Tony’s Meats: Introducing Mr. Donair to the world
Thursday, May 12, 2016
Tony’s Meats is unique. It’s the only federally inspected meat-processing plant in Nova Scotia to achieve Safety Quality Food (SQF) Certification under the Global Food Safety Initiative. Based in Antigonish, the company began in 1963 as a small, local operation. Today it employs about 50 people, selling retail or food-services products in every province of Canada.
In 2005, the company acquired the Mr. Donair brand. The original Mr. Donair created the first donair in Halifax in 1971, and now it’s Halifax’s official food and a Nova Scotia specialty that’s gaining popularity beyond Atlantic Canada.
Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) has been working with the company through a variety of programs, says sales manager Aaron Tingley. He, Dan MacGillivray and Lenita Hanson co-own and operate the company.
Before Tony’s Meats can get its products into the USA, the company needs to become US Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved. NSBI has helped Aaron access consultants and expertise to navigate the process. “It’s been a long road, and outsourcing expertise can be expensive,” he says. “NSBI’s Export Growth Program helped us mitigate some of those expenses and put us in touch with useful people.”
NSBI also invited the company to attend the Northern Lights event in Ottawa in late January as part of a Nova Scotia delegation. Northern Lights is a business and cultural showcase of Nunavut, Nunavik, and Labrador/Nunatsiavut. Aaron said yes, because selling to the North was part of the company’s strategy. “NSBI put me in touch with business matchmakers, so I was able to meet with key decision-makers for potential retail partners in the North,” he says. “Using matchmakers really speeds up the process of getting to the right people to make your pitch and move forward.”
Last May, with NSBI support, Aaron participated in the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago. “I started gaining a network through that show,” he says. “I had a matchmaker, so I met distributors, publications that promote to restaurants, and owners, buyers, and key decision-makers. I have a list of people I can look to as we work to expand our donair line into the US.”
Whether Aaron is attending a show to investigate new markets or returning to follow up leads and increase business in new markets, NSBI is there with support, he says. “NSBI people have been unbelievably good to work with,” he adds. “They’re there to help, they’re hands on, and they know what they’re doing.”
Tony’s Meats is pursuing an aggressive strategy to expand its markets. In June, Aaron will be participating on a trade mission to the New York Fancy Food Show. “To get into the US market, we have to educate the US on what donair is,” he says. “The market is so big that we’d be crazy not to go there. NSBI will be a key part in helping us do that.”
Nova Scotia Business Inc. is dedicated to supporting the growth of business in Nova Scotia. Our team of Regional Business Development Advisors is available to assess your needs and provide practical advice on taking your next steps toward growth in global markets.
The Export Growth Program supports businesses looking to increase their export sales outside of Nova Scotia. The program provides financial incentives for projects that assist a business’s ability to overcome barriers to export growth.