Still an all Canadian Family Company after all these years
Jim, Bruce, Grant
At Harold T. Griffin Inc. (HTG), the food business is a long-standing family tradition. For four generations, the family has been a leader in its chosen segments of the Canadian food industry. Their dedication in food products since 1920 and in food ingredients since 1955 has created the strong foundation for a thriving business today. HTG was started by Harold T. Griffin whose father was a successful food wholesaler. Harold, with his wife Helen, built the company and guided it through its initial stages of growth.
In 1955, Harold’s nephew, James Kenney joined the company and under his direction, HTG took a major step forward. The Food Ingredients Division was created and the flagship line of Club Des Millionnaires canned fish was expanded.
In the family tradition, Jim’s oldest son, Bruce Kenney joined the firm in 1972 and guided HTG through retail product expansion and a major acquisition in 1988.
As president, Bruce now presides over company activities, including retail and corporate affairs. After practicing law for 16 years, Bruce’s brother, Grant Kenney, joined HTG as President of the Food Ingredients Division.
The family, along with the rest of HTG’s management team will continue expanding the company’s industry leadership role in new directions while maintaining the solid business principles as set down over the next generations.
Club Des Millionnaires
Rich in History… a Wealth of Experience.
Club Des Millionnaires, a household name in Canada, has a history that goes back almost to the turn of the century. The name was originally used by a social club for prominent Montreal businessmen that was started in the early 1900’s. Eventually, these businessmen decided to import canned Portuguese sardines. In 1908, the name of their Club became the name of their new product… Club Des Millionnaires. The Club Des Millionnaires brand was represented by Harold T. Griffin beginning in the early 1920s, well before he formed the company that bears his name. Today, Club Des Millionnaires is synonymous with quality and value; and, the name that has made our small fish into big sellers. *Club Des Millionnaires products are sold in Canadian stores from coast to coast.
Dogs pulling advertisement in downtown Montreal –1930’s
Historic Art Gallery
THE FISH SHE IS VERY SMALL – How the tagline came to be.
(”The slogan became our advertising message…” says Harold T. Griffin, President, Harold T. Griffin Ltd., Toronto.“The story of this poster goes back many years to the time when I was selling Millionnaires Sardines to a French buyer in Montréal. I emphasized that our sardines were small and as a result there were more in a tin. The buyer commented, ”The fish she is very small”, and I immediately realized that he had given us a very worthwhile slogan. We placed it on our labels and when we began using outdoor shortly afterwards, the slogan became our advertising message as well. We have remained with this theme through the years and feel that it has been an important factor in the sale of our Millionnaires Sardines through many decades”.)
To hear one of our past radio advertisements, click here.
Some Things Change
Every label tells a story. Here are some of ours, beginning with our original and earliest labels. (Some of these brands and products have been discontinued.) Go to our Products page and you’ll find pictures of labels you’ll see on your grocery store shelves when you shop for Millionnaires canned fish and seafood. Labels through history distinguish the Millionnaires line of products as a distinctive collection of Canadian classics. One of the earliest bore a photo of the originators.
Club Des Billionnaires
As our product line evolved, and a shortage of brisling sardines for the Millionnaires product occurred at the time, the new Billionnaires brand appeared on the store shelves. Slightly bigger in size, the main difference was a slightly lower fat content. Slight as the difference may seem, it was decided to introduce the new Billionnaires brand to take advantage of the high quality Millionnaires image – and to ensure that devoted Millionnaires customers would be certain there had been no change in the original product. By nature, the Billionnaires fish is less expensive and this is reflected in the product price. Billionnaires are packed in soya oil.
Club Des Trillionnaires
This brand was developed in 1975 for a one-layer sardine in tomato sauce product as a result of a customer request from a chain store in Montreal. As this product was to be one layer versus the two-layer packs for our 100g Millionnaires and Billionnaires brands, and to ensure that everyone understood this was a different product, the Trillionnaires name was created to align it consistently with the balance of the product line. Consumers could trust that the new product incorporated the same superior quality and value. From the tomato variety, an oil variety was added and the market was expanded to cover other areas of Canada.
Over the years, the costs associated with Trillionnaires escalated until there was little difference in retail prices between the Trillionnaires (one-layer – fewer sardines, bigger fish) and the Billionnaires (two-layer – more sardines, smaller size). We stopped selling the Trillionnaires product in the early ’90s. In 1989, the Trillionnaires brand name was applied to a line of sardines from Korea, targeting the Western Canada market. This line included skinless and boneless sardines in oil and water as well as whole “plain” sardines in oil and water. These products eventually disappeared from the shelf in the early ’90s as the packer felt they could no longer pack to meet the strict regulations of the Canadian government’s importation regulations on canned fish — regulations, by the way, that Harold T. Griffin supports.
History of the Canning Industry
In 1879, two enterprising Norweigians — Johan Mejlaender and Martin Gabrielsen-figured out how to preserve the summers catch of sardines by lightly smoking the little fish over oak fires and packing them in oil. The sardine industry was born. In the period before 1930 there were over 2,500 registered trademarks in use in the sardine canning industry, revealing a remarkable diversity of brand names and label designs.
Marbles were used by the lithographic printer to polish their stones. After a period of use, the marbles became worn so were discarded. Inevitably they soon found their way into the hands of children. The prize for winning a game of marbles was sardine tin labels. These labels were highly prized and collected as baseball and hockey cards are today.
The game of marbles is still played today, the marbles are now glass rather than stone. The payment in sardine tin labels has disappeared and the marbles themselves are the prize. The lack of sardine tin labels since the decline of the industry was presumably an important factor in effecting the change. Other products in our history.