredients, which is why we only use simple and natural kitchen-ingredients in ours.
All of our cans and jars are pressure-cooked for preservation in 100% BPA-free packaging.
Our organic products contain no preservatives or additives, ever.
Our products are NOT packaged in plastic, and all of our cans and jars are 100% recyclable (infinitely).
In 1925, J. Grant Sprague, a successful entrepreneur, built a canning factory in Mountain View, Ontario, naming it the J.G. Sprague & Sons Canning Co. At that time, the Canadian canning industry was booming, and its capital was Prince Edward County, Ontario ("the County"). The County was formerly home to dozens of factories of varying sizes that canned fresh, locally harvested fruits and vegetables for preservation, distribution, and sale across Canadian, American and European markets. These various canning operations flourished between 1882, when Wellington Boulter’s first cannery opened, until the mid-1900s, when the local canning industry took a sharp downturn. Of the approximately 75 canneries that once operated in the County, we are the only cannery that survives.
Grant was a descendant of one of the original pioneer families to settle the County in the years following the American Revolution. His great-grandparents, Samuel Sprague and Catherine Smith, were "Late Loyalists" who moved to the County from Long Island, New York, in 1812 following the initial Loyalist migration to the area. Samuel was a skilled ship carpenter by trade and worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard before moving with his family to Upper Canada. After arriving in the County, Samuel used the oak trees harvested on his property to construct schooners. He also made trips down the Saint Lawrence River to Montreal to sell square-oak timber harvested from his lot, which was plentiful at that time. In 1816, while returning from Montreal on one of these trips, he was said to have contracted typhoid fever and died near Cornwall. His family never recovered the $1,000 he was carrying from the sale of his timber. He died at age 46.
One of Samuel and Catherine's sons, Hallet Sprague (Grant's grandfather), was six years old when he moved to the County with his family. Hallet married Mary Allison (widow to his deceased brother Samuel) and settled on Big Island, across the marsh from his parents’ homestead. Big Island is located on the North shore of the County, in the Bay of Quinte.
Hallet was a farmer and member of the first council of the Township of Sophiasburgh after it received delegated authority to tax and pass by-laws. Hallet and Mary prospered later in life as farmers during the Barley Days, which lasted roughly between 1860 and 1890 in the County. They grew barley and hops on their farm to feed demand created by growing American beer brewers, catalyzed by recent German immigration to the states.
Hallet and his son, John Allison Sprague, built a "hop house" for drying and storing hops and the hop house still stands today on the corner of Sprague Road and South Big Island Road, on Big Island, Demorestville.
Grant was born to John Allison Sprague and Ellen A. Badgley in 1867 on Big Island. John Allison would go on to become a prominent politician in the County, serving as captain of the local militia, councilor of Sophiasburgh Township, and later Reeve, an MPP (Liberal-Reformer, 1886–1894) and Justice of the Peace. When he died in 1907, The Globe headline read, "Death of Mr. J.A. Sprague: President of the Picton Cheese Board Suddenly Called."
Grant was involved in several businesses over the course of his working life. Prior to canning, Grant and his father founded Sprague Telephone Company (later Sprague Telephone System) in 1898. Sprague Telephone provided the first affordable telephone service to the County, starting first in Sophiasburgh, then expanding into Ameliasburgh and Hillier. Grant and his father saw a business opportunity for an independent telephone business due to the Bell's failure to provide affordable telephone service to the rural County. When it started, Sprague Telephone offered businesses and households services for $10 per year, when the Bell's subscription cost $20 per year. Sprague Telephone was later acquired by the Bell in 1954.
In 1889, Grant married Emily Maude Doney. They had four children. Grant was noted in Pioneer Life on the Bay of Quinte, published in 1900, as a "clever electrician and successful businessman, to whom is entrusted the actual management of the Sprague Telephone Company." The 1930 Prince Edward County Yearbook shows Grant as a canner, grocer, postmaster, and owner of the Sprague Telephone Company.
The Sprague canning factory started off processing local tomatoes and pumpkin, but later expanded product offerings to tomato juice, tomato puree, corn and raspberries. During the 1920s and 30s, the canned goods from the Mountain View plant were shipped via boat from Belleville and Picton to Montreal, Toronto and Western Canada. Grant decided to situate his canning factory in Mountain View to take advantage of the soon-to-be constructed Highway 62, which was planned to run through the village. During the early years, a dance was held upstairs in the factory at the end of the canning season. Corn starch was spread over the floorboards to enhance the dancing surface and music was provided by a nickelodeon. The evening ended with an abundant lunch.
After a couple of years of operating the cannery, Grant Sprague handed the operation over to his youngest son Jay, who was born in 1907. Jay married Mildred Way and operated the cannery for 40 years. In the 1930-40s, the business expanded distribution in the local market by selling Sprague canned goods to small local grocery stores.
In the 1950s-60s the canning industry consolidated heavily into a small number of large corporations, including household names such as H.J. Heinz and Campbell Soups. This era also saw the introduction of frozen food, which shrunk consumer demand for canned food considerably. These, among other factors, caused the County canning industry to all but collapse.
Following Jay's sudden death in 1967, Jay's 32-year-old son Roger Sprague and wife Dana took over the operation. They changed the name of the company to Sprague Foods Limited and continued canning local produce. In the late 1960s, they built the second Sprague factory beside the old factory in Mountain View. By the 1970s, the changing markets compelled the business to innovate new product lines once again. The business expanded into beans and by the 1980s started making its first soups. The business moved into its current facility in Belleville in 1996.
In 2009, Rick Sprague, Grant's great-grandson, became the fourth generation president. Rick has steered the business toward a focus on healthy foods with natural ingredients.
Rick is a talented food scientist and chef who is always expanding his culinary horizons, incorporating emerging food trends into new products. Rick believes that the success of the company is due, in part, to a strong emphasis on innovation in the area of food science and technology and the culinary arts.
We are proud to keep the canning tradition alive in the Bay of Quinte Region, where the Spragues have lived and worked as farmers, tradesmen, and entrepreneurs since 1812. From Pioneer Life on the Bay of Quinte, published 1900:
Important places of honour and trust in the social, commercial and political life of Prince Edward have been held by the Spragues for almost a century. Samuel Sprague married Catharine Smith, and as his children grew up they married and acquired homes for themselves.
Since 1925, we have been a proud employer of generations of local employees. Without their hard work and dedication, we would not be where we are today.