In BC’s Lower Mainland, there are probably relatively few farmers who aren’t familiar with the sight of a Ritchie-Smith Feeds Inc truck driving by. But they might not know just how long the Abbotsford-based animal feed company has been perfecting what they do.
Ritchie-Smith will be celebrating 55 years in business this year! “The company was founded in 1968 by Bill Ritchie and Dave Smith,” says Sharalee Voth, Marketing Manager & Retailer Support. “The Ritchie and Smith families ran the business for many years, with the Fleming and Reimer families taking over in 1991 – already 32 years ago. So, from the start, up until the present day, Ritchie-Smith has always been family-owned.”
As anyone could imagine, a business that goes the distance for more than a half-century will experience plenty of evolution. For Ritchie-Smith, those changes have occurred in sync with the transformation of the place they call home. As the Fraser Valley has developed from a collection of smaller rural towns to a provincial economic hub, Ritchie-Smith has grown accordingly.
“Over the last few decades, the farmers we serve have been investing in their own farms, equipping them with modern technology and gaining in efficiency. Our approach has always been to anticipate growth, rather than work to keep up with it.”
One of the major changes the company has taken on in recent years is developing a line of bagged feeds to be sold through feed retailers. As a long-time producer of bulk feeds for farmers, Ritchie-Smith is proud to be offering their quality feed to small-scale agriculturalists across Western Canada. To make this shift, they needed to tweak their operations in specific ways.
“Our process for making the feed is the same except for the final phase when the feed gets packaged by our bagging system. This is an incredible piece of automated machinery that measures the feed, fills each bag, sews the bag closed while applying the tag, and stacks it on pallets, ready for fulfillment.”
Of course, getting the feed into bags is one thing; design and formulation is the real point of differentiation; especially as Ritchie-Smith creates feeds for all the major categories of farm animals – dairy, hog, beef and all poultry – as well as less common species. Of course, each of these species has distinctly different nutritional needs, and Ritchie-Smith makes it their business to understand this at a high level.
“Our team of nutritionists create specific formulas for not only each species but different types within species. For example, a broiler bird doesn’t require exactly what an egg-laying hen requires nutritionally, despite the fact that they’re both chickens. And now we’re making feeds for niche animals like alpacas and rabbits. Every animal’s nutritional needs are unique.”
With these shifts towards niche and smaller-scale markets, Ritchie-Smith’s retail strategy has been changing as well. Twenty-kilogram bags of feed don’t exactly sit well on store shelves, but the company’s new Chatterbox chick starter display kits are a natural fit for a stunning Point of Purchase display. To create that display, they reached out to Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC).
“We really appreciated the fair prices and how quickly questions were answered. We loved that GLBC was local. Some things are ok to order online, but with a digitally printed display like this, you want to be able to see it in real life while it’s being designed. And we’re so happy with the end result. It’s eye-catching, fun, well-built, and the perfect item to get retailers excited. It’s not only driving sales for Chatterbox, but it’s getting our branding out there so that more people know about us.”
As more agriculturalists learn about Ritchie-Smith, they’ll also discover something undeniably special about the company. “We have total transparency about ingredients and we also give a direct line to our nutritionists. You can email our team at [email protected] and receive knowledgeable answers to your questions. That’s rare in our industry.”
We look forward to more people learning about this forward-thinking yet long-running company. As they grow – which they will undeniably do – we hope to grow alongside them as a trusted partner.