Len and Kevin Thomson, from Paradise Island Foods. Country Grocer photo

Nanaimo cheese-maker bases business in Paradise

Grocery program showcases local flavours

Being successful in business requires seeing opportunities – and taking them.

Nanaimo’s Paradise Island Foods, founded in 1978 by George Thomson, is the perfect example.

A salesperson in Vancouver at the time, George saw the opportunity to move with his family and launch a small distribution company on Vancouver Island. When that move coincided with a strike by a large cheese company, “he decided overnight to go into the cheese market,” says son Len Thomson, who today oversees the company with brother Kevin.

It’s a good thing for Island cheese lovers he did.

Paradise Island Cheese quickly earned a place not only on grocery shelves but also in the hearts of consumers.

Today, as the Island-grown company celebrates its 40th anniversary, it’s producing some 1.5 million kilograms of natural cheese products, plus another million kilograms of processed cheese products, including innovations like its well-received lactose-free natural cheese.

And as for flavour, Paradise Island Foods uses only 100 per cent Canadian milk and naturally ages its cheeses – none of the accelerators many others use – and consumers taste the difference, Len says.

Today, while Paradise Island Cheese is found across Canada, “half of our business is on Vancouver Island and we’ve continued to stay on the Island. We have 75 employees and every one of them is important to us. We love being here and the work-life balance it provides, and have no interest in leaving,” Len says.

“People want to support the Island and we continue to grow through that support.”

Island made: Island Good

Paradise Island Foods is one of numerous Vancouver Island growers and producers participating in Island Good, an initiative with four Island grocers to increase consumer awareness of Island-made and Island-grown food products.

The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance pilot project, in all Island Thrifty Foods, Country Grocer (except for Country Grocer Salt Spring, Quality Foods and 49th Parallel Grocery stores through August, aims to increase demand for products made and/or grown on the Island.

Shoppers can look for ‘Island Good’ stickers, posters and other signage highlighting these Island products in all store departments.

“Vancouver Islanders believe in local, want to shop local, source local and eat locally sourced food,” says VIEA President George Hanson. “We believe that when shoppers can identify Island Good options, they’ll make more Island Good choices, and that increased demand will lead to increased production, more jobs and more production capacity.”

Look for the Island Good tags, enjoy local food and support our local economy: It’s Island Good!

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