An 11-acre greenhouse in southern Alberta has become the lone supplier of leafy greens for Wendy’s fast-food restaurants across the country.
Whole Leaf in Coaldale, Alta., will now supply all 384 Wendy’s Canada locations with lettuce for burgers and salads as it becomes the first national brand in the Canadian fast-food industry to serve all greenhouse-grown lettuce.
The massive greenhouse has been in operation for more than three years, and senior director of sales Rindi Bristol said she believes scale was important for a big brand like Wendy’s, as Whole Leaf is able to harvest 40,000-60,000 heads of lettuce six days a week.
“It’s a good quantity and volume of production, and I think that’s really what Wendy’s Canada found was really unique about this facility,” Bristol said Wednesday, “a facility that had enough production to meet their need and demands of a national program.”
Bristol said Whole Leaf began a trial run with Wendy’s in November, with a test market of about 55 stores not in the vicinity of the southern Alberta facility.
“Our test market was in Atlantic Canada, and so our product was pushed to the limits of shelf life, of quality, of colour, of transportation [and] of maintaining supply chain,” she said.
Whole Leaf grows product year-round thanks to greenhouse technologies, and Bristol said Coaldale was chosen as the location due to a couple of distinct advantages.
“The first reason is the sunlight hours. It’s super sunny down here, so we absolutely use to our advantage anything that Mother Nature is going to offer us,” she said. “The second one is the St. Mary’s Irrigation District, so we have access to incredibly clean water.”
But access to clean water doesn’t mean that the facility uses a ton of it.
“Our water usage is 90 per cent less than what they would use to grow field-grown product,” Bristol said.
That sustainability was a selling point for Wendy’s Canada. In a statement to Global News, the company’s senior director of marketing, Lisa Deletrez, said: “Our supplier’s greenhouse-growing system has several environmental benefits.
“Whole Leaf also houses a co-generation plant on-site that provides electricity when in high demand, thus allowing the facility to be independent for its electricity source,” Deletrez said. “We are encouraged by these social and environmental sustainability benefits.”
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