It all started 30 years ago in a small lifestyle spa in the North Okanagan.
Some sprouted grains, water, a few other magical ingredients and a lot of baking love was the basis for bread that is now produced in Abbotsford and distributed throughout North America.
The name of that wellness spa and the bread that quickly became too popular for that spa was Silver Hills.
The Silver Hills brand may have started in co-owner Brad Brousson’s kitchen, but it has grown in Abbotsford.
Silver Hills is in the midst of celebrating its 30th year as a company, and co-owners Stan and Kathy Smith reflected on just how they turned a few grains and water into the third largest bakery in Canada.
Stan managed a sprouted grain bakery in the early-1980s and both he and Kathy were very familiar with the bread baking process. Partnering up with Brad was an easy decision, and soon the trio’s business began booming in the late-1980s.
“The spa wanted to have a sprouted bakery inside as something to provide some products for guests,” Stan said. “But within a year it became very popular and bigger then the spa wanted to manage.”
Word of mouth about the quality of the bread quickly spread, and demand increased. The trio purchased a 160 acre farm in Lumby to grow spelt and many of the other ingredients contained in their bread. The brand started off in smaller health food stores, and when that went well some of the bigger grocery stores started calling. Interest continued to snowball from there.
Throughout most of the 1990s and early-2000s the farm was where the trio grew and baked, but they eventually decided that a new location was needed.
“We loved growing things but we were better bakers than farmers,” Stan joked. “And as we continued to grow more and more of our customers were in the Fraser Valley. That was where our distribution base was and we were spending a lot of time transporting product, which was a challenge especially in the wintertime. We also don’t use the same preservatives that other breads do so every minute counts when you’re trying to get products to customers.”
Abbotsford seemed to be a logical choice for the company, and in 2002 they moved all operations here.
“We love Abbotsford, it’s such a great place to do business,” Stan said. “You’re close to the border and close to Vancouver and we just continued to grow after we arrived here.”
|Silver Hills former main facility was located on Peardonville Road.|
Silver Hills moved to a 30,000 square foot facility on Peardonville Road, but by 2014 they had outgrown that facility. They moved the main bread making to a 160,000 sq. ft. facility on McClary Avenue off of Sumas Way. The company has quickly filled up that space and now also owns office space in several other locations spread throughout Abbotsford. The company employs 400 people, with positions in the bread making facilities, sales, marketing and finance.
Another new wrinkle to the business is Sprouted Oven, the company’s cafe/grocery store which is located at McCallum Junction. They serve plant-based sandwiches, soups and salads, and also have a variety of other healthy food options for sale. Sprouted Oven also carries a number of varieties of Silver Hills bread, many of which cannot be found in stores regularly.
|The Sprouted Oven is a new concept by Silver Hills which began in 2018.|
“We wanted everything available here that contributes to people finding healthier options in a convenient way,” Stan said. “Everything here is non-GMO and plant-based and the products are all fresh. It’s been just over a year here and it’s been fun. We have a lot of ideas for things we can do with it, and use it as an opportunity for more research and development.”
But the engine behind the business is bread, and the company takes production and quality very seriously. Silver Hills produces about 750,000 loaves of bread per week, and the product is sold in every Canadian province and U.S. state.
The company produce bread not under their own label for a company in Asia, and have conversations with Mexico about the potential of bringing the bread there.
“We always find that the more people eat sprouted grain than the happier they are,” Stan said. “It’s more nutritious, easier to digest and the unique flavour is something a lot of people seem to enjoy.”
As for varieties, Jodie Bell, the marketing manager for Silver Hills said Canadians love Squirrelly Bread, which contains sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and raisin nectar. Americans lean towards The Big 16, which includes oat flakes, sunflower seeds and millet.
The bread is also big with nutritionists, who often recommend it for those with blood sugar issues because the sprouted grains take longer for the body to break down. There are also additional vitamins and minerals in many Silver Hills bread and the nutrients in the seeds are easier for the body to absorb and digest.
Kathy said it’s all about satisfying the customer, and she feels that Silver Hills has been doing so over its 30 years of business.
“When I see a customer come in and say that they can eat our bread but not other types of bread it gives me gratification that we are making a difference for them,” she said. “We’re a part of their morning or their routine and it’s rewarding for us to make them feel better and improve their quality of life through our products.”
Stan said he wants the opportunity to help more people make healthy food choices.
“It’s really exciting to see how more and more people are connecting food and health,” he said. “We are all recognizing that if you want to be healthy then you need to be more careful in what you choose to eat. We want to help solve people’s problems on finding good and healthy food more conveniently.”