By Erika Mathieu
Rockport Flour Mills in Magrath is celebrating 100 years of production of the famous Coyote Pancake Mix in Magrath.
Although the Magrath operation has been open since 1923, the history of Rockport Flour Mills dates back to 1895. The first milling operation was established in Alexandria, South Dakota on land owned by the Rockport Hutterite Colony. Shortly after, the Coyote Pancake Mix brand name was registered in 1897. In the mill’s infancy, water flow from the nearby James River drove a forty-barrel flour mill. This flour would later become a staple ingredient in the iconic Coyote Pancake Mix. Years later, Magrath become home to an offshoot of the South Dakotan settlement, and the second mill was made operational in 1923.
Despite the brand’s humble beginnings and a rich history in southern Alberta, Coyote Pancake Mix is now a national brand with 100 years of history.
The product took off as a convenience item taking the mixing and measuring out of pancakes, but the brand has expanded their offerings over the years to include flaxseed, buttermilk, and original mixes and can be found in stores across the country including the Maritimes.
Sales have plateaued in recent years, and speculation is this may be due in part to other similar pancake mixes hitting the shelves such as privately-labeled generic products. However the historic brand has made the shift to e-commerce as well with major natural food supplier Tree of Life and Amazon Canada.
To acknowledge the brand’s resilience over the past century, packaging will eventually reflect the 100 years of production of Coyote Pancake mixes at the Rockport Mill.
“We are grateful to the people who support us and we’re very thankful for the support that we’ve been getting and we are excited to keep providing a good wholesome product as we move forward,” said Rockport Flour Mills’ plant manager, Jake Wipf, explaining the grains used in the Coyote Pancake mixes are primarily farmed at Rockport Colony in southern Alberta. “Most of the time, we farm something like 15 sections, and most years Rockport has sufficient grain.”
With 9,600 acres of land growing wheat, variances in climate plays an integral role in getting grain grown on the colony’s land into the mix.
“We’ve got to keep in mind that we’re dry land. So on a very dry year, I’m not using Rockport grain due to the (small) kernel size,” which can pose problems at the cleaning stage of production.
Some things have changed since the early days, including the brand’s recent announcement to join the national Duck’s Unlimited eco-label program which is aimed to improve habitats for waterfowl on the Canadian Prairies by planting winter wheat. As technology has improved exponentially the operation has seen many iterations over the decades.
“The mill has probably been rebuilt a dozen times with added machinery, change of the buildings and add ons. It’s a constant replacement of equipment.”
Despite all of the ways in which the mill’s infrastructure and production technology has changed, Wipf said, “the recipe hasn’t changed; it is still the same,” all these years later.