The following is taken in part from my upcoming book on vinegar history, The Eternal Condiment to be published by Spikehorn Press in early 2019.
When people here in the US think Canadian vinegar one might have an amusing notion of a barrel of maple vinegar fermenting in some snowy, remote lodge in Northern Ontario. While Canada is obviously a leader in maple vinegar production (though Vermont based maple syrup mega giant Sweet Tree Holdings has entered this fray with their Maple Guild brand), it has had a large and dynamic vinegar industry in its own right. As explained later, it even pioneered national consolidation of the vinegar industry before the US or UK.
While Canada had vinegar companies develop in almost all of its provinces, some of the first large companies were founded in Quebec, possibly because of the influence of French vinegar culture on French Canadians. One prominent firm was Manufacture de Vinaigre de Montreal (Montreal Vinegar Works) founded by Michel Lefebvre in 1874. One of the largest Canadian vinegar companies at the time it could produce 200,000 gallons of vinegar per year. Other prominent vinegar makers in Quebec included Lion Vinegar and the St. Lawrence Vinegar Co.
Ontario was the other large vinegar producing province with production centering near the Toronto area. Its firms included the Queen City Vinegar, S. Allen Vinegar, and Imperial Vinegar. Due to the high transport cost relative to price for vinegar, Canada, like the similarly large US, had to have vinegar factories in the more remote provinces to service businesses and consumers efficiently. Western Vinegars Ltd. was the largest such firm with plants in both Alberta and Manitoba. The other large western players were Pioneer Vinegar out of Edmonton and Vinegars Ltd. which has founded in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1949.
There was a British Columbia Vinegar Company during the 1920s in Vancouver, but it was not what the name implied. In fact, it was a mob front to supply liquor to the US illegally during Prohibition set up by Henry Reifel, a German-born Canadian brewer and bootlegging partner of Joseph Kennedy, father of future president John F. Kennedy. Canadian authorities became suspicious when it was found the company produced many barrels of goods, none of which contained vinegar. The owner James Ball fled to Seattle before authorities could get him to testify about his activities before the Royal Commission on Customs and Excise.
As the vinegar industry became crowded and overcapacity loomed prices plummeted. Therefore Canada went through a process preceding the similar actions in the United States and United Kingdom where smaller regional companies based in multiple provinces were bought out or consolidated.
Canada began merging most of its vinegar companies into one conglomerate in 1925 in a move that presaged the similar formation of British Vinegars several years later in the UK. Canada Vinegars was granted a Dominion charter and absorbed Western Vinegar, Lion Vinegar, Queen City Vinegar, and S. Allen Vinegar as well as some smaller players in Ontario. In 1929, it also absorbed Pioneer Vinegar. Decades later, Vinegars Ltd. was absorbed as well.
At its height, Canada Vinegars claimed to be the largest consolidated manufacturer of vinegar in North America. This may have been true though Fleischmann’s Vinegar in the US would undoubtedly dispute this. Canada Vinegars eventually expanded beyond vinegar making sauces and condiments and rebranded itself as Canvin Products in 1971 to accommodate its wider scope.
Canadian vinegar would be shaken to its core though when Campbell’s Soup acquired Canvin in 1979. Seeing its operational footprint as large and inefficient, over the next several years Campbell’s disposed of most of Canvin’s remaining plants, either through closure or by sale to Fleischmann’s/Burns Philp. Fleischmann’s itself would eventually quit the Canadian market as well (in factory presence, not exports) and hand its assets to what was then the last remaining major vinegar manufacturer in Canada: Reinhart Foods.
Reinhart Foods, though founded in 1910, did not aggressively enter the vinegar market until the 1950s with the advent of acetator technology. Based in Stayner, Ontario they were able to hold their own and grow against the large, but sclerotic, Canada Vinegars Ltd. located nearby. As the assets of Canada Vinegar were shed or passed to successive buyers, they were able to grow their share of the market until they had the largest, and almost only footprint in Canada. Today, besides US imports, the Canadian market is dominated by Reinhart Foods who operates plants in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia.