Leaders in Ontario, Canada, recently revived a Rural Economic Development (RED) initiative to help regions and rural communities build business in their areas. This includes supporting projects that attract investment, create jobs and increase economic competitiveness.
Helga McDonald, director of the Business Development Branch at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Ministry of Rural Affairs, told FoodProductionDaily.com that the region presents a wealth of opportunities to food firms looking to grow.
“Ontario is one of the largest and most competitive food clusters in North America and one of the largest food processing jurisdictions,” she said. “In 2012, Ontario accounted for 34% ($15 billion) of total Canadian agriculture and food manufacturing GDP.”
McDonald told FPD that Ontario is tops in food processing compared to Canada’s other provinces. More than half of processing firms in Canada are sited there.
Additionally, a large pool of food processing talent already lives there. Approximately 3,000 processing companies are already established there, with more than 94,000 employees in the field, McDonald said.
Ontario already has attracted a significant number of big-name food firms. McDonald told FPD that key to its success is the local government’s manufacturing-friendly attitude.
“Companies come to Ontario because of the market access; they expand because of the quality,” she said. “When companies come to Ontario, they discover a government that understands what it takes to compete and win in global markets.”
McDonald pointed to Ontario’s favorable corporate income tax rates, which are lower than the rates in most regions and countries, as another reason for its appeal. The region’s close proximity to a broad variety of agricultural commodities also helps, she said.
International firms already doing business in the region include:
- Kraft Foods
- General Mills
Further evidence of the region’s fitness as a food processing hub, McDonald said, is the number of companies increasing investment in their production activities in Ontario. Recent food processing expenditures include:
- Kellogg (US)—cereal plant in Belleville, $165 million (1st phase $120 million; 2nd phase $45 million)
- Ferrero (Italy)—confectionery plant in Brantford, $385 million (over last five years)
- Royal Canin (France)—pet food plant in Puslinch, $73 million
- Puratos (Belgium)—baking ingredient plant in Mississauga, $40 million
- IAWS Aryzta - Maidstone Bakery (Ireland)—baking products in Brantford, $155 million
- The Original Cakerie (British Columbia)—frozen desserts plant in London, $45 million
- Dr. Oetker (Germany)—frozen pizza plant in London, $100 million
- Bolthouse Farms (United States)—baby-cut carrots plant in Wheatley, $8.5 million
- Bakkavor (United Kingdom) fresh prepared meals plant in Cobourg, $17 million
The Ontario Food Cluster is a multi-media campaign designed to help make the case to food firms as to why they should establish operations in the region. The effort includes the website (which includes a blizzard of market statistics, case histories and other resources) and outreach at industry events.