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Daiya Foods finds recipe for success in industrial renovation

Russell Hixson
Daiya Foods finds recipe for success in industrial renovation
DAIYA FOODS - Michael Watt, CEO of Daiya Foods, gives visitors a sneak peak of progress being made prepping its 400,000 square-foot production facility in Burnaby, B.C. The dairy-free food manufacturer expects to finish renovating the former brick warehouse late next year.

Daiya Foods, a B.C.-based company specializing in plant-based and dairy-free food products, offered the public a sneak peek of its facility currently under construction in Burnaby.

The new facility will quadruple the company’s production capacity from 65,000 square feet to 400,000. It will also house its food innovation centre, corporate headquarters and warehouse. Officials expect the new facility to bring more than 300 jobs to the city and an estimated 100 additional jobs over the next few years as the company continues to grow.

The site is a former brick warehouse originally built in the late 1960s and early 70s. Through a series of phases, the team has been converting it into food production and research space. Everything the team put into building had to be hung off new structure, including piping, HVAC systems, mechanical systems, refrigeration infrastructure and cooking systems. The team also had to ensure it was seismically reinforced to support the weight.

Allan Goertzen of Wales McLelland is the construction manager for the project and has been using his background as a food and refrigeration specialist to make sure the facility meets complex international food safety standards.

“There are probably four or five different agencies that will approve this building overall because they are shipping throughout the world,” said Goertzen.

The first agency is Fraser Valley Health for cleanliness and food handling. The second is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. There are requirements about how the building is built, cleanliness, service requirements, washdown, contaminant mitigation. The team also must keep track of third-party organizations in the United States, like the Food and Drug Administration, that also have regulations.  

“All of these regulations come into play while we are building this,” said Goertzen. “It is a big issue because you need to know what to look for. Once you are done, it’s not easy to go back and meet these requirements.”   

As part of Daiya Foods’ commitment to sustainability, their new production facility is certified BOMA Best (Bronze) by the Building Owners and Managers Association of British Columbia and is currently pursuing LEED certification.

“Everything that comes out of the building has to be recycled and sorted. As little as possible goes to the landfill,” said Goertzen. “So, there is a lot of paper work and a lot of work for our construction superintendents to make sure that work is happening.”

Despite the project being fast-tracked before the final design had been completed, Goertzen said the project has gone smoothly.

“There’s a lot of people involved in this, and we really need to give credit to the trades – the people that actually put this together,” he said. “It’s not just construction. There is a lot of coordination and teamwork involved in this. And there are a lot of individual subtrade companies and foremen who have a lot of knowledge and experience that have worked together to bring this together.”

Daiya expects the new facility to be operational in the latter half of 2020.

Large industrial sites like this have become more scare in Metro Vancouver, explained Bill Rempel. He is the vice-president of Blackwood Partners’ B.C. region which manages the property for a large Canadian pension fund. At the time the lease was signed, it was one of only two industrial sites in Burnaby or Vancouver over 100,000 square feet. If the lease had be signed a year later, he estimates it would have cost 20 per cent more.  

“The industrial land base is being absorbed at a much higher rate than anticipated,” said Rempel. “When this deal was done there was probably only two sites available over 100,000 square feet in Burnaby or Vancouver. There are larger sites available south of the Fraser though.” 

He added that Amazon and other fulfillment centres are creating a significant upward pressure on the demand for industrial distribution centres.

“This is a long-term lease,” said Rempel. “It’s a great facility and seeing what Daiya Foods is doing is good for people and good for the planet so we are very proud to have done this deal with them.”

Kirk Johnson, Daiya’s vice-president of operations, said the new facility will be a welcome site as it has radically outgrown its old facility.

“Our business is growing in the double digits on an annual basis, so if we don’t look five to ten years out and build ahead our velocity will actually catch up to us and we won’t have enough space to manufacture,” he said.

The new space also will help attract and retain employees. Johnson explained selecting a facility on the SkyTrain line was key as it allows workers to live across the greater Vancouver area. The space will also allow for more automation in the food production, meaning quicker production times while keeping the same labour levels.

Burnaby’s mayor, Mike Hurley, attended the open house and was excited about the future of the company and the new jobs it will bring to the city.

“The expansion of Daiya Foods from its first home in East Vancouver to the massive global production facility under construction today is a wonderful success story,” says Mike Hurley, Mayor of the City of Burnaby. “We are very proud that you have chosen Burnaby for your production, innovation centre and headquarters.”

DAIYA FOODS – Massive food production equipment is already being installed at Daiya Foods’ new production facility in Burnaby, B.C. The dairy-free food manufacturer expects to finish renovating the former-brick warehouse late next year.




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