It all began with one man’s idea, 50 years ago.
Founded by Ted Atkinson in 1962, Summerland Sweets has grown and evolved in the years since, but continues to carry on the tradition as both a family-owned business and a specialty manufacturer of quality fruit products.
In 1929, Atkinson became the first food technician to be hired by the federal government and worked at the Summerland Research Station for several years, where he eventually became the Head of Food Science.
His position involved experimentation with new fruit products and finding ways to get these products adopted by industry, as well as finding ways to buy more fruit from the growers.
This extensive background in fruit research led to the creation of a fruit candy, initially sold as a fundraiser for the Summerland Rotary Club.
This fruit candy became the company’s first product upon its establishment and is still sold by Summerland Sweets today.
With support from several in the community including Lorne Bloomfield, Dugal MacGregor and John Kitson, Atkinson’s idea became a reality in 1962.
The newly-founded Summerland Sweets quickly gained a reputation for its fruit pancake syrup and its fruit wine bases.
Today, Summerland Sweets is still operated by Atkinson’s family. Len Filek, husband of Atkinson’s granddaughter, began work with the company in 1984 and is now the general manager. Although the product line has expanded over the years, with the facility now producing 19 types of fruit jam and 15 different fruit syrups, Filek says that they still stick to the original recipes and methods.
‘We still use the same basic formulas we used 35, 40 and 50 years ago. We know what we do well and we try and continue it.”
He also mentions that the key ingredient remains the fruit, with tree-ripened or vine-ripened fruit as the base.
“We don’t add any flavours or colours. It’s all from the fruit,” he says.
Summerland Sweets continued its expansion and delved into agri-tourism in 1992, with the opening of a store at 6206 Canyon View Rd. While in its first year the store brought around 2,000 people to the facility, that number has since grown and the store now sees an average of 30,000 visitors every year.
The most recent addition to the company has been that of Sleeping Giant Fruit Winery, started by Summerland Sweets in 2005. With the intent of specializing in fruit wine and offering up something a little different, this initiative came to fruition following plenty of advice from Harry McWatters and the hiring of winemaker Ron Taylor, also recommended by McWatters. The winery quickly established a name for itself and its fruit wines have won numerous awards, including three national awards won earlier this spring. The winery’s 14 varieties of table wines and nine dessert wines will soon be joined by three sparkling fruit wines, which Sleeping Giant will introduce later this month. While the winery may seem like a diversion from the syrups and jams, Filek says wine is just another extension of fruit production.
This weekend, from June 21 to 24, Summerland Sweets will celebrate its 50th anniversary. A free pancake breakfast will be held there on Saturday June 23, from 8 a.m. to noon.