Canadian Canners Limited

Location: 44 Hughson Street South, Hamilton, Ontario

Canadian Canners LogoTowards the end of the 19th century there were several prosperous canning companies in Canada. Ironically, their success also caused their downfall since after a few years, output of canned goods exceeded consumption in Canada. Additionally, exportation to the United States was not a possibility due to a prohibitive duty on imported canned goods. By 1888 most of the canners had gone bankrupt due to over-production, with only the most efficient companies having survived. To help stabilize the canning industry, one can manufacturer and several wholesale grocers formed the Dominion Syndicate in the 1890's. Its purpose was to take over and finance the canning companies and then market them effectively. However, the Dominion Syndicate had no control over the production and quality at the individual factories and this caused its collapse.

In 1903 a group of independent packing and canning companies met at the Waldorf Hotel in Hamilton. They decided to merge all their assets and form a company to control production, financing, and distribution of canned food. The 16 companies involved became Canadian Canners Consolidated Companies Limited. Subsequently, head offices were established at 39 James Street South in Hamilton. In 1904, the company's name was shortened to Canadian Aylmer Moist MincemeatCanners Limited (C.C.) for the sake of convenience and the first of many additional plants was purchased.

Canadian Canners Limited realized that the quality of canned food depended on the quality of the produce that went into the cans. With this in mind the company started a subsidiary called Canners' Seeds Limited in 1905. This subsidiary was devoted to developing and testing specialized seeds to produce superior crops. By 1910 C.C. owned 30 canning factories, a lithography plant in London, Ontario, a condensed milk plant in Aylmer, Ontario, and a warehouse in Hamilton. It was at this time that consolidation took place and several independent canners were merged with C.C. (whose name was changed to Dominion Canners Limited). This merger helped reduce the cost of canning while adding 26 factories to Dominion Canners' roster. By this time Dominion Canners' output constituted over 80% of the output of canned fruits and vegetables in Canada.

Dominion Canners LogoIn 1912, Pembroke Shook Mills Limited was purchased to provide wooden shooks for the cases that Dominion Canners made its shipments in. Also that year, Walmer Transport Limited (based in Hamilton) was started by the company to ensure fast delivery of customer orders and swift shipments of fresh produce to the canning plants.

Another Dominion Canners LogoIn 1915, the canning industry faced huge carry-overs from 1914 due to declining domestic consumption, high freight rates, and an abnormally large crop. In an effort to save the industry, 50 Canadian independent canning plants associated themselves with Dominion Canners for three years. Additionally, Dominion Canners acquired all seven factories of the British Canadian Canners Limited. In 1917, Dominion Canners expanded beyond Ontario purchasing three plants in British Columbia and three plants in Québec. Two years later, the company purchased the Bell Telephone building situated at 44 Hughson Street South, relocating its head offices there. Also in 1919, Dominion Canners built a $1 million factory in Hamilton which increased output greatly.

Canadian Canners BuildingEventually the remaining Ontario independent canners decided, along with Dominion Canners, that further amalgamation would be beneficial. Dominion Canners found it difficult to reach financial security and experienced widely fluctuating earnings. So in 1923, Dominion Canners Limited was renamed Canadian Canners Limited and 29 Canadian independent canners joined its ranks. This brought the total number of plants owned or controlled by C.C. to 84. That number would not remain static however. In 1925 Wagstaffe Limited (in Hamilton) was purchased by the company and used as a facility for packing jams, jellies, and marmalades. C.C. continued to expand during the 1930's, 40's, and 50's acquiring additional plants across Canada. By 1956 C.C. (the largest food processing company in the British Empire) had factories located in Nova Scotia, Québec, Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia. It was at this time that the California Packing Corporation (a.k.a. the Del Monte Corporation) obtained two thirds controlling interest in the company. This marked the beginning of cutbacks for C.C. Within ten years the number of canneries was reduced to 14. Furthermore, out of the more than 20 brands that C.C. once distributed, only two remained: Aylmer and Del Monte (though each of these brands consisted of numerous products).

Canadian Canners ProductsIn 1969 a $400,000 research centre was built in Burlington, replacing the previous one located in Hamilton (which was used as office space from then on). In 1978 Wagstaffe Limited was consolidated with a plant in Leamington, Ontario (which processed tomatoes) due to the loss of export markets for its products. With the coming of the following year, several small canneries in and around the Niagara peninsula closed due to pressure from large food retailers. C.C. was able to survive owing to its well-known brand names as well as customer loyalty. However, C.C. was not the giant it used to be. In 1982, two of its specialty food plants were sold, along with the Walmer Transport Company Limited. Despite these cutbacks, C.C. spent $15.2 million on an expansion, modernization, and consolidation program (which was the largest capital expenditure in the company's history). This program consisted of Another Canadian Canners Logoclosing more plants (whose operations were consolidated at more efficient facilities), expanding the tomato processing plant in Dresden, Ontario to allow for year-round production, and upgrading the Simcoe and Leamington plants. By the end of 1983 C.C. had ten plants remaining in Canada.

In 1985, C.C.'s United States parent company R. J. Reynolds merged with the American company Nabisco Brands Incorporated, causing C.C. itself to become part of the Canadian company Nabisco Brands Limited in 1986. Since Nabisco Brands Limited was located in Toronto the company moved there the following year, vacating its head offices in Hamilton.




Home List E-mail