Ontario wheat gains fans

POPULAR BREAKFAST CEREAL GETS A LOCAL MAKEOVER

as consumers are increasingly demanding more local ingredients in their favourite products, farmers are gaining market share and publicity. Fortunately,  for both consumers and farmers, food processors and manufacturers are listening.

A walk through the grocery story, an hour watching television or a quick read through the newspaper proves that Canadians are interested in local food. Grocery stores are increasingly pressured to carry more local produce and the Foodland Ontario label is definitely getting a work out.

Unfortunately, grain farmers are often left out of the local game. With crops that require varying levels of processing prior to consumption, the connection between grain farmers and consumers is wider than their horticultural counterparts.

But lucky for grain farmers and consumers alike, the local trend is moving past the produce department and into the cereal aisle.

This past spring, Weetabix Canada switched to using 100 percent Ontario wheat in its Original Weetabix products. According to the company, the switch was the result of their belief in providing consumers with the highest quality ingredients and supporting local farmers.

“We are thrilled to now offer our consumers Weetabix Original made with 100 percent Ontario wheat,” says Kent Spalding, Vice President for Weetabix Canada. “We have chosen to source our Original Weetabix cereal from homegrown Ontario wheat because we understand the importance of supporting our local farmers and providing Canadian consumers with a healthy cereal that is grown close to home.”

local wheat, local processing, local consumers
With its processing and research and development facilities located in Cobourg, Ontario, the switch to Ontario wheat was not only a benefit to consumers; it made sense for the company to source as many ingredients as locally as possible from a logistical standpoint.

Weetabix has also gone beyond the goal of simply sourcing from the province, but has looked even closer to home. Of the wheat sourced by the company, approximately 25 percent comes directly from Northumberland County, where the processing plant is located. An additional 25 percent is sourced from adjacent counties and the remaining 50 percent comes from elsewhere in the province.

“We consistently evaluate our supply chain to see where local products can be used,” says Jacquie Perlmutter, Brand Manager for Weetabix North America. In addition to access, it is also important that Weetabix source high quality wheat. Perlmutter says that Weetabix is “confident that the appropriate volumes and the highest quality of wheat will continue to be available.”

getting the word out
Accompanying the switch to Ontario wheat, Weetabix also enacted a plan to make Ontarians aware of their new local option. With the help of a grant from the Ontario Market Investment Fund, a provincial program aimed at helping “Ontario families get local Ontario food onto their kitchen tables,” Weetabix launched a province-wide campaign to tell consumers about the switch.

With 45 percent of Weetabix sales coming from Ontario, this province represents an important market for the company. The campaign was centered in two distinct areas: the Greater Toronto Area and  Northumberland County, the home of Weetabix Canada.

“In just three months, close to one million consumers in the Greater Toronto Area have experienced locally-grown Weetabix and the response has been extremely successful,” says Spalding.

Messaging about the locally grown and locally processed product has been distributed via radio spots, billboards, the distribution of reusable bags at the Royal Winter Fair and an eco-cab campaign in downtown Toronto.

“Our consumers have been very supportive of this initiative,” says Perlmutter.

In addition to consumers, the company also received 20 letters from millers, wheat suppliers, community leaders and Grain Farmers of Ontario in support of their new campaign to highlight local wheat.

Spalding sums up the success of the campaign explaining that “Canadians are looking for new ways to include healthy food that is grown and produced locally in their diets and we are proud to provide them with this in our Weetabix Original lineup.”