From its humble beginnings in New Brunswick, Masitek is fast becoming a global go-to technology resource that is helping food and beverage makers worldwide minimize product damage and losses.
The Moncton-based company has shipped its ‘smart sensor’-enabled replicas of fresh fruits, eggs and potatoes as well as bottles and cans around the world since 2010, helping clients identify and immediately address the root causes of cracking, bruising, and other quality issues.
The CracklessEgg, the SmartSpud and other Masitek devices mimic real foods in shape, size and weight. As these devices pass through harvesting machinery and along conveyor belts and packing lines alongside their genuine counterparts, the devices wirelessly transmit data measuring impact, velocity, and temperature, allowing immediate adjustments to handling equipment. Similarly, Masitek’s simulated bottles and cans relay production-line data that enables beverage makers to reduce bottle breakage by some 80 per cent, and curb scuffing and dents on cans.
Customers of the firm’s agricultural division (aaggrrii) include Cavendish Farms and McCain Foods, while firms that have purchased from Masitek’s industrial division (MMAAZZ) include global beer and wine giants Anheuser-Busch, E. & J. Gallo Winery, and Carlsberg Group.
“Our biggest export market is Europe,” says Masitek President and CEO Tracy Clinch. “We do a lot of U.K. sales on the egg side, and MMAAZZ is all over Europe in the food and beverage sector. For potatoes, we have sales all across the global potato belt, from Europe to New Brunswick and southern Ontario to Idaho.”
The U.S. trails closely behind as Masitek’s secondary export market, with other sales to Japan, South America, and also within Canada.
Masitek’s export strategy has always been three-pronged: Concentrate on markets with the most potential, look for partners that can connect with potential customers, and focus on sales to big players in order to gain exposure.
While Masitek’s initial exports of aaggrrii and MMAAZZ products started slowly in the firm’s inaugural year, market exposure put both product lines on a steep growth trajectory.
“With our agricultural products, it took us about a year to gain traction, but once we achieved market awareness our momentum has been steady,” Clinch explains. “On the bottling industrial side, once we improved the technology to what the market demanded, exports really picked up.”
Customer testimonials – in particular a glowing recommendation from Diageo, maker of Bailey’s and Guinness among other leading global alcohol brands – have helped spur beverage industry demand.
“I can remember the excitement in the office at the time,” Clinch recalls. “We worked hard to get that order together perfectly.”
On the agricultural side, Masitek sold a Crackless Egg to the Eifrisch Vermarktung Company in Lohne, Germany in 2012. A vertically integrated table-egg producer with retail, packing stations and farms, Eifrisch became interested in aaggrrii’s CracklessEgg during its transition from housing hens in cages to free-range egg production.
“We had all new equipment and egg collection and we wanted to check for weakness points,” explains Eifrisch production manager, Ingo Harsman. “It was a very quick cost return. We have very large farms with 100,000 to 200,000 birds each. If you reduce cracks by one per cent, you have large savings immediately.”
While Masitek’s international business is growing, the firm still must deal with export challenges including high import taxes on hardware, which can be up to 90 per cent in markets like Brazil.
Masitek has largely overcome this hurdle by showing each potential customer that its projected ROI (return on investment) would be positive despite the tariffs.
Masitek has leveraged available federal support to help it develop and grow. For example, the National Research Council helped with technology development, and ACOA (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) also provided support from the beginning.
Meanwhile, Opportunities New Brunswick and the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) have helped the firm break into different markets, with the TCS currently providing support through a program calling ‘Going Global’ to help Masitek develop new technology with a company in Spain. Export Development Canada has helped Masitek with contacts and by providing insurance on large shipments to China or Europe.
Masitek began 2017 with a complete overhaul of its technology and a focus on exporting to South America, Australia and the southern U.S.
At its core, Clinch says Masitek’s success is a direct result of its staff.
“The customer is obviously key, but our employees are responsible for building the product that the customer receives, and for making sure customers are satisfied. So we make sure our employees are very satisfied with options like flexible hours among other things that provide a lot of benefits for most people who work here.”