Staying on course

April 21, 2011
Written by André Dumont
3833-excell-serres
Gabriel and Louis-David Beauregard, of Excel-Serres.
Saint-Damase greenhouse tomato company has been continually growing and innovating since setting down roots in this community southeast of Montreal almost 40 years ago.

“We are all in a Formula One race,” says Excel-Serres founder Gabriel Beauregard, referring to the intense competition that exists between local and international greenhouse growers. “Those that don’t realize this will get shoved to the side pretty quickly.”

Last September, Beauregard, his wife Nicole Guilmain, and their son Louis-David were honoured in Quebec’s most prestigious farming awards. They won the 2010 bronze medal of L’Ordre du mérite agricole.

This honour brought great pride upon the Excel-Serres’ team. All three co-owners are graduates of Saint-Hyacinthe’s Institut de technologie agroalimentaire. Beauregard is in charge of sales and marketing, Guilmain manages finances and human resources, and Louis-David is production manager.

In the early 1990s, Excel-Serres specialized in pink tomatoes, a crop Ontario growers seemed no longer interested in. The company found its niche and the move allowed it to triple its greenhouse area. Today, it totals 3,400 square metres.

stayingoncourse2  
Pink tomatoes part of the Quebec culture.
 
Pink Tomatoes Are Popular In Quebec
Pink tomatoes have long been Quebecers’ favourite fresh tomato, keeping red ones for cooking, Beauregard explains. “Pink tomatoes are part of our culture. Nowhere else are they eaten as much as in Quebec.”

The company also produces red, cherry and on-the-vine tomatoes. All wear the “Excel” or “Dame-As” label. Marketing is based on the strength of these brands. All tomatoes are sold directly to supermarket chains, with whom Beauregard maintains quality relationships. Produce is delivered with the company’s own trucks.

Excel-Serres may have a modest production (600,000 pounds of tomatoes per year), but it plays in the same ball game as Quebec’s major producers, such as Savoura and Demers. Competition is strong, but this does stop not Excel-Serres and other producers from pooling resources, in order to have access to professional agronomical advice through the Pro-Serre production club.

Beauregard may be ready to pass on his company to his son, but he nonetheless keeps scouting for ways of innovating, by visiting greenhouse facilities abroad and reading magazines from outside Quebec.

“Greenhouse production is an extreme sport,” Beauregard says. “There are always great challenges ahead of us, but we make sure we keep enjoying our work and having fun.”


André Dumont is a freelance writer and photographer in Quebec.

And some final questions to company founder Gabriel Beauregard.
Question: What makes your business successful?
Answer: We very closely keep track of our crops, energy consumption, sales and financial statements.

Question: What is your biggest everyday challenge?
Answer: Making sure we do everything for our company to remain in business and competitive.

Question: What makes a great business manager?
Answer: Being able to build solid relationships with suppliers, buyers and other producers. 

Question:
What makes a bad business manager?
Answer: To believe that one doesn’t have the power to turn things around when everything goes wrong.

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