Category Archives: Business & Commercialization Solutions

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: https://www.ncinnovation.ca/business-commercialization-solutions

 

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 Amazon.ca, 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.

Connecting more farmers to vital field data

The AETIC team is connecting SoilOptix data outputs via Application Programming Interfaces (API) to other popular agricultural software platforms, such as Climate FieldView and John Deere Operations Centre.

Collaborating with agriculture technology innovators SoilOptix, researchers at Niagara College’s Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC) are providing key application programming expertise that will help farmers better access critical information about their soil so they can optimize their harvest yields.

SoilOptix has become a leader in digital soil mapping, a recent technology that offers accurate soil profiling maps to growers so they can understand and utilize their land more efficiently. The Tavistock, Ont. company uses a combination of non-contact geological sensors and strategic physical soil samples and then runs this measurement data through proprietary algorithms to provide farmers with detailed levels of soil properties, such as: information on nutrients like pH, potassium, calcium, clay and sand content, plant available water, and more.

“It is the equivalent of an MRI for your soil, used to capture a deeper understanding of the variability in the fertility and textural-based properties of the soil,” says Ryan Eyre, Data Team Lead for SoilOptix.

The manual processing of the spatial soil information into these high-definition maps was formerly a major undertaking that proved time consuming. The AETIC research team was initially brought on board to transform the sluggish system into a new interactive and innovative web software pipeline with an improved streamlined system.

“The new data processing system developed by Niagara College has reduced processing times on fields by approximately 50% while reducing the analyst learning curve significantly.”

 – Ryan Eyre, Data Team Lead, SoilOptix

“The new data processing system developed by Niagara College has reduced processing times on fields by approximately 50% while reducing the analyst learning curve significantly,” says Eyre.

During the second phase, the AETIC research team has focused on the accessibility of the data to the farmers and consultants. This includes data visualization and data export/transfer to the end user’s platform of choice by creating a service provider portal and customer portal as the first access point for clients.

“They can visualize their data from this portal and then choose how they would like to export/move their data,” Eyre explains. “The platform provides export options to CSV or shapefile (common spatial data format).”

The AETIC team is currently involved with connecting SoilOptix data outputs via Application Programming Interfaces (API) to other agricultural software platforms.

An API is a way for applications to share data and functionality with each other. In the case of SoilOptix, APIs are used to connect SoilOptix data with various web platforms that growers use to store and manipulate their field data, such as amendment application subscriptions.

These web platforms include popular agriculture software such as Climate FieldView and John Deere Operations Centre. This will allow SoilOptix to further its business by providing such services to a significant market of clients working with farm data.

“I have been very pleased with the system Niagara College has developed for SoilOptix,” adds Eyre. “They have implemented a powerful tool to streamline SoilOptix’s data processing into a unified application, saving time and increasing production capacity.”

This project was possible with funding from Ontario’s Centres of Excellence (OCE) through their College Strategic Sector/Cluster/Technology Platform Program (CSSCTP).

For more information about AETIC projects click HERE.

JOB OPPORTUNITY: Marketing Research Assistant position available with our Research & Innovation team

Marketing Research Assistant

The Marketing Research Assistant will work on a number of 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. Some duties and responsibilities include development of marketing strategies, including advertising campaigns, content marketing and product positioning.

Click HERE to see the full job posting. The deadline to apply is Friday, October 18th, 2019 at 12pm.

To apply, please email your resume, cover letter and class schedule to [email protected] and reference job posting ‘BC2019-01’ in the subject line.

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

Providing market research expertise

When your house salad dressing is so popular that restaurant patrons ask to buy a bottle, you just may have a hit on your hands. And for one family-owned restaurant, they recently looked to the experts at Niagara College’s Research & Innovation to find out if they had a winner.  

Theo’s Eatery, an Italian and Greek-style casual dining restaurant in Orillia, Ont., wanted to discover if their crowd-pleasing Greek and Caesar dressings had the potential for commercialization.

“Our salads became very popular over the years in the restaurant to the point where customers were asking to buy the dressings, so we began to sell them over the counter,” says owner John Tselikis, who, along with his father, started Theo’s 26 years ago.

The family recipes for these distinctive dressings have been passed down three generations, he says.

“The reason the Caesar dressing is so unique is because of its flavour profile and its colour. Even though it has a mayo base like many other Caesar dressings, it has many more ingredients. The Greek dressing has a zing that is very authentic and home-made in flavour.”

Being in the restaurant business for more than 40 years, Tselikis knew that prior to launching the product to a broader market, he needed to conduct market research in order to assess the viability of the endeavour. However, he did not have the in-house resources for an extensive study.

“The professional and in-depth research the team provided us boosted our confidence to proceed with our venture.”  –  John Tselikis, owner, Theo’s Eatery

“Even though we know our products are successful at the local level, we retained the services of Niagara College to give us insight on the current market trends in order to determine if our venture had the potential of being viable, and if so, to help us establish a marketing strategy,” he explains.

The Research & Innovation team, consisting of students and staff, went to work on a market research feasibility study in order to understand the market and determine whether commercializing the dressing was a good move, says Paula Reile, Project Manager for the Business & Commercialization area.

“The team researched current consumer food trends, buying habits, social media activity, and conducted a competitive analysis,” explains Reile. “We then identified potential consumer markets and researched potential distributions channels for the two salad dressings.”

The group also provided recommendations for branding and promotional efforts and developed a sales kit to be used for business-to-business or business-to-consumer meetings.

“Working with the research team was an outstanding experience,” says Tselikis. “From the beginning, we felt the team had the ability to provide us with the expertise we needed to pursue our endeavour. The professional and in-depth research the team provided us boosted our confidence to proceed with our venture.”

The project was funded by the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) through its College Voucher for Technology Adoption (CVTA) program.  

But the relationship with Niagara College hasn’t ended there. Theo’s Eatery is now working with R&I’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre on a food science project. The process involves a food safety assessment; product scale-up (formula optimization and recommendations); identification of potential co-packers; packaging and shelf-life recommendations; and regulatory/labeling claims.

“We look forward to having a lasting business relationship with the College,” adds Tselikis.