About Sprague Foods
Who We Are
We are a medium-sized Canadian cannery, preserving quality foods since 1925. We are regulated by the CFIA and FDA. We are also BRC, Organic, and Kosher certified.
We were one of the dozens of canneries that started up in Prince Edward County, Ontario ("the County"), between 1882, when the first cannery opened, until the mid-1900s, when the local canning industry took a sharp downturn. Of the approximately 75 small independent canneries that once operated in the County, we are the only cannery that survived. In 1996, we moved to our current location in Belleville, Ontario, on the Bay of Quinte.
What We Do
We produce high-quality can and jar food products, including beans, soups, sauces and desserts. We specialize in making healthy, organic, vegetarian ready-to-eat dishes. Rick, the president, develops all of the products in-house.
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.
We are committed to sourcing high-quality ingredients, locally where possible, with a focus on health and nutrition.
All of our cans and jars are pressure-cooked for preservation. Our products are able to reach complete sterilization with the application of sufficient heat and pressure to the sealed cans and jars, all while the food cooks in our giant pressure-cookers. It is this complete and natural sterilization that allows our unopened products to stay fresh for years on a shelf, without the need for any added artificial preservatives. In other words, our products are au naturel.
Our mission is to offer our customers healthy and convenient eating options that they will really enjoy - at an affordable price.
In the early 20th Century, the Canadian canning industry was booming, and its capital was Prince Edward County, Ontario ("the County"). During that time, the County was home to dozens of small canning factories canning local produce for Canadian and American markets.
In 1925, J. Grant Sprague, seeing a business opportunity, founded his own canning factory in Mountain View, Ontario, naming it the J.G. Sprague & Sons Canning Co.
Grant was born in 1867 on Big Island, located on the North shore of the County, in the Bay of Quinte. Grant was involved in several businesses over the course of his working life. Grant came from an old County family. His great-grandparents were among the original pioneer families to settle in the County in 1810. Grant's great-grandfather, Samuel Sprague, moved with his wife Catherine to the County from New York, following the initial Loyalist migration to the area.
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." Prior to canning, Grant and his father, John A. Sprague (a MPP), founded Sprague Telephone system in 1898. Sprague Telephone provided the first telephone service to the County. Sprague Telephone was later acquired by Bell. 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.
After a couple of years of operating the cannery, Grant Sprague handed the operation over to his son Jay. Jay operated the cannery for 40 years and 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. Although these were trying times, Sprague canning, under Jay's leadership, managed to persist.
Following Jay's death in 1967, Jay's 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. 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 became the fourth generation president. Rick has steered the business toward a focus on healthy foods with natural ingredients.
Rick is a talented cook who is always expanding his culinary horizons, incorporating emerging food trends into new products. Rick believes that the success of this company is due, in part, to a strong emphasis on innovation in the area of food science and technology and the culinary arts. Rick is proud to keep the canning tradition alive in the Bay of Quinte Region, where Samuel Sprague and Catharine Smith's descendants have lived and worked since 1810. 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.