Category Archives: Business & Commercialization Solutions

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, December 4th, 2020 at 4pm.

To apply, please email your resume, cover letter and class schedule to [email protected] and reference job posting ‘BUS20-01‘.


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 through social media strategies


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:

Mom and pop berry farm grows business

Jerry’s Berries, a multigenerational family-run farm, has a reputation for its berries – from the farmers market to its pick-your-own service. The seasonal company wanted to pivot its business model and diversify its product offerings, but they needed the expertise to help with this endeavour.

“We have a very small seasonal mom and pop farm in which we do 90 per cent of the work ourselves,” says Glenda Bargeman, who, along with her husband Jerry, owns the farm. “At the end of long days in the field, trying to get the name of our business out was the last thing I had the energy or time for.

 “After years in business, we were also ready to move on to the next step,” she says. “Frankly, we needed more traffic to the farm. We had tried many avenues with not a lot of success.”

The Hamilton, Ont.-based farm teamed up with the Business & Commercialization Solutions experts at NC’s Research & Innovation division to help take them to that next step.

The NC researchers conducted a comprehensive review of the marketplace, looking at the consumer goods berry industry. Target markets were identified to better understand consumers of raspberry products.

A list of potential raspberry products to bring to the marketplace was created, along with possible distribution channels. Information about co-packing, packaging options and custom package printing were provided.

The team also offered recommendations for a marketing strategy to generate more foot traffic to the farm, including recommendations for improving the company’s social media marketing.

“The end result was exactly the push in the right direction I needed. The advice given was dead-on,” says Bargeman, adding she discovered a brand-new understanding of the importance of digital media marketing for promoting her business and the suggestions and guidance for improvements were valuable.

“Not only did I receive fantastic promotion advice, but the team also spent many hours researching the market of raspberry products,” says Bargeman. “Getting the statistics of the many and unique uses of raspberries, what the market was flooded with and what was a potential product has saved me hours of time that I do not have. It has also given me some great ideas for future uses of raspberries that should have great potential.”

Jerry’s Berries also completed updates to its website which incorporates suggestions from the Business & Commercialization Solutions team.

“Even though the project is complete Paula [Reile, project manager] is still answering my questions, giving advice and finding things out for me,” says Bargeman. “What a breath of fresh air, having such a supportive and knowledgeable team behind us.”

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:


Expanding the marketplace for ‘superfoods’ company


UPDATE June 24, 2020
With the help of the Research & Innovation team, Miski Organics has successfully introduced two natural peanut-free butters into the market: Organic Sacha Inchi Butter and Organic Sacha Inchi Choco Butter. These two unique products were officially launched in May 2020 with great acceptance. In addition, a vegan, gluten-free pancake mix will be launched in June, while the cookie mix, yacon cereal and smoothie booster are expected to be introduced in July.

Due to its diverse ecosystem, Peru is home to myriad foods that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Typically, these powerhouse foods – now commonly called ‘superfoods’ for their nutrient-rich properties – are freeze-dried and ground into a powder as to not dilute their health benefits.

In expanding its own line of healthy products, which combines Peruvian superfoods with local Canadian-grown ingredients, Miski Organics needed marketing assistance to position it in the larger consumer goods marketplace.

“As our company is still quite small and we don’t have a marketing team in-house, we needed advice in the marketing aspect,” says Miski president Ricardo Irivarren.

Miski Organics, a family-owned Burlington, Ont. company, was interested in adding to its superfoods product line with products like a cookie mix, a pancake mix, a smoothie mix and a sacha inchi butter, all using foods from their Peruvian sources.

The Business & Commercialization team at Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division was asked to look at competitors in the superfoods industry, provide recommendations on branding, and to compile a list of distributors on the West coast.

“This was particularly difficult as superfood ingredients are still not mainstream, and most consumers are typically familiar with just chia or quinoa,” says Andrea Lopez, research assistant with the Business & Commercialization team and a student with NC’s Bachelor of Business Administration (International Commerce and Global Development) program.

However, thanks to her South American roots, Lopez was able to do specialized research in Spanish to discover companies that were making creative food products with Peruvian superfoods.

The Peru link has been the backbone of the company, says Irivarren, whose wife Mariella and her sister, Lia (both Peru natives) founded the company in 2015. Lia, who still lives in Peru, deals with farmers and producers at her end, and Mariella and Ricardo take care of packaging and selling in Canada.

“Having a presence in both countries has been a key factor,” says Irivarren.

The company is dedicated to the import and distribution of premium organic superfoods, with its product line of Andean grains and seeds, raw dried superfoods and raw cacao derivatives, both in bulk and packaged for retail.

“Our clients include health and wellness consumers, retailers, distributors, and food and beverage companies in Canada and the U.S.A.,” notes Irivarren.

While the company has recently worked with the research team at R&I’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre in developing more products to add to their line, they were also in search of expertise in both adding to their distribution, especially in Western Canada, and where to focus their marketing efforts.

“The report we received from Niagara College has been very useful and has given us a better picture of what we need to do and where we need to focus.”

In her research and analysis, Lopez developed a list of competitors who currently sell superfood products similar to those that Miski Organics intends to bring to the market. She also gave recommendations on branding and promotional strategies.

“This was my first project where I learned the importance of using influencers on social media to promote a company’s brand, and I found this very interesting,” she says.

It was all extremely valuable information for Miski Organics, says Irivarren.

“The report we received from Niagara College has been very useful and has given us a better picture of what we need to do and where we need to focus,” he says. “The staff is very knowledgeable and professional, and it’s been a pleasure working with the team.”

He says his team is currently in the process of preparing the strategy for implementation of the recommendations.

More recently, the company was granted a licence under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). “We are proud to say that we are now ready to commercialize all across Canada and abroad,” notes Irivarren.

Miski Organics’ wide variety of superfood products are imported from the ecologically-diverse Peru, where foods are sustainably cultivated by local farmers.

Miski Organics currently has a network of mainly health food stores in the Burlington and GTA area, through, Penguin Fresh and AllGoodShop. They also garner good sales online from their own website.

“We currently work with a well-established distributor, but it’s been a challenge for us to connect with larger distributors, so we’re working with a broker to introduce us,” adds Irivarren. “It  is our intention to expand operations across Canada and beyond.”

This project was carried out with funding support through the National Research Council’s (NRC) Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP).

As for the name of the company, Miski means “sweet” or “honey” in Quechua, one of the official languages in Peru, which was spoken by the Incas and is still used by many people in the Andean regions of Peru, explains Irivarren.

“Our goal is to develop new value-added products that become healthier alternatives to conventional products that will offer a gluten-free, vegan, sulphite-free, allergen-free options,” adds Irivarren. “We will be introducing some new products soon, so stay tuned.”

This is just one example of commercialization strategies provided by the Business & Commercialization team, which offers a full suite of comprehensive solutions. To read more about the expertise available, visit the website.

Andrea Lopez: Branding her own story

While she has acquired education in business commerce, architecture and transportation engineering, Andrea Lopez has a newfound passion for marketing. More specifically, it’s the science of persuasion and influencing consumer behaviour that has her fascinated.

Understanding how the psychology of human decision-making and marketing coincide is now guiding her career path going forward. This after working since spring as a research assistant with the Business & Commercialization area of Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division, during her studies in the Honours Bachelor of Business Administration (International Commerce and Global Development) program.

“Marketing brings out my creative side. I definitely find it interesting seeing how people behave in their purchasing decisions.”

Lopez arrived at Niagara College with two diplomas from Mohawk College under her belt: Architectural Technician and Transportation Engineering Technology (she graduated both in 2012.)

At one point, she thought about becoming an architect because of a long-standing enchantment with historical buildings. “I’ve always loved architecture and buildings since I was young,” says the 32-year-old. “And because I also love history, I’ve always been interested in historic buildings.”

Finding it difficult to obtain a suitable job in her field, she made a choice to look more globally and enrolled in NC’s Business Administration program. Growing up in a Spanish-speaking home (her parents are from Central America), she also wanted to put her language skills to broader use.

“I really liked the fact that I could work anywhere around the world.”

In the meantime, and as she enters her fourth and final school year, Lopez is soaking in all the real-world experience she’s receiving in the R&I division: Working on projects with hard deadlines, interacting with industry partners and focusing on the fundamentals of marketing.

Her first applied research project when joining the division involved compiling extensive market research for Theo’s Eatery, an Italian and Greek-style casual dining restaurant in Orillia, Ontario. The family-owned restaurant was selling its popular house salad dressing to patrons, but looked to the experts at R&I to determine the viability of commercializing the product.

Lopez researched current consumer food trends, buying habits, social media activity, and conducted a competitive analysis. She and her team then identified potential consumer markets and researched distribution channels. She provided recommendations to the industry partner for promotional efforts and developed a sales kit for the restaurant.

“It was interesting because I had to come up with ideas for their branding story, as well as creative packaging,” says Lopez. “There was so much more back-end information that you’d never think of, and I had to learn all that first, in order to compile the information for the client.”

“Marketing brings out my creative side. I definitely find it interesting seeing how people behave in their purchasing decisions.”

She was also instrumental in developing market research for Ostrich Land Ontario, a Niagara-based company seeking to commercialize the sale of its ostrich oil in the beauty market. Through extensive research, Lopez helped identify the current market conditions of these industries and developed a list of wellness and skin trends. She also created promotional outreach ideas for the industry partner to use.

Lopez continues to work on varied marketing-related and consumer research projects for several companies as part of the Business & Commercialization team.

But it has been this deep dive into marketing and the psychology of buying habits that have her looking to take a more specialized approach to her business career. Once she graduates this spring, Lopez says she plans to look for a position in marketing in the Toronto area. She also has her sights set on obtaining a Master’s degree in Marketing, down the road.

“Being involved with Research & Innovation has opened up my mind to having a greater role in marketing.”

She also credits her experiences with R&I to improving a number of skills she says she needed to cultivate.

“I’ve been able to strengthen my writing and also I’m better at public speaking; I’m a little more relaxed now after interacting with the clients,” she says. “I have learned many new things and skills I obviously will use once I graduate.”

For now, and in her spare time, she unwinds at home in Hamilton by watching Netflix, working out and spending time with her dog, a terrier mix named Maya. She’s also adding to her bucket list of things she wants to accomplish and places she wants to travel; that love of architecture remains.

“I definitely want to visit Italy and the beautiful cathedrals and historic buildings there.”


To learn more about the work of the Business & Commercialization Solutions division, visit the web page.