“Naked oats” arrive in Campbell’s meal-in-a-can program

Campbell’s Canada’s launch of a new canned meal product containing naked oats is pure vindication for farmer from Manitoba’s Interlake who invested years promoting the variety as an important new crop.

The Canadian food company on Feb. 28 announced the launch of Nourish, a 425-gram meal-in-a-can product which, in addition to two servings of vegetables and at least 18 g of protein, will also contain naked oats, a hulless and hairless oat variety that cooks and tastes like rice, but has a wider nutritional profile.

It’s being billed, not only as a nutritional coup, but as a partial solution to world hunger. “If the iconic soup company gets its wish, cans of their Six Grain Vegetable formulation, branded Nourish, will ultimately filter into the hands of the world’s hungriest via humanitarian aid organizations, making a dent in global food insecurity,” says a Feb. 26 Globe and Mail article on the product’s launch.

At its root is the oat variety AC Gehl, which was developed after 15 years of research and breeding by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists.

“It’s a fantastic good news story that a company as large as Campbell’s has come forward and is willing to put its name out there as somebody who recognizes how good a grain it is.”

These are the same oats that Arborg-area farmer and food product entrepreneur Scott Sigvaldason, president of Smart and Natural Foods Ltd., has been marketing as Rice of the Prairies.

The oats are now being grown for Campbell’s under exclusive contracts with Manitoba farmers.

Sigvaldason said Campbell’s decision to use naked oats in its new product gives credence to what he’s said for years — here is a wholesome new food crop that can create new markets for Canadian farmers.

“It’s a fantastic good-news story that a company as large as Campbell’s has come forward and is willing to put its name out there as somebody who recognizes how good a grain it is,” he said.

“It’s not just some crazy farmer out in the frozen Interlake talking about this now,” he said.

Nourish will not be sold at retail, at least not for now. Instead 100,000 cans are initially being donated to Food Banks Canada, which now feeds close to a million Canadians every month. The company will be looking for ways to make the product available at key retailers with sales helping fund future donations, a Campbell’s news release said.

As the first Canadian private-sector, not -for-profit product developed to tackle food aid needs the company also aims to work with international organizations to make it available when disasters usurp food supplies.

A complete meal with a full serving of vegetables and meat plus the whole-grain oat innovation, the 425-g cans with a pop-up lid have a 24-month shelf life and require no additional water to serve, making them ideal for both food bank and disaster relief use. The product was designed to be eaten either at room temperature or heated.

“Nourish is the result of our commitment to helping to alleviate hunger coupled with some of the best food we know how to make,” Philip Donne, president of Campbell Canada, said in the company’s release.

More information about the product is available on Campbell’s Facebook page.

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator at Carman, Man. Reprinted from the Co-operator, March 17, 2011, page 1.

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