Quality and Assurance
Strengthening Nova Scotia’s reputation for safe, amazingly high-quality foods and beverages
Supporting the Highest Quality of Nova Scotia Seafood
Nova Scotia seafood is known around the world for its freshness and quality. In today’s marketplace, it is important to be able to prove to buyers and consumers that steps have been taken to adhere to recognized standards for quality required of a premium product.
Along with the province and industry, through the Atlantic Fisheries Fund, Perennia has been working on initiatives to support seafood companies in bringing top quality products to market and providing marketing support to increase sales and access to new buyers.
Perennia has been working on a phased quality standards project for Nova Scotia species for two years. The project focuses on developing quality standards along the value chain for the top 15 Nova Scotia export species and will be in its final phase next year. These quality standards will provide confidence for the global market based on several criteria including Sourcing and sustainability, traceability, food safety excellence, and premium product attributes.
The quality criteria closely align with international certification programs that seafood suppliers are required to meet to access certain global markets or sell to major buyers like Costco and Walmart world-wide.
In 2021-22, our team worked with consultants to conduct market research to define what retailers and consumers expect as premium quality seafood in today’s modern marketplace. An information guide was also developed for seafood processors to assist in understanding and implementing criteria to maintain a high level of product quality and safety.
As a complement to developing the quality standards, Perennia also administers the Nova Scotia Seafood Quality Program (NSSQP) for the province. The program provides auditing services to companies who want their product assessed against the specific quality criteria developed for the top exported species for certification. Certified companies are eligible to market and sell their products using the Nova Scotia Seafood brand.
The goal is to assist in increasing the overall quality of Nova Scotia seafood by providing extension support services, developing quality and food safety resources, and creating market awareness of the program to increase sales in national and international markets. The aim is to promote certified premium quality seafood companies through the NSSQP to drive sales and expand markets internationally and locally.
Bill and Stanley Oyster Company have received certification for their live, fresh oyster products and are using the Nova Scotia Seafood brand to promote and market their products in stores across Canada.
Evaluating Shelf-Life for Nova Scotia Products
Having a best-before-date on food or beverage products is vital for the safe consumption by consumers but also for accessing new markets like major retailers which require products to have a stated shelf life.
The team at the Perennia Food and Beverage Innovation Centre has been busy conducting shelf-life studies where analytical, microbial and sensory testing is performed to allow clients to ensure their products maintain safety and quality throughout storage, display and consumer use. Accelerated shelf-life testing is also available. Shelf-life evaluations can range from a couple of months to over a year.
Twenty shelf-life projects were conducted in 2021-22 for twelve clients on products ranging from sauces and baked goods to seafood.
One of the projects is being undertaken with Lunenburg Rum Cake. We completed a study on their mouth-watering original version of rum cake and started a second study on the spiced and chocolate cakes, which will be completed in spring 2022.
Supporting High Quality Certified Strawberry Plants
The Nova Scotia strawberry nursery industry is estimated to be worth $5 million in farm gate sales within Canada and $10 million in the United States. Nova Scotia has a healthy strawberry plant nursery industry with plants highly regarded for quality across North America. In fact, strawberries imported from Florida for Nova Scotians to eat during our off season are more than likely grown from Nova Scotia plants. The industry has a long commitment to the Strawberry Nursery Certification Program that has been in existence for decades and was developed with the province, local Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers and Perennia specialists.
The program is fully funded by the province’s nurseries and is based on visual inspections of fields and plants by Perennia and the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture. Its aim is to assess for viral, fungal, and bacterial diseases, and insect and mite infestations to ensure the highest possible quality plants are sold as Nova Scotia certified. Plants that are certified are provided a blue tag that signifies their quality to the marketplace.
In 2021-22 the inspection team conducted at least two in-field inspections at each of the four provincial nurseries and assisted in the development of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s phytosanitary declaration for strawberry blossom weevil allowing for the export of plants. Close to 90 per cent of all plants qualified for certification.
Partnering with NSLC on Supplier Quality Assurance
Nova Scotia’s brewing, distilling, cider, ready-to-drink, and wine sectors continue to grow as consumer demand for local beverages has been increasing. Continuing work from last year, Perennia specialists in quality and food safety, winemaking and brewing worked with the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) to develop educational resources on product testing and good manufacturing practices for beverages. Our team developed fact sheets for local producers supplying the NSLC, gave a presentation of the resources to both NSLC staff and local beverage companies and aided the companies if they requested assistance.
Helping Seafood Processors Maintain and Access New International Markets
For Nova Scotia’s $3 billion seafood industry, maintaining internationally recognized food safety certifications ensures Nova Scotian products meet the requirements of and are accepted into markets like the United States, Europe, and Asia. Keeping their certifications current is a key part of the operational sustainability.
Pubnico Trawlers Ltd., located in Lower East Pubnico, processes salt fish. Having worked with the Quality and Food Safety team on past projects, Pubnico Trawlers contacted us looking for assistance with updating their Safe Quality Food program to the newest edition. Working together, Perennia and Pubnico Trawlers were able to update and streamline their current program to enable operators to better manage the program. As a result, Pubnico Trawlers had a successful audit and were recertified for 2022.
Victoria Cooperative Fisheries Ltd. is in Cape Breton and processes lobster, snow crab, halibut and mackerel. They contacted Perennia to assist with general quality and food safety activities, maintenance, reassessment, and help with transitioning to an international global standard to access new markets. The project involved participating in their Marine Stewardship Council sustainable seafood audit, lab set up and analysis, reviewing Nova Scotia Quality Seafood Brand requirements to determine if criteria was met, and resolving Canada Food Inspection Agency requests.
Providing companies with the knowledge and tools required for transitioning their current food safety system to a globally recognized certified standard to access new markets is a core service of our quality and food safety team.
Enhancing Quality Handling at Nova Scotia Snow Crab Processors
In 2020, 14,290 metric tonnes of live snow crab were landed in Nova Scotia with a value of $122 million and an export value of more than $200 million. In Canada, total snow crab exports were valued at $957 million in 2020, and $1.6 billion in 2021, making snow crab the second highest value fishery after lobster. Regardless of how successful the market is, it’s always a good practice to continuously improve on processes and skills. In this case, Perennia brought together the Nova Scotia Crab Processors Association, Pisces Consulting, and the Nova Scotia Fisheries Sector Council to develop a Snow Crab Handling Course to to educate snow crab processors on handling best practices throughout the value chain to enhance the quality and value of the products produced by the fishery.
In early 2022, the course was delivered in-person and virtually to three companies with a total of 55 participants and focused on handling best practices for anyone, directly or indirectly, associated with the harvesting, processing, and distribution of snow crab products.
“On behalf of the Petit de Grat Packers / Premium Seafoods Group team, I would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere thanks and appreciation for the time you spent with us to today to facilitate the “Snow Crab Quality Workshop. The expertise and pragmatic approach exhibited by each of the four panel members were insightful and very positive. Training and Development is paramount for the success of our business and the facilitation today will certainly enhance our efforts in providing the highest quality snow crab. Our post-mortem discussion reveled everyone learned something new and is reflected in our evaluations.”
– William J Coleman, Operations Manager / Quality Assurance & Compliance Manager
Premium Seafoods Group Ltd.