Healthy chocolate? Ontario Food Cluster tastes trade and investment potential with 150,000 global food industry executives at Anuga 2011 in Cologne

The Ontario Food Cluster team at ANUGA 2011“Healthy chocolate” technology an example of commercialization momentum drawing international companies to Ontario’s knowledge-rich food cluster

A week after Forbes Magazine rated Canada as the world’s top country for business, the Ontario Food Cluster is bringing its business investment and innovation message to Anuga 2011 in Cologne, Germany. This includes news of an exciting “healthy chocolate” technology. The Ontario Food Cluster is seeking to attract more agri-food firms outside Canada to join or expand an existing 2,500 food and beverage companies in the country’s largest province.

co-inventors Robert Lencki (in glasses), Associate Professor in the department of Food Science at the University of Guelph and John Craven, a post-doctoral fellow also at GuelphThose companies boast manufacturing revenue approaching $34 billion, and help drive agri-food exports that amount to more than $9 billion annually. They also help employ 210,000 industry employees, researchers, innovators and collaborators who have built a stellar reputation for reliable, sustainable sources of agricultural raw materials, state-of-the-art automated food processing methods, and world-class food safety standards.

An example of innovation within the Ontario Food Cluster includes a technology developed at the University of Guelph for creating a more healthy chocolate bar with fat replacements that are completely metabolized, and do not interfere with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. The fat replacements actually promote weight loss and improve blood lipids in both human and animal trials. Shortenings, spreads and confectionary fats are also candidates for the new fat replacement technology used to create “healthy chocolate”. Such products will significantly improve a food product’s health profile without compromising taste or texture, according to researchers.

“What makes the Ontario Food Cluster so compelling is our R&D-driven talent base,” says Gerald Pisarzowski, Vice-President Business Development, Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance (GTMA). “International companies moving to or expanding in Ontario can tap into a renewable resource of 5,200 annual graduates from 64 food-specific college and university programs. There are also more than 500 well-funded R&D experts working in Ontario's academic institutions, or in 132 research institutes, networks, and associations devoted to excellence in food production, processing and packaging.”

Ontario has a global reputation for food quality and dominates 31.8% of Canada's supermarket and convenience/specialty food store market, more than any other Canadian province. The Ontario Food Cluster’s mission is to grow that national dominance to international dominance.

GTMA is an Ontario Food Cluster partner along with Canada’s Technology Triangle (Waterloo Region); Grow Guelph (City of Guelph and University of Guelph); Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The Ontario Food Cluster embraces internationally focused companies such as General Mills Canada, H.J. Heinz Company of Canada, Maple Leaf Foods, Kellogg Canada, Parmalat Canada, Saputo, Dare Foods, Schneider Foods, Cargill Canada, George Weston Ltd. and Unilever.

The governments of Ontario and Canada offer an array of incentive programs to the agri-food industry, including:

Export Market Access: A Global Expansion Program: a $5 million initiative, jointly sponsored by the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), designed to help small and medium-sized enterprises increase their access to global markets. The program covers 50% of eligible costs in four specified areas.

Apprenticeship Training Tax Credit Ontario (ATTC): Eligible companies that hire and train apprentices in skilled trades, including food process operators, receive a tax credit up to $10,000 per year.

First Job Initiative - Ontario Centres of Excellence: helps Ontario companies hire knowledgeable, highly-skilled graduates from Ontario colleges and universities. Established companies receive support for up to 50% of the recruit's salary, to a maximum of $40,000. Start-up companies are eligible for support for up to 80% of the recruit's salary, to a maximum of $50,000.

Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario): programs support economic and community development, innovation, and economic diversification, with a budget of $1 Billion from 2009-2013.

AgriProcessing Initiative (API): a five year initiative providing up to $50 million and ending on March 31, 2014. The program supports existing processing companies for agri-processing projects involving the adoption of innovative and new-to-company manufacturing technologies and processes that are essential to sustaining and improving the sector's position in a global marketplace.

Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program (SR&ED): eligible companies can earn an investment tax credit (ITC) of up to 35% on the first $2 million of qualified expenditures for SR&ED carried out in Canada, and 20% on any excess amount. The program encourages Canadian businesses of all sizes and in all sectors to conduct R&D in Canada.

For a complete list of provincial and federal government programs, please see: http://www.ontariofoodcluster.com/incentives/.

About the Ontario Food Cluster:

The Ontario Food Cluster builds international trade and investment opportunities in the 2,500-company agri-food sector of Greater Toronto Area and south-western Ontario. Those companies have manufacturing revenue approaching $34 billion and employ 210,000 industry employees, researchers, innovators and collaborators who have built a stellar reputation for reliable, sustainable sources of agricultural raw materials, state-of-the-art automated food processing methods, and world-class food safety standards. Ontario Food Cluster partners include the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance (GTMA); Canada’s Technology Triangle (Waterloo Region); Grow Guelph (City of Guelph and University of Guelph); Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.