Category Archives: Business & Commercialization Innovation

Leading Canadian duck farm gains valuable market insight

One of the largest duck farms in Canada, King Cole Ducks is a third-generation, family-owned and operated agribusiness that started more than 65 years ago. Their farm-to-fork focus on duck production includes breeding, hatching, growing, processing and cooking for consumers and the foodservice industry.

The Stouffille, Ont. company is known for practising sustainable, responsible farming, raising their ducks in a free-run environment with a hormone- and antibiotic-free diet. Over the past decade, the company has expanded its collection of raw, ready-to-cook products to include a variety of fully cooked products to serve customers throughout North America and beyond.

The management team of four sisters wanted to challenge “what we know” and looked to Niagara College’s Business & Commercialization Solutions team to help with market intel.

“After seven decades in the duck business, how could our company and products continue to evolve to fit the changing interests of Canadian consumers,” asked Patti Thompson, vice president, sales and marketing for King Cole Ducks. “The project posed to the Niagara College team was ‘help us validate who is eating duck, who could be eating duck and how we should move forward with marketing efforts and products that will serve a new customer.’”

The Research & Innovation team conducted in-depth research of competition in the market, duck consumption, how King Cole was positioned, where potential markets could be developed and nurtured and how to best reach new customers.

For team member Angela Walsh, a student in NC’s Honours Bachelor of Business Administration (International Commerce and Global Development) program, it was her first project as a research assistant since joining the Business & Commercialization Solutions centre last October.

“Through this project, myself and other research assistants conducted an environmental scan of the duck industry – a challenging first market to navigate – which included a market analysis and competitive analysis, in order to come up with promotional plans on how King Cole Ducks could reach new markets,” says Walsh.

“The information provided validated our experience to date, but inspired a more robust effort in connecting with new customers through a wider range of marketing efforts and platforms. In fact, it inspired a larger budget commitment to product innovation and marketing support.”
~ Patti Thompson, King Cole Ducks

She says the team developed a target market based on the size, anticipated growth, patterns of meat consumption and personal values. Trends in the current food and flavour market, as well as opportunities for creating new products, were also introduced. And in its recommendations as to changing the brand perception, the team advised that social media should be used for the largest shift.

“The information provided validated our experience to date, but inspired a more robust effort in connecting with new customers through a wider range of marketing efforts and platforms,” explains Thompson. “In fact, it inspired a larger budget commitment to product innovation and marketing support.”

For example, the company is now in the process of changing packaging that will feature QR codes to help educate their consumers at point of sale and they have added targeted social media campaigns to help share their story, and are launching a virtual cooking class to reach more consumers across the country, adds Thompson.

“The research completed by Niagara College was a wonderful opportunity for us to learn more about our customers and meet our new customers,” says Thompson. “The results have helped us redirect our marketing efforts to include a more well-rounded integrated marketing plan with a focus on digital marketing where we can reach a younger demographic.” 

For research assistant Walsh, it was a chance to not only learn about a new market, but also contribute important intel to enable a company to move forward with a stronger effort in the consumer retail space.

“As I enter the final year of my degree and prepare for grad school, I have found the experience to be extremely valuable in preparing me for my future,” adds Walsh.

The research project was possible thanks to funding from the Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI), through the College Voucher for Technology Adoption (CVTA) program.

To learn more about the capabilities offered by the Business & Commercialization Solutions team or discover how initial feasibility research is helpful prior to engaging with Research & Innovation for applied research projects visit the website.

Cottage lifestyle website launching its own products

Framed within a cottage setting, the food, drink and lifestyle website Weekend at the Cottage offers visitors original content focusing on delicious, easy-to-make recipes, entertaining ideas and living life in cottage country.

“In our minds, every day can, and should, feel like it’s a weekend at the cottage,” says Carol Bagozzi, who along with business partner Nik Manojlovich, host the lifestyle website.

After gaining popularity – more than 125,000 monthly website page views and 100,000 monthly YouTube views – and repeated requests from fans at food events to buy their products, the duo decided to bring their brand to store shelves.

“We currently have over 10 potential products in mind that we would like to develop and bring them to market,” says Bagozzi.

Yet, to launch their own line, they first needed a thorough understanding of the market. They looked to the expertise within the Business & Commercialization Solutions team at Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division.

The challenge for the small company was to identify the grocery market, target consumers, and discover how to best reach these consumers. They also needed to determine what products to launch first, explore packaging, branding and distribution options.

“We needed help looking at consumer demand, competition, price point and marketing strategy, given demand, production and distribution capabilities and our existing customer base from the website,” Bagozzi further explains.

The Business & Commercialization team began the extensive market research with an environmental scan to obtain an overview of the grocery market in relation to the main products like jams, jellies, preserves, coffee and granola bars, says research team member Roger Prado, a student in NC’s International Business Management program and a research assistant for the Business & Commercialization team.

“They brought a lot of insights to the process and were able to gather information that we didn’t have the time or resources to complete in an efficient time frame.”

~ Carol Bagozzi, Weekend at the Cottage

“From there we could potentialize target consumers and how to best reach them,” says Prado.

“For the products, we researched packaging trends, branding strategies for the logo, distribution strategies, solutions for promotional strategies (direct marketing, social media, sales promotions and influencers) and also how does the subscription boxes market works and possibilities to enter this market.”

After consideration of the comprehensive research and recommendations, Bagozzi and Manojlovich are now looking to develop their own line of spice blends and scale up their holiday fruitcakes this year.

Bagozzi says they went into this project with the idea to roll-out pickles and specialty preserves first and came away with a very different marketing strategy. “The team presented to us several times throughout the project and we adjusted the scope of the research as we went along,” she says.

“They brought a lot of insights to the process and were able to gather information that we didn’t have the time or resources to complete in an efficient time frame,” says Bagozzi, adding her company now has been able to develop a plan for launching the products, thanks to the marketing strategies from the Research & Innovation team.

For Prado, working with Weekend at the Cottage was an “extraordinary opportunity to work on a real-life project on a win-win situation, by supporting business with solutions to reach their goals, and by enhancing our knowledge on market research and marketing tools.”

The research project was funded by the Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI), through the College Voucher for Technology Adoption (CVTA) program.

To learn more about the capabilities offered by the Business & Commercialization Solutions team or discover how initial feasibility research is helpful prior to engaging with Research & Innovation for applied research projects, visit the website.

Grad brings unique approach to job thanks to R&I

Artem Mekshun is a 2019 graduate of Niagara College’s Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), International Commerce and Global Development program. During his studies, Artem spent time with R&I’s Business & Commercialization Solutions team as both a research assistant and then research associate. He is currently employed by General Mills Canada Corp. as a financial analyst.

While at NC, Artem received both a Niagara Scholar Award and an International Student Scholarship, was on the President’s honour roll three times and was a board member for the Niagara College Student Administrative Council.

Tell us about where you work:

I joined General Mills Canada Corp. as a financial analyst in November 2020. The company is a food manufacturer that operates in the CPG [consumer packaged goods] industry. It owns a strong portfolio of famous consumer brands such as Cheerios, Liberté, Yoplait and Nature Valley.

Before assuming my recent position with General Mills, I spent about nine months working as a data analyst at Acosta, a leading retail broker in North America.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

I work in the sales finance function and my main responsibility is partnering with our Loblaws sales team to deliver our company’s financial objectives, such as reported net sales, profit and return on investment (ROI).

What I love about my job is the amount of impact that I can have on the company’s profit and loss statement with my actions. From day one, I was given a lot of opportunities to interact with our customer development managers and assist them with driving growth for our brands on the shelves of Loblaws Companies Limited. Also, I love the fact that I have an ability to work with brands that are enjoyed by millions of people in Canada.

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?

My work experience as both a research assistant and a research associate were instrumental to my decision to further develop my career in the world of CPG. During my time there, I had a lot of opportunities to work with Niagara-based food and beverage producers and to learn specifics of this industry. As a result, I had a chance to utilize this knowledge and experience to bring a unique perspective to the table both as a data analyst at Acosta and as a financial analyst at General Mills.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

My favourite project with R&I was a market research project that we conducted for a global manufacturer of alcoholic beverages. This was the first time that I had a chance to work with such a large company and the amount of responsibility that I felt was overwhelming. Nevertheless, together with my team, we were able to establish an effective framework for meeting all the required deliverables. As a result, we were able to deliver the project on time and to fully meet our client’s expectations.

My biggest lesson from this project was the importance of learning how to work in a team. This skill largely benefitted me in my future roles since the success of most of the projects I worked on heavily depended on my ability to effectively collaborate with my teammates.

“During my time [at R&I], I had a lot of opportunities to work with Niagara-based food and beverage producers and to learn specifics of this industry. As a result, I had a chance to utilize this knowledge and experience to bring a unique perspective to the table.”   

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

I come from the Northern part of Ukraine, from a 1,300-year-old city called Chernihiv. Canada was my No. 1 country when it came to deciding where to pursue my post-secondary education. The reason I chose to go to Niagara College stemmed from its strong reputation in Ukraine and some great recommendations that I received from an agency that was helping me to immigrate.

I really think that Niagara College is unique in terms of the value that it can provide to its students. Can you name another educational institution that takes pride in providing high-quality education to its students and that brews its own beer, distills its own vodka, makes its own wine and grows its own cannabis? The choice to come to NC was an obvious one!

Most memorable experience at NC?

I have two most memorable moments at Niagara College: The first one took place in March 2017, when I heard the results of a student election to the NCSAC [Niagara College Student Administrative Council] office and learned that I had just been elected as a director of clubs for the [Daniel J. Patterson Campus] in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I was filled with joy and happiness.

The second one occurred in March 2018, when I heard the result of a student election to the Board of Governors of Niagara College and learned that I had lost in that election. I felt quite devastated, but I did learn a lot from that campaign.

The bottom line is that two of my most memorable moments at NC are related to participating in the college life that goes way beyond pure education. I strongly recommend any NC student to take advantage of hundreds of extra-curriculum opportunities that the college provides. These opportunities will eventually comprise your most memorable moments of the student life.

Is there a particular mentor at R&I who influenced you?

I believe that multiple people at R&I were crucial for my personal and professional development. Among them are: Paula Reile [research project manager, Business & Commercialization Solutions], Kristine Canniff [research project manager, Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre], Neil Wilkinson [former research project manager, Research & Innovation]. All of them made their contribution to my learning and development, for which I am very grateful.

What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?

Never underestimate the power of teamwork and diversity of opinions. Quite often, having a well-rounded brainstorming session with your project manager or fellow research associates (even if they are not directly involved in your individual project) can constitute a difference between a successful project and a failure.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

In the real world, simply being book-smart is not enough. Companies are built on relationships and therefore one’s ability to effectively bond with other people is valued much more than one’s college grades. During the college years, it is vital for students to learn how to build successful relationships and how to effectively collaborate with others.

Proudest achievement since graduating?

My proudest achievement since graduating is proposing to the most beautiful girl in the world (Yuliia) and organizing an amazing wedding celebration a mere two weeks later.

After proposing, Artem and Yuliia were married two weeks later and live in Toronto.

Interests outside of work?

Outside of work, I am pursuing the CFA designation and, as a result, I often burn the midnight oil studying corporate finance and preparing for the upcoming exams.

Also, I love travelling and exploring new places. Every long weekend, I am doing my best to discover another natural gem of this beautiful country. My other passions include football, exploring new cuisines and playing board games with my friends.

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

Every human heartbeat is an entire universe of opportunities. Take them!

Also, Bitcoin is overpriced 😊

NOW HIRING: Business Research Assistant position available with our Research & Innovation team

Business Research Assistant, Research & Innovation

The Business Research Assistant will work on several applied research projects assisting small and medium sized businesses to solve real-world problems relating to operations management, sales, and marketing. The successful candidate will work individually and as part of a team to complete project deliverables. Hours completed during this work term may be used toward your co-operative placement hours. The Business Research Assistant will work remotely and meet regularly with Faculty Advisor(s), Research Project Manager(s), and Industry Partner(s) through virtual software systems. 

Click HERE for the full job posting. The deadline to apply is Friday, February 12th, 2021 at 4pm.

To apply, please email your resume, cover letter and class schedule to [email protected] and reference job posting ‘BUS21-01‘.

We thank all applicants; however, only those qualifying for an interview will be contacted.

Genuine Tea commercializes and markets new RTD tea beverages

A premium tea company, Genuine Tea blends, packages, distributes and sells ethically sourced whole leaf tea, matcha and other wellness products online and in stores across Ontario. The Toronto company discovered the market was lacking in a high-quality tea-based ready-to-drink (RTD) beverage without added sugar.

It first needed a marketing assessment to aid in positioning its carbonated beverage in the consumer goods marketplace. They looked to the Business & Commercialization Solutions team at the Research & Innovation division to research the RTD industry, competitors and to provide recommendations on product positioning and marketing strategies 

“We wanted to create an iced tea that did whole leaf teas justice while also being refreshing and delicately sweet,” says Dave O’Connor, who, along with his partner Sarah Wilcox, launched the tea company in 2015. “The problem with most iced teas on the market is an excessive use of sugar, and the majority are made from powders or concentrates rather than whole leaf teas.”

The business research team looked at competitors in the industry and considered what Genuine Tea’s brand values were and what product positioning might be, says O’Connor. “Further, they explored the evolution of the beverage industry in terms of better-for-you products, health and wellness and low-sugar products.”

After determining the best target audience, the experts conducted research to establish where such products would fit into the market. By examining the competition, they were able to establish how their iced tea beverage could differentiate itself from other products on the shelves.

The business team also provided Genuine Tea with key strategies for benefit-driven messaging to achieve success in the marketplace.

Genuine Tea went on to partner with Research & Innovation’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre for product development assistance.

The goal was to take their top-selling teas and turn them into canned, carbonated iced tea beverages that contain under 10g sugar, had shelf stability at ambient temperatures and sold at a specific price point. 

“We wanted to sweeten our tea with fruit juice in order to add a complexity and freshness to the range,” explains O’Connor. “In addition, the added juice would achieve a low pH that would allow the product to be shelf-stable at room temperature.”  

Challenges the food and beverage experts faced included formulation development, pasteurization and scale-up, all while maintaining product flavour and integrity.

“We knew the flavour profiles we were hoping to achieve; however, we needed some additional support on the recipe development. Niagara College tested various ingredients, acidifiers and flavours in the tea to achieve a product that was not only shelf stable but also delicious and refreshing,” explains O’Connor. “Furthermore, we wanted to have a very clean ingredient list consisting of all-natural ingredients that everyday users could read and understand.” 

The collaboration resulted in the commercialization of three hand-crafted sparkling iced teas: Organic Elderberry Hibiscus, Organic Lemon Ginger Sencha and Organic Peach Turmeric Ceylon. All are made from ethically sourced whole leaf tea and real fruit juice.

“We are very happy with the entire team at Niagara College, for their hard work in the initial marketing research and also with the food and beverage team for producing various samples for us to taste test,” he adds. “They were very supportive of our vision and very accommodating. We would absolutely work with them again.”

Funding for the business marketing research was provided by an Interactive visit through IRAP and support for the food and beverage product development came from the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) through its College Voucher for Technology Adoption (CVTA) program.

This is an example of how a company can first enlist the help of the Business & Commercialization Solutions team to assist with initial market research and develop a commercialization strategy prior to partnering with an innovation centre, such as the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre.


Pilling Foods expanding sales with unique product line


Pilling Foods

Pilling Foods
is a wholesale company dedicated to providing high-quality, gluten-free, non-GMO and organic products, such as flours, seeds, and baking ingredients. They have recently started producing their own line of flours as well.

The Orangeville, Ont. company, which sells its products online, was looking to expand their brand awareness and increase sales through social media strategies. To do this they needed to better understand their target markets as well as the competition. However, they lacked an in-house market research team to conduct such in-depth marketing research.

Pilling Foods partnered with the Business & Commercialization Solutions (BCS) team at Research & Innovation to help with this challenge, following a successful collaboration with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre to develop a new, unique product line.

“We needed a better understanding of the gluten-free market and wanted a more professional approach to gathering the information we needed to improve our presence in the market,” says Pilling Foods operations manager Sean Aguiar.

He said the scope of the project covered their entire product catalogue in order to understand the current market trends, industry projections for consumer habits and interests, and insight on other competitors. 

“We wanted to focus on what appeals to and attracts consumers,” notes Aguiar. “And we wanted a better idea on which products would give us the best chances of capturing our target audience.”

After extensive research, the business research team developed a target audience based on trends and cohorts who are willing to purchase a new product on the market. They also developed a social media strategy to reach identified target markets with a goal of increasing the sales for the company.

The research team also provided Pilling Foods with an analysis report that informed the company of current market trends, upcoming and projects trends in the gluten-free and health food market.

“The market research and consumer insights gathered by the Niagara College team gave us great insight into the current state of the gluten-free food market,” says Aguiar, adding such research allowed the company to make objective decisions on how to achieve their marketing goals.

“They also provided us with marketing suggestions and creative content to launch the initial execution of the project,” says Aguiar. “By having these resources, our team was able to have a better understanding of effective marketing tactics for us to pursue. They also provided us with examples to base future post ideas.”

The company was also provided with a collection of content and a detailed manual outlining a custom-tailored marketing strategy.

“Recently we have been able to implement and act on the marketing plan Niagara College created and have seen an increase in customer engagements and online sales,” adds Aguiar.  “Client inquiries have increased as well – potentially due to our online presence and activity.”

Funding for this project came from the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) through its College Voucher for Technology Adoption (CVTA) program.

This is one example of the marketing research and strategy with the Business & Commercialization Solutions team. For more information and to view other success stories see the website: