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Feature on Big 8 Beverages Ltd.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Nova Scotia Business Inc. along with its partners and sponsors presented The Nova Scotia Export Achievement Awards, an annual celebration and recognition of excellence in exporting across Nova Scotia. Big 8 Beverages Ltd., was one of nine companies that were celebrated at the 2015 provincial EAA awards ceremony on May 21st, in Halifax.

Big 8 Beverages Ltd. describes itself as a small, friendly company that has been providing high-quality spring water and soft drinks to its customers since 1986. To learn how this nimble company has begun to export all over the world, NSBI talked to Julie Nowe, Big 8’s Finance and Business Development Manager.

Q: Can you share your company’s history in Nova Scotia?

A: Big 8 Beverages is a subsidiary of Sobeys and has been a vibrant and stable part of Pictou County for over 25 years. Big 8 is the only plant in Canada that produces both soft drinks and spring water. We supply many sizes of spring water and soft drinks under the Big 8 brand as well as several private labels. Our plant is audited by NSF, the National Sanitation Foundation; NSF has awarded us their “Excellence in Manufacturing” for over 10 consecutive years. As well, we now have our GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) certification.

In June of 2013, we installed a new single-serve line that gave us the capability of blowing our own bottles, which significantly reduced our costs. This cost reduction, and the fact that we’re close to the port in Halifax, positioned us to consider foreign markets that are looking for top-quality Canadian bottled spring water or soft drinks. Now we’re exporting to China, Barbados, and Aruba, and we’re looking at further development in Asia and some Middle Eastern countries.

Q: What does being recognized by your local business community mean to your business and your employees?

A: It gives our employees a sense of pride and engagement as well as securing future job stability. Pictou County has taken a few hits in the last little while, so it’s nice to have that security. It certainly gives us the satisfaction of knowing we’re heading in the right direction.

Q: What factors have contributed to your success?

A: That we’re true to our roots. Our top priorities are quality products, keeping the plant fully modernized, and knowing our market. We have a niche here because of our excellent water source. We acquire our water from an underground aquifer in Valley, Nova Scotia, which is one of the purest aquifers in Canada.

Q: What do you consider will be key to your success going forward?

A: Continuing to be aggressive in both the domestic and export markets, along with our ability to adapt to the market, whether in packaging or product innovation.

Q: What was your biggest learning or a-ha moment?

A: Discovering how small the world really is, and that we can compete!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to new exporters or companies considering exporting from Nova Scotia?

A: First, understand your domestic business. In order to send your products elsewhere, you have to understand what you’re doing here. Be prepared to jump through hurdles and to persevere. Be prepared to learn. NSBI offers FITTskills courses. The courses are very informative – they helped us understand the complexity of international trade. They helped a lot.

Q: And finally, what’s the best thing about being a Nova Scotia exporter?

A: Our closeness to the ports, support from the various Nova Scotia government agencies, and a hard-working, dedicated labour pool.

Big 8 Beverages Ltd. is located in Stellarton. In 2014, Big 8 was awarded the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce Export Achievement Award.

If you are interested in becoming an exporter, the following resources can get you started:

The Small Business Development Program helps eligible businesses participate in a global supply chain, become first-time exporters, remove barriers to exporting, or increase exports by getting customized expertise.

The Export Growth Program helps eligible businesses with projects to overcome export-growth barriers, such as travel to market and helping with costs for events such as trade shows and conferences.

Stay up-to-date with our e-newsletter that includes upcoming trade development initiatives that you can participate in and highlights trade activity in Nova Scotia and beyond.