Every year as the winter holidays roll around, my mind drifts back to one of the most memorable Christmases I’ve ever had.
I was six, and money was tight, so in place of expensive gifts, my parents decided to make the holiday magical in other ways. On Christmas Eve, my dad piled us into our 1988 cherry-red Jeep Cherokee, lovingly nicknamed “The Red Bomb” and bearing a striking resemblance to Santa’s sleigh, and we drove the streets of our little mountain town in search of Christmas lights.
As we meandered our way down each snow-covered road, Christmas songs like “Feliz Navidad,” “Last Christmas,” and my personal favorite at the time, “The Chipmunk Song,” blared as we sang along. At every—and I mean EVERY—house with any form of holiday light or decoration, my dad would pull the car over, and we would ooh and ahh before chorusing, “Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Thank you very much for the warm, fuzzy feeling you’ve provided for us this evening.” No matter how many times we said it, we all laughed and truly felt that spark of joy that makes the holidays unique.
After driving the entirety of the hill we lived on, our family returned home to a Crockpot™ of steaming hot chili, cornbread, and rich hot chocolate to warm us on the cold night—the perfect way to end a fantastic evening.
Over 20 years later, we still do this every
holiday season, as it has become an incredibly meaningful tradition.
For many shoppers, traditions are part of what makes the holidays come alive, and like my family, food plays a crucial role in their celebrations. Whether simple or extravagant, the products or dishes they share are a form of connection, as if they are ingesting memories.
Gwillimdale Farms understands the importance of not only the holidays but the foods that make them special, like root vegetables. Products such as potatoes, onions, and carrots are often considered key ingredients in comfort dishes, as they are in the chili my family enjoys yearly, making them essential in the produce aisle all season long. As a family-owned business, the team at Gwillimdale wants to foster these lasting traditions that attach warmth and nostalgia to something as simple as vegetables. So, the grower is determined to keep its partners’ shelves stocked with root vegetables and provide merchandising support that will help keep traditions alive while inspiring new ones.
“Our retail customers are part of our family, so we are expanding our marketing efforts to help support them through in-store promos, contests, and cause-marketing campaigns. We also manage most of our domestic transport in-house, ensuring on-time deliveries and guaranteeing our partners have the products they need to cater to their shoppers, especially during the holidays,” explains Quinton Woods, Senior Sales and Plant Operations Manager, from his desk in Bradford, Ontario, Canada. “Gwillimdale is always innovating and looking for alternative items to help expand our retail partners’ offerings and give consumers more options in the produce department. With the current economic conditions, our focus is ensuring families can afford to eat nutritious and delicious root vegetables. Therefore, we are working on supplying a full line of #2 vegetables that provide the same nutrition and taste as #1 graded products, but with minor deficiencies in shape or size, to provide a discounted price for shoppers.”
While some may think that once December turns to January, the demand for root vegetables drops, the Gwillimdale team sees room for additional opportunities. By making a quick and easy merchandising pivot from holiday traditions to New Year’s resolutions, its customers can ride the sales wave of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas straight into 2023.
“...we are working on supplying a full line of #2 vegetables that provide the same nutrition and taste as #1 graded products, but with minor deficiencies in shape or size, to provide a discounted price for shoppers.”
Quinton Woods, Senior Sales and Plant Operations Manager, Gwillimdale Farms
After loading up on holiday fare, including rich stews, meats, and sweets—so many sweets—consumers begin looking for health-forward items that balance out their indulgence while still providing noteworthy flavor. And what could be better than fresh produce? Root vegetables, especially, provide small taste reminders of the holiday meals they just enjoyed and minimize food costs after recouping from seasonal spending.
“January is the time when everyone buckles down and gets a fresh start. Kicking off New Year’s resolutions, many people start trading in indulgent holiday treats for vegetables and other better-for-you options,” says Courtney Enns, Marketing Manager. “A large increase in healthful trends, especially in the months following the holidays, means more opportunities for our clients to promote nutritious and delicious root vegetables while boosting their sales. Gwillimdale Farms is here to help buyers capitalize on this fresh veg momentum by encouraging
wholesome root vegetables that provide essential everyday nutrients. Our products are amazing because they not only bring strong and delicious flavors to the table, but they’re also budget-friendly and extremely versatile, which is something shoppers are in need of now more than ever.”
Courtney details how simple it can be to make this transition from the holiday season into the new year, especially with the display tools and creative ideas Gwillimdale can pull out of its hat. She pauses for a moment before moving into her next vision for value. You can sense the strategies syncing up even more in real-time.
“The flexibility and convenience root vegetables offer make them a retail favorite because they are so easy to promote. I mean, you can’t go wrong with potatoes, carrots, and onions; they’re staples,” continues Courtney. “Buyers can merchandise the category with high-quality graphic displays highlighting their versatility to draw more customers to the produce department. Showcasing several different ways these vegetables can be prepared—such as sautéed, roasted, baked, fried, and even raw—will also benefit consumers. This provides shoppers with cooking insights that make eating produce more exciting.”
Without a healthy guide of traditional holiday recipes determining what goes into shoppers’ baskets, a common question consumers might ask themselves is, “What am I going to make for dinner?” To take the guesswork out of the shopping experience, Gwillimdale suggests that retailers take merchandising further by cross-promoting other recipe ingredients in the produce aisle. Not to mention the supplier provides in-house support for its customers, so if they need inspiration, produce managers and buyers can quickly get in touch with the company’s insightful team.
“Our products are amazing because they not only bring strong and delicious flavors to the table, but they’re also budget-friendly and extremely versatile, which is something shoppers are in need of now more than ever.”
Courtney Enns, Marketing Manager, Gwillimdale Farms
“Consumers are busy, so they are looking for convenience when they hit the grocery store. We want to help make shopping easier, consumers healthier, and sales higher, so at Gwillimdale, we offer products in a variety of sizes to meet the needs of our customers based on their shoppers’ habits,” Courtney adds. “We want our partners to
succeed and encourage those who may be interested in in-store merchandising opportunities to reach out to Quinton.”
With all these ways to keep root veg sales flowing, Gwillimdale’s partners will need a consistent supply of offerings to keep shelves stocked. That is why the company has made several improvements to its facilities over the past year, ensuring operations run smoothly as demand peaks.
“Gwillimdale is continuously expanding. We recently underwent a major renovation of our carrot packaging plant in Bradford and introduced state-of-the-art carrot and potato lines this year that allow us to grow in the category, increase efficiency, and divert edible waste, all of which will enable us to better serve our partners, team members, and the Earth as we head into 2023,” Quinton shares, bringing his more than 10 years with Gwillimdale to the reflection and the excitement. “We have also implemented new cleaning technologies and doubled our packaging capacity. This new expansion will allow us to maintain a good regular business while giving us extra capacity to handle the holiday surges.”
But that is just one way Gwillimdale sets itself apart in the root vegetable category.
“Everything we touch and pack has been grown by us or specifically for us. We produce 75 percent of everything we package and sell, and we don’t buy on the open market,” Quinton clarifies. “Gwillimdale is also the largest fully integrated grower, packer, and shipper of root veg in Ontario, which is something we pride ourselves on, especially based on our humble beginnings and the hard work and dedication it has taken to get to this level.”
In order to reach this point in the company’s growth, the root vegetable expert has relied on its dedicated associates and partners to support ongoing expansion. They have been especially integral as Gwillimdale, alongside the rest of the industry, faced unprecedented hurdles caused by the pandemic, supply chain slowdowns, inflation, and more in 2022. Recognizing this, the grower has nothing but gratitude for those who played a key part in its success and uses this appreciation as motivation to give back.
“Looking back on the past year, especially as a family-owned and operated business, we are thankful for all the relationships that have continued to flourish and for the new ones made. Our partners’ commitment to us has played a vital role in the growth we have been able to accomplish and the challenges we have overcome. Our owners the Hambly family and our team are exceptional. They always go the extra mile to ensure we supply only the freshest, best-quality vegetables,” Courtney imparts. “We’re grateful for how we have been able to educate the health of farm fresh vegetables while giving back to our community.”
Keeping these individuals close to their hearts as it moves into the new year, Gwillimdale will stay the course, continuing to place its focus on the concepts that mean the most to the company.
“Being a family-owned and operated business, we aim to incorporate family values in everything we do. We will continue to rely on the people, like our passionate team, and the values such as trust, innovation, social responsibility, leading by example, and setting the standard with sustainability,
that have played the biggest role in our ongoing successes,” says Courtney passionately.
Just as consumers have their own beloved holiday rituals, so too does Gwillimdale Farms. Created to inspire togetherness and joy while bringing health to all, the grower’s traditions embody the true spirit of the holidays.
So, let us all take a page from Gwillimdale’s book and realize that what we each value is multifaceted and dimensional, it is caring for others and what is special to them that makes this season magical.