THE YEAR 2020 has been a challenging year on several fronts and most of us are hoping that a new year will bring a fresh start and the beginning of things going back to normal, whatever the new normal may look like.
There have been many positives that have come from 2020 though as well. One of the biggest is the increased exposure Canadian agriculture is receiving due to the important role it is playing in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. While the events over the past year have been, and continue to be, unsettling, it has highlighted the important role Canadian agriculture plays in providing safe, healthy, and affordable food to everyone. This has brought a reinforced interest from consumers in wanting to support locally grown and produced foods. While this trend has been occurring for the past several years, the pandemic has strengthened it even more. Consumers continue to see the value and benefits purchasing local products provides.
|WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW|
• Approximately 1.8 million metric tonnes, of Ontario grain goes into food for human consumption.
• The Ontario Grain Label will be an easily recognizable symbol that will allow consumers to quickly distinguish between products made with Ontario grain and those that are not.
• A food supplier guide is being developed that will provide an online resource for food manufacturers to connect with suppliers of Ontario grain.
• A food sector website provides a central place where food manufacturers, retailers and suppliers can go for information on Ontario grain.
• For the food sector to access any of the initiatives they will need to go through a verification program.
Recognizing this trend, the market development department at Grain Farmers of Ontario has been working on several initiatives, helping to create new market opportunities within the domestic food sector.
Currently 12 per cent, or approximately 1.8 million metric tonnes, of Ontario grain goes into food for human consumption. With the increased interest in consumers wanting to buy more local, there is a great opportunity to showcase the high-quality, sustainable Ontario grains that are used in a wide variety of food products.
Four initiatives are currently in development to connect with domestic food manufacturers, retailers, and suppliers to help drive the utilization of Ontario grain and to help bring more awareness to consumers of Ontario grain-based products.
The first initiative is the development of a grain label that will help consumers easily identify products made with Ontario grain and could influence their purchasing decisions. Like other labels that are available, such as the Dairy Farmers of Canada quality milk label, the Ontario Grain Label will be an easily recognizable symbol that will allow consumers to quickly distinguish between products made with Ontario grain and those that are not.
Working with a creative agency, the label has been designed to be simple and easy to recognize while also showcasing the pride and passion that Ontario grain farmers put into producing their crops. There are five versions of the label available, each providing a different attribute to allow companies to choose which one ties in best with their company values and objectives. Pilot projects are currently underway with several domestic food manufacturers testing the label and its attributes to ensure it meets the needs of the companies and can be easily understood by consumers.
To support the Ontario Grain Label, marketing materials are also being developed that food retailers can use in their store locations to allow them to showcase their support of Ontario grains. The materials include Ontario Grain Label stickers that can easily be placed on any products, window decals, countertop signs, and digital assets that can be used on websites and social media platforms. These materials will help food retailers highlight their commitment to selling Ontario grain-based products to their consumer base.
Working with the food sector over the years, the most common question that is asked is where companies can purchase Ontario grain or Ontario grain-based ingredients. To help bridge this gap, a food supplier guide is being developed that will provide an online resource for food manufacturers to connect with suppliers of Ontario grain. Housed on a newly develop food sector website, companies can search the online database to find a list of suppliers based on the ingredient(s) they are looking for. Information for each of the suppliers is provided along with a direct connection to them.
The final initiative that is being developed is a food sector website that provides a central place where food manufacturers, retailers, and suppliers can go for information on Ontario grain. The website provides information on the Ontario Grain Label and how companies can become involved, how to sign-up and access the marketing materials, as well as the online searchable food supplier guide. The website also provides the opportunity to share information on the quality, functionality, and sustainability of Ontario grain.
For the food sector to access any of the initiatives they will need to go through a verification program. This will be a simple system that will allow companies to be vetted to ensure they are in fact using Ontario grain in their products. This will help to ensure the integrity of the initiatives and to provide assurance to consumers that when they see the Ontario Grain Label, they know the product has been made with Ontario grain and is helping to support Ontario grain farmers.
We continue to work on finalizing each of these initiatives that we hope will drive increased utilization of Ontario grain into domestic food products. Please keep a look out over the next couple of months for more information on the official launch of each of the initiatives.
Nicole Mackellar is the manager, market development for Grain Farmers of Ontario. •