Crofter’s Organic: Sustainability-Focused Fruit Spreads That Span Generations 

Last Update: May 16, 2024

While Crofter’s is a proudly Canadian company, the brand’s roots can be traced back to a village across the world in rural Germany. Gerhard and Gabi Latka met and married in the same German town where they both grew up; Gerhard’s father owned a food flavor and extraction company, and the couple learned firsthand about food production and the importance of quality ingredients. 

In 1989, after a life-changing road trip through North America, Gerhard and Gabi fell in love with Canada’s sweeping landscapes and moved to Parry Sound, a tight-knit community in northern Ontario. Gerhard had a dream to create a business making fruit spreads using traditional organic farming methods he had seen in Europe. By 1991, the couple had secured their first jam-making facility and welcomed the birth of their first son, Dan. 

While organic farming and food production wasn’t popular (or regulated) in the early ‘90s, the Latkas believed deeply in its importance; Crofter’s is and always has been an organic brand, even since those very first days. By the mid-2000s, the brand had grown rapidly, and the family was able to open a much larger, sustainability-focused production facility and continue to employ the community in Parry Sound, that special place where the brand first began. 

The Next Generation of Organic Farming Champions 

Dan Latka, once the newborn baby in that very first facility, is just as passionate about organic farming — and jam making — as his parents before him. “We’re still 100% organic certified in our output,” Latka says. “We don’t produce one single unit that’s not certified organic. It’s really been a through line on everything that we do: to make business decisions based on whether or not we can do them organically.”

When he talks about Crofter’s, it’s clear that his parents’ initial vision is still his North Star while running the company. “Back in 1989, there was no standard or regulation associated with organic farming, but there was a grassroots movement coming from Europe at the time,” Latka says. “There was already a much greater swell of movement towards more sustainable agriculture. [My father] really stayed laser focused on that through the years.”

From day one, the elder Latkas knew that in order to create the very best quality fruit spreads, they would need to build their own supply chains and maintain close relationships with the farmers growing the organic fruits they’d need for their spreads. “Our supply chain was — and still is, really — our backbone,” Latka says. “Having those early roots in organic farming, and having the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with growers and processors around the world, was kind of the starting point of the organic processing industry for North America.”

Today, the Crofter’s supply chain is much larger, but the company adheres to the same tenets. “We still work directly with our suppliers,” Latka says. “We don’t use food brokers or anything like that. We have direct relationships with many of the growers and processors; at least for our core biggest fruit varieties, we have a really close touch on where they’re coming from, the people we’re working with. It really is a relationship — it’s not a transactional situation. There’s a lot more to it.”

How Crofter’s Set Out To Create a Sustainable Business for People and Planet 

When it came time to expand to a much larger production facility, the Crofter’s team also took the opportunity to identify ways to make their production process more sustainable — particularly in three key areas of energy, water, and social impact. 


“Making jam is a pretty water intensive, energy-intensive process,” Latka explains. “From the energy perspective, you’re combining fruit and sugar and you’re boiling off water at mass, so there’s quite a bit of energy required, and that energy is in the form of heat.” The way Latka looked at it, there were two routes Crofter’s could take: in the first, the heat would go into the product during the boiling stage, then when the jam was cooled, the heat would “go back into the environment, at which point, it’s generally lost,” he explains. 

The second route — and the one they chose — involved a bit of outside-the-box thinking. “We’ve gotten creative with how we harness some of that excess heat effectively,” Latka says. The Crofter’s team created a large cooling tunnel to bring their products down from the filling temperature of around 87 degrees Celsius to 35 or 40 degrees Celsius (the temperature required to package the fruit spreads safely). In this process, the energy is absorbed by the water, and they’re able to use it in winter months to heat the facility. “We have a closed loop system to take that heat from the water and then repurpose it to heat our facility, so there’s zero energy used in the wintertime for heat purposes,” Latka says. “We even have a couple loading docks that have heated ramps, which are all just excess heat that we’re using up. It’s a symbiotic relationship where we can use the energy to accomplish the heating component that we need.”


An employee at work at Crofter’s wastewater treatment facility.

Another way Crofter’s addresses their own outputs in their production facility is with their own wastewater treatment. “Water is a big potential waste case for us,” Latka explains. “There’s tons of cleaning and spraying, and we have our cooling tunnel, which creates water that needs to be recycled.”

To recycle that wastewater, the team developed what Latka describes as a “pretty geeky” process. “We have our own membrane bioreactors,” he explains, “which, in layman’s terms, are just these big vats of microorganisms.” These membrane bioreactors work by “eating” any dissolved sugars that are within the water so that the water is pure enough to reuse. 

“The challenge for us is that all of our other contaminants are physical contaminants that you can either strain out or settle out,” Latka explains. “But once sugar is dissolved, it’s dissolved. That’s why we have that special technology that helps us consume [that sugar], and then we can go through the rest of our processing to effectively reuse almost every drop of water through any of our processes in the facility.”

Social impact 

While it may not be quite as obvious as their sustainability processes, Latka is quick to say that at Crofter’s, they abide by the tenets of regenerative and biodynamic farming that say that a business’s social impact is equally impactful. “When we outgrew [that first facility], we had to make a decision of, a.) Do we build a new plant here in Parry Sound, or b.) Do we relocate to Toronto or some other metropolitan city and find a space to set up a shop and carry on?” he remembers. “This is home for us as a family, and for the company as well. We support quite a number of other families through employment.” 

With this in mind, the Latkas decided to stay put — and to work even harder to create a thriving, socially conscious business that would employ many of the area’s residents. “We built this thing from the ground up,” Latka says. “When you’re doing everything from scratch, you can be thoughtful about how you’re going to put it together. 

This thoughtfulness allowed the Latkas to continue to employ the people who helped them to build their business many years ago. “It is a rural area, so the majority of our local economy is tourism-based,” Latka says. “In the summertime there’s freshwater lakes everywhere, tons of cottaging and visitor tourism, which drives the economy forward. But in the winter, it does kind of shut down. Having our business in the area creates those steady, reliable jobs that people can count on. I do think it was the right decision for us to stay here for many reasons, just beyond it being a good place to do business.”

Shop Crofter’s Organic Fruit Spreads 

Crofter’s Organic Premium Fruit Spread in Strawberry
Made with organic strawberries sourced from direct relationships with farmers and sweetened with Fair-Trade cane sugar, this spread is a classic on toast, as a topper on cheesecakes, or even to use in marinades.

Crofter’s Organic Premium Seedless Fruit Spread in Raspberry
Sweet and tangy, this smooth fruit spread is made with organic raspberries without any seeds, making it perfect for baking or picky kids’ breakfasts. 

Crofter’s Organic Premium Fruit Spread in Morello Cherry
Tart, organic Morello cherries add lively flavor to this fruit spread, which is perfect in meat marinades or as a pastry filling. 

Crofter’s Organic Premium Fruit Spread in Concord Grape
A pure, organic take on a childhood classic. While many conventional grape jams use only the grape juice, this one uses the entire grape for a deeper flavor that tastes great on PB&Js. 

Crofter’s Organic Premium Fruit Spread in Strawberry Banana
Totally unique and instantly addictive, this smooth, velvety jam offers a favorite fruit pairing in one organic spread. 

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Sustainable Brands

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Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts is Thrive Market's Senior Editorial Writer. She is based in Los Angeles via Pittsburgh, PA.

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