Guelph, Ontario/Winnipeg, Manitoba -- Two of Canada’s leading technical resource organizations in the agri-food sector are joining forces to pilot the development of a ‘virtual’ Centre of Excellence for members of the Canadian baking and soy food industries.
The Guelph Food Technology Centre (GFTC) and the Canadian International Grains Institute (CIGI) will be working with members from the soy food and baking industries to establish strategies to support new product development and technology transfer in two of Canada’s key agri-food sectors. GFTC has received funding for the project from the Canadian Agriculture and Food International Program through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Efforts are now focused on securing matching funds from industry partners.
Both GFTC and CIGI have extensive experience providing, technical, educational and marketing assistance to various sectors of the agri-food sector. This project marks the first time the two organizations will work together.
“It’s an opportunity for us to leverage our respective skills and laboratory and pilot plant facilities to assist the growth of these industries,” says Dr. Linda Malcolmson, CIGI’s Director of Agri-Foods. “Our staff expertise, together with our pilot plants and classroom facilities complement each other extremely well.”
Key to the establishment of the virtual Centre of Excellence will be the collaborative processes in which the industry, researchers and the technical institutes build a strategy for the future. GFTC and CIGI will be seeking visionary industry leaders from the soy food and baking sectors to serve on strategic steering committees to ensure that the action plans developed are pertinent to the long-term growth and development of the sectors. In accordance with this “partnership process” investment from industry parties will be essential.
“Industry will drive the project,” says Kathryn Cooper, Vice President, Market Development and Client Services at GFTC. “We’ll work with each group to achieve consensus on the key issues they are facing and identify the strategic actions needed to address their concerns.” The goal is to work with researchers from universities, governments and other centers to develop a strategic plan for the soy food industry.
Although distinct in many ways, the Canadian soy food and baking industries were chosen to be the focus for this project because of the qualities they have in common. Both are essential components in Canada’s food processing sector with good potential for future growth and development.
“The Canadian soy food industry has come a long way in the past few years and with the aging of Canada’s population and increasing consumer focus on health and wellness, we expect there will be greater demand for soy foods and soy ingredients in foods in the years to come,” says Cooper. “Many of the soy products on grocery shelves today are imported. There are tremendous opportunities for Canadian companies to develop products that will capture the domestic market and open new doors in export markets.”
Canada’s baking industry is well established, with manufacturing shipments in excess of $2.6 billion per year. The industry includes in-store, retail, and large commercial bakeries producing fresh and frozen products. “Factors like increased competition from imported products in domestic markets and the need to develop products to respond to consumer trends toward health and wellness are not unlike those being experienced by the soy food industry,” says Malcolmson. “As well, Canada’s bread and bakery product industry is facing an impending skilled labour shortage combined with a demand for more training and advice on regulatory, food safety and quality assurance issues.”
The virtual Centre of Excellence distinct to each industry would help to address these types of issues, as well as others that may be identified say Cooper and Malcolmson. Once matching industry funding is in place and steering committees have been established, needs assessments will be undertaken to determine next steps and priorities for the soy food and bakery industry.
GFTC is Canada's only not-for-profit, non-subsidized food technology centre. Each year, the Centre provides new product development, package evaluation and pilot plant services to over 500 companies. Since its inception in 1994, GFTC has provided food safety and processing training to more than 28,000 people.
CIGI is a non-profit instructional facility for international and Canadian participants, dedicated to promoting Canada's field crops in domestic and international markets through educational programming and technical activities. Core funding for CIGI is provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Wheat Board. Additional funds and support are provided by other sectors of the agricultural industry. Over the past 31 years, CIGI has hosted close to 20,000 participants from 107 countries.
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