Diversified product line captures new markets: Northwestern Ontario-based wild rice processor and distributor develops health bars, baskets. (Aboriginal Business).
Today the Ojibwa Aboriginal people at Kagiwiosa Manomin Inc. at Wabigoon Lake Ojibwa First Nation in northwestern Ontario are providing many people the opportunity to share in the "hand-crafted taste" of manomin, the Ojibwa word for wild rice.
Manomin is a type of grass which grows naturally in the fresh water lakes of central North America. The Ojibwa people have always proclaimed the virtue of manomin as a food rich in flavour and high in nutrition. It is a good source of fibre and protein in a vegitarian diet. It is also a rich natural source of vitamin B, iron manganese, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorous and carbohydrate.
Kagiwiosa Manomin Inc., a co-operative business, purchases the manomin, which is freshly picked, from local Ojibwa harvesters. It is then locally processed and packaged for the market.
Kagiwiosa manomin Inc. has been owned and operated by the Ojibwa people since 1987. During that time the people in the community had a portable roaster and a portable processing plant where they roasted the manomin to get it ready for the market. They had a contract in Europe which gave them their' first market demand for wild rice, says James, Kroeker, a young entrepreneur and business representative for Kagiwiosa Manomin Inc. Based on this demand, the people in the community put together a business plan and their "permanent" plant went up in 1988.
The Anishinaabe (the people) have always maintained organic production methods that emphasize community, participation. They produce wild rice, as well as value products of manomin mix, which include white rice, wild rice and white basmati rice. The rice is self-seeding and grown organically without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Freshly harvested manomin is "roasted' to perfection" using a wood-fired roaster. The Kagiwiosa Manomin Inc. co-operative has developed wood-fire roasters which produce the same great taste within a "commercial context," says Kroeker. Roasting draws out the natural nutty flavour of the grain.
According to Kroeker the company has been actively involved with expansion of the business during the past year.
Kroeker says he was "hired professionally" a few years ago and has been working "actively" with the company to produce manomin health bars for the last three years.
"The concentration of expansion is with added-value products," Kroeker says.
The three current expansions Kroeker is referring to are: gift baskets, manomin health bars and the development of a new Web site.
"The gift baskets have taken off really well this year," Kroeker says.
They include wild rice manomin mix, and either blueberry or cranberry jam, and the basket is a handmade canoe, made from birch bark by the Ojibwa people.
"The baskets are a nice way of joining a bunch-of Ojibwa economic interest in products," Kroeker says. "The baskets are specially made by the Ojibwa people."
Kagiwiosa Manomin Inc. is currently in product development stages to develop a wild rice health bar. The bars include ingredients such as popped wild rice, as well as the basmati and white rice, fruit juices and maple syrup.
Kagiwiosa Manomin Inc. has currently reached an agreement with Multi-Bar in Montreal, who will be the company's co-packer. There are currently three flavours in production: apricot/almond, mango/coconut and grains/seeds. The bars are expected to be ready for the market for spring 2002.
Kagiwiosa Manomin Inc. is also looking forward to talking with people who may be interested in using their recipes in a private label, Kroeker says.
The company's main customers are alternative trade organizations in Germany and Switzerland. They also market to a variety of co-ops across Canada and also to Aboriginal organizations. Their main market still remains in Europe today, but with the development of their new Web site, which has been "up and running" for about a month, the products from Kagiwiosa Manomin Inc. can now be available for all to enjoy. Customers can purchase all of the items Kagiwiosa Manomin Inc. has available in a variety of choices.
Kagiwiosa Manomin Inc. at Wabigoon Lake Ojibwa Nation is located about 40 kilometres east of Drydon, in Dinorwic.