Howard’s Foods Inc.: Creating and Packaging “Famous” Foods for Nearly 30 Years

August 26, 2021

“It started with desperation,” chuckles Howard McMahon, founder of Howard’s Foods Inc. and Howard’s Foods Co-Packing, when he reflects on all that he’s built.

Certainly, expecting triplets must inspire a special form of desperation.

That was the situation Howard and his wife found themselves in 1992. At the time, he ran a piano store. But with three extra mouths to feed on the way, his wife said, “‘You better figure out how to make more money fast.’”

Howard thought he might have a good idea: barbeque sauce. He and his wife were famous in their neighbourhood for going on salmon fishing expeditions and then throwing enormous barbeques. Their homemade sauce was always part of the draw.

“I made up some labels on my computer,” says Howard. “I knew a guy who owed me a favour—I helped him with a piano or something—so he printed them up for me. I found a store to carry my bottles and quickly sold them all out. So, I made another thirty cases. Soon, we were in Safeway.”

That marked the launch of the “Famous” line of sauces and rubs that Howard’s Fine Foods is known for. These are currently sold in 4,000 stores across North America, including Costco.

“Our whole approach is to create recipes for foods that are indigenous to regions, like salmon is to BC.”

The success of Howard’s food manufacturing business brought opportunities to exercise more control over the process. That’s how, in 2012, Howard found himself in a position to open a new business: Howard’s Foods Co-Packing. A co-packer, or contract packer, is an operation that manufactures and packages food products. Howard would be able to make and package his and other food manufacturers’ products.

Howard's Foods Inc - Food Processing and Co-Packing
Howard’s Foods Inc – Food Processing and Co-Packing

“We started with a small place in Burnaby. But over time we got asked to make all these other products, and we got the opportunity to take over a 15,000 square foot facility.”

Howard’s Foods Co-Packing is today, a comprehensive and fully automated operation. They provide support with “formulations, costing, product testing, labeling and anything else related to packing sauces and granular fills in bottles, stand up and pre-formed pouches.”

Of course, the facilities produce plenty of Howard’s Fine Foods products. The most successful of these is the Famous Salmon Rub. It’s a product you’re likely to see strolling the aisles of Costco. The corrugated tray you see them in is manufactured by Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC).

Howard's Foods Salmon Rub on Tray
Howard’s Foods Inc – Famous Salmon Rub and Corrugated Tray

Designing packaging for Costco is a precise art; as one of the most important retailers in the world, they have exacting specifications. Plus, Howard understands all too well how to sell his products. Creating the right box meant incorporating all these considerations.

“I wanted my product to be as visible as possible. The front and sides needed to be open so it was viewable from three angles. To me, labels and packaging are salespeople. They need to be attractive and functional, or the product won’t sell. GLBC gets that. It’s been a good relationship. We started using them many years ago, so it’s a long-term relationship.”

If Howard’s success came early on in his entrepreneurial journey, it isn’t flagging now that he’s nearly thirty years in. He looks forward to co-packing for larger and larger companies with newly upgraded capabilities.

“We have lots of demand for what we do. And we have a great staff; this is a collective success.”

The triplets who kicked off the whole journey are now 29; two of them are engaged. We’re sure they’re extremely proud of their father. As his supplier for many years, we are as well!

 

 

 

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