Monday, November 11, 2013

Meet the new Mini! ExpoZoo's Best New Product Contest Winner 2013

It is always exciting when an inventive new product enters the market in our
industry.  Something so simple and timeless made new again is a sure sign of a creative mind.  The winner of the year's new product contest at ExpoZoo 2013 was a first time exhibitor.  Our show visitors were intrigued by this little gem and used their voting power to put it at the top of list.  Serge Tremblay of Eco-Alfala told us the story of how this curious little product went from farmer's field to store shelves.

What is a Mini Ballot?

The Mini Ballot is a product resembling miniature hay bales or alfalfa treats.  Fully manufactured in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area, they are 100% natural, containing no additives. To ensure the highest quality, every batch of mini-bundle goes through a rigorous nutritional analysis. Each mini-bundle is made ​​on the farm with a baler specifically designed for this type of product. The mini bale is for small pets such as rabbits, gerbils and hamsters and can serve as food or litter. The material is well put together to make the product compact and easy to handle and store, and there are no less than 15 varieties to choose from.

You began as a dairy farmer, how did you start producing the Mini Ballot?

We have been agricultural producers for generations.  Our Tremblay ancestor cleared this little piece of land and cultivated it to meet the needs of the herd and family (garden and farmyard).  Over time, we have specialized in dairy and  grain.  The farm business, now known as Ferme Adelard et Serge Tremblay, wanted to diversify so we became co-owners of Eco-Alfalfa, with a plant in Hébertville-Station specializing in alfalfa dehydration.

What drew you to the small mammals food industry?

A couple of childhood friends of the family have a pet store in Alma (Lamifidel) , and shopping there, I realized that certain products come from alfalfa and hay, both of which we produce.  So I thought there may be a place for a mini sized haystack resembling those made by farmers.

How long have you been producing the mini hay bales?

It's been three years since we began the project. Market research, size, type of hay, labeling, finding equipment, and testing  for the Mini Ballot all occurred earlier this year. ExpoZoo in Sherbrooke was our first outing.

How fast is this branch of your company growing?

Mini Ballot is a part of the family business. If the results continue to be positive, this branch will probably gain more momentum in the business. We’d like to evolve the business within the family.  As its still young (four children ages 13 to 19) we have time. We have a nice agreement with Mr. Francis Bourdon Simalex Import and Export Michel Bouchard Animal Refuge as well Chantale and Roger Lamifidel Alma. They are helping us evolve, and giving us good ideas and advice.

Why are your mini bales of hay better than other alfalfa products found in stores?

Traceability of our product is a big asset. All the hay for the bales comes from land around the company and our customers really like the format.

Do you plan to expand the production of other types of food for small mammals?

We want to promote other products we produce on the farm - oats, wheat, barley, corn and maybe some new plant cultures. We are open and motivated.

Can we find the mini hay bales across the country and in other countries?

First we want to establish ourselves as we must in Quebec and Ontario, but who knows what the future holds?

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