Great local food and innovation go hand in hand at the Zest Commercial Food Hub in Salmon Arm, opened in in 2021 by the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society (SAEDS) to meet the needs of the Region’s fast-growing food and beverage processing sector. Within a few months of opening, all anchor tenant space at Zest was fully booked with a waiting list of additional food processors seeking space in the facility. The current activation and expansion phase leverages the hub’s initial success to further grow the sector.
Supporting Food Entrepreneurs with Room to Grow
Food hubs offer small businesses shared access to equipment, research and business development services without the extensive financial investment normally required to access these resources. Hub users also benefit from the relationships they cultivate, creating opportunities for mentorship and information sharing.
Salmon Arm is one of 12 food hubs in the BC Food Hub Network, an initiative of the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food to encourage more agriculture and seafood production, and food and beverage processing in the province. The community has more than 100 farms within its city limits and employment in food and beverage manufacturing and processing is three times the national average. Once the 4,000 square foot food hub is fully operational, it is expected to generate $425,000 into the regional economy through new business investment, and new job creation.
Zest is not the first success SAEDS has had with cluster development. It has supported entrepreneurs by testing and scaling several support programs including the Salmon Arm Business Support Hub, and the Salmon Arm Innovation Centre. The Economic Trust of Southern BC (ETSI-BC) helped fund the Innovation Centre and recognizing Zest’s value as an economic generator it also provided grant funding to support the hub’s activation and expansion phase.
Zest Expansion is a Priority in the Region’s Cluster Development Strategy
The initiative is a priority within Salmon Arm’s Five-Year Economic Development Action Plan (2020-2025). Zest is linked to the production of 50 unique products from sausages to bakery items, beverages, and sauces. When the expansion is complete, its anchor tents will increase from four to six and a shared-used commercial kitchen will accommodate up to 15 additional food processors. The shared-use cold storage “reefer” will also be activated to increase storage capacity for both growers and processors.
“Food hubs provide opportunities for new partnerships between farmers, processors and retailers,” points out Renata King, Project Consultant for ETSI-BC. “This project will allow existing Zest users to expand their production and explore additional value-added opportunities, attract new businesses to the region, enhance regional food security, and create resilience and growth in the post-COVID economy.”
“We would not have been able to expand Zest in such a timely way without the support of ETSI-BC,” says Lana Fitt, Economic Development Manager for SAEDS. “Once the facility is fully outfitted, we can move into other areas of regional food system development such as food safety training programs and collaborative purchasing programs. This is only the beginning!”