Guelph group is taking part in worlds largest food fair in Germany

Guelph Economic Development and Tourism Services, as part of the Ontario Food Cluster, is bringing its business investment and innovation message to Anuga 2011 being held here.

That includes News of a novel healthy chocolate technology. The Ontario Food Cluster is seeking to attract more firms outside Canada to join or expand an existing 2,500 food and beverage companies in Ontario. Those companies boast manufacturing revenue approaching $34 billion, and help drive 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 in the Ontario Food Cluster includes a technology developed at the University of Guelph for creating a healthier chocolate bar with fat replacements that are completely metabolized, and do not interfere with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.

The fat replacements actually promote weight loss and improve blood lipids in human and animal trials. Shortenings, spreads and confectionary fats are also candidates for the new fat replacement technology used to create healthy chocolate. Such products will significantly improve a food product’s health profile without compromising taste or texture, according to researchers.

“What makes the Ontario Food Cluster so compelling is our research- and development-driven talent base,” said Gerald Pisarzowski, vice-president of business development for the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance.

“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,” he said. “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. The Ontario Food Cluster’s mission is to grow that national dominance to international dominance.

The Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance 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 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 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.

– Apprenticeship Training Tax Credit Ontario: Eligible companies that hire and train apprentices in skilled trades, including food process operators, receive a tax credit up to $10,000 per year.

– 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.

– Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, programs support economic and community development, innovation, and economic diversification, with a budget of $1 billion from 2009-2013.