About Us

The story of Johnston’s Homestyle Products is an inspiring one for many reasons. First, it is the story of family: five generations of Johnstons have worked in and steered the business on Prince Edward Island, starting with Ernest and Aileen Johnston in 1947 and continuing to the present day. It is the story of supporting the Prince Edward Island economy, buying millions of pounds of potatoes, cabbage, carrots, beef and pork from Island farmers and providing employment to dozens of people, directly and indirectly. It is the story of loyalty by both consumers and longserving employees. And, finally, it is the story of perseverance in the face of harsh economic times, rebuilding after a disastrous fire, and growing the brand to its decades-long position of dominance in the prepared salad market in Atlantic Canada.

Timeline

1947-48

Johnston’s Homestyle Products was established by Ernest and Aileen Johnston in their home kitchen in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, following the end of the Second World War. Their first product was potted meat, made from a family recipe, followed by the company’s signature products of potato salad and coleslaw. The products were sold to small, local stores and the volume grew steadily over the years.

The Johnstons moved to a larger home, and moved the production of products to the basement of the house, where two-three employees made potted meat and salad using exclusively local produce and beef.

1961

1961

Following a career in the Royal Canadian Navy, Harris Johnston, the oldest son of Ernest and Aileen, became involved in the family-owned company.

Harris Johnston took over running the company, which relocated from the family home to the C.M MacLean Building in Sherwood, Prince Edward Island. Products were delivered daily to dozens of small general and grocery stores across the province. Over the next six years, the business grew and products were exported to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

1971

1977

In April, disaster struck when the building housing the production facility burned to the ground, destroying equipment, inventory and completely wiping out the business. Shaken but undeterred, Harris made the decision to rebuild the business in a new and larger plant in the West Royalty Industrial Park, just outside of Charlottetown. In December, the new plant, a 2,400 square foot, federally-inspected food processing facility opened.

Over the next decade, salad and meat products, including the potted meat, based on the original recipe, were produced. In addition, the company was supplying fresh, peeled and diced vegetables to hospitals, government institutions, hotels and restaurants. The Johnston family was an integral part of the company: Harris and his wife, Shirley, and their three sons worked in the business, handling all aspects of administration, sales, and quality control.

1980-90

1987

Fresh, peeled and diced vegetables were added to the product mix to supply hotels, restaurants and a variety of institutions. The company earned an excellent reputation for prompt, responsible service, using its own distribution system.

The physical plant was expanded to 20,000 square feet to handle the additional products.

1990

1990-2000

As the decade went on, sales continued to grow, but the business environment was changing. The era of the small, rural and corner stores was coming to a close as preferences were shifting to larger grocery retailers. The opening of the Confederation Bridge in 1997, linking Prince Edward Island to mainland Canada, was seen by many as the beginning of contemporary patterns of consumer behaviour and consolidation in the food supply chain. Johnston’s Homestyle adjusted its business model in response to the new reality, refocusing distribution and rationalizing the product line. Changing with the times, the company added new products, including desserts, while retiring others, continually adjusting the product mix to stay competitive.

Johnston’s Homestyle Products was selling approximately two million pounds of salad a year, attracting the attention of Keybrand Foods Inc., who subsequently took an ownership position in the company, allowing it to double its salad production and occupy 32,000 square feet of production space.

2000

2004

Harris Johnston retired and the remaining portion of the company was sold to Keybrand Foods.

The company expanded into new facilities in the West Royalty Industrial Park, doubling its production and storage space. The Johnston’s Homestyle Products brand was retained and remained the number one selling brand for refrigerated salads in Atlantic Canada.

2013

2014

The Johnston specialty retail packs were launched.

Freshstone Brands purchased the company from Keybrand Foods.

2018