MISSISSAUGA, ON (CNW) — The local food movement and call for more "Made in Ontario" products in public institutions is opening the doors for Ontario food and beverage processors to tap into the multi-million dollar market potential of this sector. Food and beverage processor entrepreneurs learned about this opportunity at a workshop on December 11 at the enterprising ThinkFOOD! Centre of Maple Leaf Foods.
Food and Beverage Ontario (FBO), the leading voice of over 3,000 food and beverage processors, brought together budding entrepreneurs, seasoned processor veterans and purchasers from the Ontario Broader Public Sector (BPS) to encourage the development of business partnerships between food providers and food buyers.
The event attracted over 50 participants, ranging from small operations to new start-ups and well-established food and beverage processors.
The BPS spends about $750 million on food each year for the products served in public institutions, including elementary schools, universities and colleges, hospitals and long-term care facilities.
The workshop, the first of its kind held by FBO and funded by the Greenbelt Fund with support from My Sustainable Canada, featured the seasoned expertise of Kevin Stemmler of Stemmler Meats and Steve Tultz of Bonduelle.
Stemmler Meats got its start in the family garage and St. Jacobs Market, then gaining their own Waterloo area retail space and eventually becoming a supplier to BPS institutions. The product list boasts fresh, smoked and deli meats. The success of the expanding company was reflected in the awarding of several industry awards including a National Health and Wellness Award, the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation and a listing on Profit 500 as one of Canada's fastest growing companies.
Bonduelle, a world leader in processed vegetables with a brand presence in 18 countries, produces quality foods with direct-from-the-field vegetables across the international landscape. In Ontario, fresh vegetables from its own 260 growers are promptly delivered to local plants in Strathroy, Ingersoll and Tecumseh. Using this savvy business approach of purchasing fresh first and locally, Bonduelle guarantees quality vegetables processed at their prime and ready for the dinner plate.
"Tapping into the knowledge and experience of these successful food processors provides vital insight into the details and challenges of preparing food for the BPS," said FBO Executive Director, Steve Peters. "Having their expertise available was a draw for participants who want to access the BPS market."
Also featured was a panel discussion with BPS experts, including Franco Naccarato of the Greenbelt Fund, Mark Kenny of University of Guelph, Carolyn Bailey of Ecosource and Peter Bozzer of Gordon Food Service.
FBO, which represents processors with over $39 billion in sales annually, brought processors and buyers together at this workshop to encourage collaboration between the two groups. FBO's mandate includes building networks and developing programs that support the food and beverage processing industry, identified as the emerging driver of the economy in Ontario.
"FBO sees a tremendous opportunity for more local processed food in the BPS," said Peters. "Food and Beverage Ontario is all about bringing people involved in this sector together, to help grow this industry."
For information on FBO and the workshop discussion paper, please visit: foodandbeverageontario.ca