Les Aliments Morehouse: A successful realignment and a promising future

Entrepreneur’s corner | Nov 20, 2020

From the turnaround that she orchestrated as CEO to her current position as entrepreneur, most of the strategic decisions that Karina Massicotte makes are met with remarkable success. Through these decisions, she has diversified her company’s markets, and as a result, she is now dealing with issues that reflect its healthy growth.

For forty-something Karina Massicotte, Les Aliments Morehouse has represented the lion’s share of her professional life. She joined the food manufacturing company twenty years ago as a trainee in Administration, and quickly rose to the position of Controller and then CEO in 2014, before purchasing the company in October 2019. 

Over the course of her time at Morehouse, Karina’s in-depth understanding of the organization, along with its markets and industry, have enabled her to make the right decisions and shape Les Aliments Morehouse into the success story that it is today. 

The situation was somewhat more delicate when the former American owners handed her the reigns as CEO in 2014. “We were facing serious productivity problems related to a lack of motivation among the teams,” she admits. Considering the situation, she decided to work several hours per week in the plant with the floor workers and handling personnel in order to learn about their reality. 

This led to the implementation of a series of ergonomic measures and the hiring of specialty personnel (in research and development, accounting, sales, etc.). In addition to a significant improvement in productivity, these initiatives had a nearly immediate impact on the company’s performance. In only eight months, the company went from being a losing venture to a profitable one. Better yet, sales doubled during the first two years of Karina Massicotte’s tenure as CEO. 

The turning point 

In this respect, one of the most important decisions she made was to purchase the Le Grec line of salad dressings in 2016. Until then, these products had been served exclusively in the restaurant of the same name in Trois-Rivières. At the time, Les Aliments Morehouse was producing mustards for establishments like Joe Beef and Au pied de cochon, along with private-label condiments for national retailers. 

The acquisition of the Le Grec line of products, which was established in 1959, was intended to diversify the company’s operations. This was a crucial move, because one of Morehouse’s clients represented 75% of sales at the time. After the acquisition, Les Aliments Morehouse was no longer limited to the food service (restaurants, hotels, etc.), industrial condiments and private-label sectors. It had staked its claim in the consumer products market

Preserving know-how 

Nevertheless, Karina Massicotte was not content with simply purchasing a brand. She also acquired the expertise behind Le Grec. She explains “We moved the entire team from Saint-Narcisse (in the Mauricie region) to Lachine, paying their moving expenses and renting apartments for their employees for a period of four years. The goal was to promote the transfer of knowledge and facilitate the integration of Le Grec into our product line while maintaining all of the aspects that contributed to its stellar reputation.” 

This approach was so successful that Le Grec now ranks third among salad dressings in Québec in terms of sales, competing with industry giants like Kraft. Beyond the numbers, what gives Karina Massicotte the most pleasure is the fact that her dressings have inspired consumers to eat more vegetables. “I often see comments on our Facebook page like ‘I now eat carrots and cucumbers’ or ‘My kids now enjoy three or four bowls of salad per week‘.” 

A new and popular market 

The reception has exceeded our expectations. Right from the outset, sales of the dips exploded to the point where we struggled to keep up with demand.

In fact, the general public’s appetite for Le Grec propelled Les Aliments Morehouse to extend its line of products to include vegetable dips, which it introduced in April 2020. “Once again, the reception has exceeded our expectations. Right from the outset, sales of the dips exploded to the point where we struggled to keep up with demand.” 

At the present time, 40% of Morehouse’s sales come from consumer products; a market that it entered only four years ago. In terms of the company’s clientele, it now includes private-label brands for major market players like Sobeys, Metro, Loblaws and Walmart. Outside of Canada, the company’s clientele includes American supermarket chains like Wegmans (with a significant presence in the northeastern US) and Whole Foods Market (more than 350 outlets in North America).

According to Karina Massicotte “We are extremely proactive with the major retailers and their proprietary brands. In this segment, the lead time for launching a new product is between 8 and 15 months.” 

Decision time 

At the present time, 40% of Morehouse’s sales come from consumer products; a market that it entered only four years ago.

The coexistence of major public brands and private-label brands is also in keeping with successful business practices. “Private-label brands must stand apart from the competition because of a lower price. In light of this, we are committed to offering them the lowest possible production cost. Therefore, as a producer, we must invest in new equipment every year, and we must expand our product line in order to make it profitable.” 

That is the position in which Les Aliments Morehouse currently finds itself as it faces a positive dilemma related to significant growth. Karina Massicotte explains: “Either we must expand our plant in the southwestern part of Montréal by 50,000 square feet, or we need to find some land to build a new 80,000-square-foot plant to house our new facilities.” She is giving herself six months to decide.

How PME MTL made a difference for Les Aliments Morehouse

“We contacted PME MTL when we needed to purchase a new packaging line. Right away, we knew that we had found an extraordinary, professional and extremely dedicated advisor to guide us. PME MTL was also there for us when we needed to develop an export plan, and on a completely different plane, when we needed to address the issue of wastewater treatment. The PME MTL team also put us in contact with real estate professionals in connection with our current expansion/relocation problem. In my opinion, one of the best things that entrepreneurs can do for themselves is to call on the services of PME MTL.” 

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Les Aliments Morehouse is supported by PME MTL West-Island. 

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