New initiative has Ontario foodservice thinking local

Six farm groups are working with a foodservice distributor to help food industry companies promote local fare.

Gordon Food Service of Milton, Ont., a North American foodservice distributor, launched the Ontario Ingredients for Success project last fall with the participating farm groups. They are: Mushrooms Canada, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, Turkey Farmers of Ontario, Egg Farmers of Ontario and Dairy Farmers of Ontario.

This unique project is believed to the first of its kind in Canada, says Peter Henderson, president of Ideovation, the company that helped Gordon Food Service put the initiative together. The project is funded in part by the Greenbelt Fund, a non-profit organization in Ontario that supports the viability, integrity and sustainability of agriculture.

Boosting awareness

The initiative, designed to make it easier to promote local ingredients on menus in Ontario, is projected to increase Ontario food sales by $5 million. It included three symposiums to gather information and provide networking opportunities for foodservice operators, farm organizations and processors.

Henderson says the project is helping increase the level of awareness and dialogue among food industry stakeholders “around the value and the depth and breadth of Ontario ingredients.”

Project’s value

Mushrooms Canada project co-ordinator Marianne Muth says the project helps them learn about companies in the food service sector. 

It also helps Mushrooms Canada introduce its blend and extend campaign. Blend and extend is combining finely chopped mushrooms into ground meat to cut calories in a dish, add a serving of vegetables, enhance flavour and add nutrition.

“The blend concept has been very popular in the United States,” she says. “It’s something that’s really just beginning here.”

Mushrooms Canada’s promotional efforts are focused mainly on contacting consumers directly. The Ontario Ingredients for Success project “is a great way for us to get to know some of the other folks in the food industry,” Muth says.

Connecting with buyers

Turkey Farmers of Ontario’s foodservice specialist Stacy Butler says connecting with foodservice businesses “to assist them in promoting local turkey” is one definite benefits of the project’s for her organization.

Through the program and “the events we attended, we were able to showcase fresh turkey and reach through to other suppliers and vendors and talk to end users,” such as hospital groups, universities and contract caterers, she says.

Foodservice firms and other companies “will use this program to find information on local turkey products and what’s available,” Butler says, adding she helps them with their promotions of the local product.

Bottom line

Farm groups are talking directly to foodservice and other companies interested in promoting local ingredients as part of a unique project.

Article by: Susan Mann