Hanscome Group of Companies

A Leader Before Its Time
Written by: 
Eric Gundberg
Produced by: 
James Logan

Fad diets come and go, and the entire country of Norway is completely out of butter currently because of a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet craze. Staples, however, eventually always make their way back. Ralph Hanscome, CEO of Hanscome Group of Companies (HGC), is pretty levelheaded in his approach toward the appeal of the lowly potato. HGC is made up of the superstars of the group: Atlantic Potato Distributors (APD), Ralna Corporation, Conquest Freight, Hanscome Brothers, Hanscome Farms, Marcor Holdings and Hanscome Outdoor Adventures.

“It’s a never-ending journey to educate the consumer that one of the best deals out there in terms of food is the $4, 10-pound bag of potatoes,” says Hanscome. “In terms of the variety of dishes that can be created from that one bag, there’s nothing to compete with it in the marketplace. We’ve gone through the hurdles with low-carb diets but there’s a reason why it’s been a staple for hundreds of years.”

The Hanscomes’ founded HGC in 1993 and it has remained a true family-run business ever since. Hanscome’s wife, Nancy, is the office manager handling HGC’s administrative tasks. Ralph and Nancy’s two sons also play vital roles in the family business. Mark, vice president of operations at HGC, and Cory, operations manager, are both proud to be part of the family business. Hanscome didn’t found the company on a lark; he has spent his life around the product starting with  growing up on a potato farm in California Settlement, New Brunswick. Hanscome also worked as a CFIA Inspector for seed potatoes for 14 years and then embarked on a stint with McCain Foods, prior to HGC’s founding.

Safety Before It was Fashionable

From the beginning Hanscome has stressed food quality and safety throughout his group of companies. “We tell people that we were involved with food safety before it became fashionable,” says Hanscome. “It was apparent to us at an early stage that it was the way to go. When Canada started enforcing stricter food safety laws and everyone else was rushing around to get theirs in place, our internal standards were still stricter than those the government wanted, which made it easy to get our accreditations.”

HGC’s APD was the first Canadian company to be Canadian Partners in Quality-certified (CPIQ), allowing the company to pack and ship into the U.S. on its own internal documentation, with no CFIA inspections. The company’s location in Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, a few miles from the Maine border with access to the vital eastern turnpike I-95, gives APD the ability to showcase its product in markets  ̶  which span from Boston, New York to Philadelphia  ̶--overnight.

“Our production is equally split between Canada and the U.S.,” continues Hanscome. “Our location, though, is one of the secrets to our success. The demographics that we have within a 750-mile radius of our packing facilities can probably only be found in a small European country.”

A Group of Triumph

Each of the companies within the victorious group grew out of a need to retain control over one aspect of either APD’s operations and production or morale and welfare. Hanscome is proud of each company’s individual perks, as well as support.

Hanscome Outdoor Adventures (HOA) is a destination hunting and fishing operation, where Hanscome’s employees celebrate all company functions. Hanscome is proud to note that HOA ranked first in Wing Shooting. More information is available on the company’s website, hanscomeoutdoors.com.

Conquest Freight was founded to eliminate the food manufacturer’s worst nightmare: third-party shipping companies. Conquest handles all the needs of APD, either shipping product itself or brokering to accepted fleet carriers. All paper work for inspection, border, transportation, etc. is done internally, which means no hold ups through the chain; this allows product to arrive on time and hassle free.

Business is Booming

Far from its tenuous start, APD is now one of the leading producers and distributors of potatoes in New Brunswick. “It’s currently in the best of times,” Hanscome was quoted as saying. “Our business is booming. With the expansion, every day we’re breaking a new production record. We’re fortunate enough to say we’re always in a deficit because we have so many orders, but it’s trying times on the labour front with so many good people from this area in Fort McMurray and other places.”

Hanscome still remembers, however, the suppliers and vendors who helped get business off of the ground. “We work with an outstanding group of suppliers who took a chance on us back in ’93. We currently have about 90 percent of the same suppliers today and my wife and I will always be thankful for the help that they gave us.”

The communities surrounding where the Hanscomes’ live and employ workers are similarly grateful. In 2008 Ralph and Nancy Hanscome were chosen as Enterprise Grand Falls Region’s 2008 Entrepreneurs of the Year. Michael Bolster, a member of Enterprise Grand Falls Region’s board of directors, was quoted as saying the following during the award banquet: “We are pleased to honour a man and a woman  ̶  partners in life and in business  ̶  for their contributions to the business life of our region. Together they and their family have built an enterprise centered on the potato industry and their companies have become important employers in the area.”

The potato may not be the most glamorous of foods, but it’s been good to the Hanscome family. Ralph and Nancy Hanscome trusted in the product and along the way have built Hanscome Group of Companies into one of New Brunswick’s most respected establishments.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
County Tractors & Machinery Ltd
Grant Thornton
Marty's Electric Ltd.
McCain Fertilizer
Meduxenekeg Farms Ltd
Roger C Ouellette Ltd