Bakers Journal

Features Profiles
Meet Première Moisson


March 28, 2011
By Jennifer Cox

Topics

The philosophy behind Première Moisson is simple: produce the best and
most nutritious food possible at a price that’s reasonable.

The philosophy behind Première Moisson is simple: produce the best and most nutritious food possible at a price that’s reasonable. The Montreal-based bakery achieves all this through vertical integration, which means that many links in the supplier/distribution/buyer chain are controlled by one company. This helps leverage purchasing power and position in the market.

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 Photos credit PremiÈre Moisson


 

Première Moisson started off as a modest facility and has since grown to 18 locations. Their products are also sold at major Quebec grocery store chains, including Loblaws, IGA, Sobeys, and Costco, as well as Metro stores in both Quebec and Ontario.

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“We make everything fresh in every store,” Rob Benard, vice-president of operations, says of the company’s infamous breads, croissants and cakes. “We also make our own healthy meats without sulphates, and we bought our own chocolate company.”

The careful attention paid to each individual ingredient throughout the company’s diverse product line is inspiring. Première Moisson founder Liliane Colpron’s commitment to delivering quality, healthy products and using practices that leave the smallest carbon footprint possible has always been at the core of her business ideology. It is this dedication that has made the bakery such a success.


Vertical integration

Ever since Colpron started her first bakery, she has sought out local famers and suppliers to provide her kitchens with the freshest, purest ingredients.

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 Rob Benard, vice-president of operations for Première Moisson. Photos credit PremiÈre Moisson


 

“We’re 100 per cent vertically integrated. We have 140 farmers across Quebec that grow just for us,” Benard says. “We grow our own wheat and flour and there are no herbicides in our soil. We enrich it with a natural fertilizer.”

Fostering relationships with all of their farmers is a key feature of Première Moisson’s strategy.
“We host a dinner with every farmer and we take samples of their wheat, make each of them their own bread, and they can bring it home and show it to their families. Farmers see from field to product. How rewarding is that?”


Heart and soul

The driving force behind Première Moisson is undoubtedly its founder, Colpron. She owned a bakery in Dorval, west of Montreal, and another small bakery downtown called Au Bon Croissant. In the early 1990s, Colpron and her three children, Josée, Bernard and Stéphane – all of whom hold management positions within the company – began building up a modern enterprise that is focused on product quality, environmental responsibility and respect for the values of its members.

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Rob Benard, vice-president of operations for Première Moisson, with company founder Liliane Colpron. Photos credit PremiÈre Moisson


 

“In 1992, Ms. Colpron had a little bakery that was around 8,000 square feet, and she and her son Bernard started to make traditional bread because there was a real demand for it,” Benard explains. “It was a small bakery doing hands-on baking. Then her daughter came in and took over sales and was actually delivering bread all over town in her truck, and finally, her son Stéphane came in. Now there are 18 locations across Montreal, and we’re looking at opening several more. The philosophy of the family has always been to grow slowly but sustain growth. And everything is done with humility and without egos.”

Colpron has earned considerable recognition for her role in turning Première Moisson into a powerhouse. In 2005, she received the Femmes d’affaires du Québec award in the accomplishment category, presented by a network of the province’s businesswomen. This was followed up in 2006 by the Personnalité de la semaine prize handed out by La Presse. She was also chosen as one of Chatelaine magazine’s 50 women who have most influenced Quebec society over the past five decades.

She was also recently honoured with a Rosemary Davis award from Farm Credit Canada for leadership in agriculture.

“This is a real role model,” Benard says of Colpron. “She didn’t have an entourage of publicists to make her look good. She’s very humble and she’s very giving to society. She wants to give back and that transcends directly to the company. She always said to me, ‘Leave a little piece of the pie for everyone. Don’t be greedy enough to take the pie off of someone’s plate. Everyone’s got to eat.’ ”


A word of advice

The company has been able to achieve growth while holding on to its traditional, home-grown values. The entire family attends every store opening, and each location is a 50-50 partnership, so owners have the right of refusal on all decisions. “If we’re going to grow, we’re going to grow together,” Benard says of Colpron’s business model. “There isn’t another company that I know of that has a philosophy on a true partnership like this.”

So what’s their secret to success? “Hold true to your beliefs and understand why you got into this industry in the first place,” advises Benard. “Don’t let the idea that you’re small stop you from growing. You’re making products for someone and have an opportunity to touch that person through that product. Making bread is an honourable craft. It needs to be respected.”

Despite continual expansion, Première Moisson has never lost sight of what’s most important: “First and foremost for the family is to make good bread. They always say, ‘later we’ll make money,’ and they have been very successful in doing that.”

 TAKE-AWAY TIPS

  1. Commit to quality. Make this the cornerstone of your reputation.
  2. Build relationships from field to table. A growing number of consumers want to know the stories behind their food. Businesses with strong supplier relationships will tell the best tales and win over new customers.
  3. Remember your roots. Don’t let day-to-day challenges distract from the goals you set out to achieve when you got into the business.


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