Ontario Food Cluster plants processing innovation message to international delegates at Institute of Food Technologists IFT 2011 Annual Meeting & Food Expo

New Orleans, LA – IFT11 – June 13, 2011 The Ontario Food Cluster is bringing its processing innovation message to IFT11 in New Orleans this week as it seeks more agri-food firms outside Canada to join or expand an existing 2,500 food and beverage companies in the province. Those 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 is Protenergy Natural Foods Corp. Located in the heart of the Greater Toronto Area, in the town of Richmond Hill, with easy access to all domestic and international shipping routes, Protenergy recently installed Canada's first and only Tetra Recart packaging line, allowing the company to extend carton technology to anything that has historically been in a can. Protenergy supplies its products, including soups, broths, sauces and gravies, to the majority of the top 30 US retailers. The company expects its business to double in the next two years along with employment, from 70 to 140 people and this year announced a $22.2-million expansion, supported by a $6.67-million loan from the province.

Another example of Ontario Food Cluster Innovation is Kitchener-based BFG Canada Ltd. BFG Canada's two separate plants in Kitchener and Georgetown have both received British Retail Consortium (BRC) certification, the highest globally recognized food safety accreditation. BFG Canada produces more than 50 varieties of private-label crackers, including whole wheat, whole grain, cheese and multigrain, as well as a variety of organic, low-calorie and kosher products. Over the past twenty years, the company has seen tremendous growth in its international customer base and now exports products to retailers in North America, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Australia and South Africa.

“What makes the Ontario Food Cluster so compelling is our R&D-driven talent base,” says Erin Skimson, Director, Business Development Office, University of Guelph. “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,” says Gerald Pisarzowski, Vice-President Business Development, Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance (GTMA). “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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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