Brewery Research Assistant, Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre
Located at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus of Niagara College, the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre team offers a full suite of services to support industry innovation and commercialization of new products and processes in the food and beverage sector. From new recipe development to shelf-life testing and nutritional labeling, the CFWI Innovation Centre pairs industry partners with faculty, recent graduates and students with the right expertise and equipment to meet industry needs.
The successful candidate will be currently enrolled in the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations program and will have the opportunity to assist with beverage analysis and product development with the CFWI Innovation Centre.
To apply, please email your resume, cover letter, program of study, year or term in which you are currently enrolled, and school schedule (if available) to [email protected] and reference Brewery Research Assistant in the subject line.
We thank all applicants; however, only those qualifying for an interview will be contacted.
Niagara College’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre had a strong presence at the food entrepreneur competition happening this month at SIAL Canada’s largest North American food event April 20-22 in Montreal.
The Food Scale-Up’s Pitch Competition, by SIAL Canada, a leading name in the agri-food industry, offers eligible food entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their food product, or new technology related to the food manufacturing industry, to an expert jury. Food start-ups also receive one-on-one access to industry experts on business development, PR, branding, consumer trends and more.
Research & Innovation’s Ana Cristina Vega Lugo, PhD, Scientific Manager with the CFWI Innovation Centre, chaired the jury panel for the Food Scale-Up Pitch event, joining other industry leaders, retailers and technical advisors, and investors, media and other entrepreneurs from the food industry. During the 2022 competition, a total of 15 participants pitched their ideas to the judges, who awarded a top prize in the Food and Beverage category, and one in the Technology and Packaging category.
As in past competitions, the CFWI Innovation Centre has offered a 20-hour consultation by its experts as a major prize to the winner in each category.
Other prizes include international recognition through SIAL Canada and the global network to which it belongs, and a complimentary booth at SIAL Canada 2023.
SIAL Canada is now also the only event of its scale in Canada, with more than 1,000 national and international exhibitors from 50 countries hosting more than 18,500 buyers from Canada, the United States, and 60 other countries.
For years, gluten-free bakers and those with special diets had limited choices for flour substitutes.
There was one American brand that dominated grocery store shelves and little else. However, the options for those needing or wanting to bake with gluten-free, keto-friendly and vegan ingredients have grown in recent years, thanks to a partnership between Pilling Foods and Niagara College’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre.
Together, the Orangeville-based, certified gluten-free baking ingredient producer and the CFWI Innovation Centre research team created and marketed Pilling Foods’ Good Eats Gluten-Free Bakers Blend Replacement Flour in regular and chocolate flavours. And in the process, they’ve given consumers an alternative made closer to home.
“Now we have a Canadian version, a different version created by Niagara College,” says Kasia Pilling, Pilling Foods’ director of sales.
Pilling is quick to point out that neither version of Bakers Blend would exist without the work of the research team, which includes students. The partnership came to be in 2018 when Pilling Foods was looking to create a signature product for the business. A client, who’d worked with the College on its own product development, recommended the company connect with the CFWI Innovation Centre.
“It’s a very creative team, knowledgeable. The power is the students behind it. They’re learning and we believe they’re very proud of seeing this product on shelves and their involvement in it.”
– Kasia Pilling, Director of Sales, Pilling Food
“They came up with the recipe and ingredient mixture quite quickly and we were able to list both products with grocery stores to put on their shelves,” Pilling said. “It’s a very creative team, knowledgeable. The power is the students behind it. They’re learning and we believe they’re very proud of seeing this product on shelves and their involvement in it.”
The research team developed three prototypes for Bakers Blend with the winner chosen based on performance and taste.
As thanks, Pilling Foods gave credit to Niagara College on its packaging.
“Any product Niagara College creates, we’ll always put that on the packaging,” Pilling said. “It’s acknowledgement and respect. We’re not going to take credit for something we haven’t done. It was 100% Niagara College and we’re very proud of the fact we worked together.”
The relationship between the College and Pilling Foods continued after the creation of Bakers Blend. Next came the marketing piece, and a partnership with the Business & Commercialization Solutions team to help the company determine current and projected market trends in the gluten-free and health food market. It also provided Pilling Foods with a collection of content and a detailed manual outlining a customized marketing strategy.
Working with the College was easy, Pilling notes, because both research teams provided clear, actionable steps throughout the process that were easy for the company to adopt. As a result, Bakers Blend is on a trajectory to become one of Pilling Foods’ top sellers, with growing interest from major grocery chains and distribution planned to restaurants and hospitals.
In addition, Pilling Foods has also worked with the CFWI Innovation Centre on an egg replacer already in retail stores and a pizza dough mix that will start shipping this year.
That has Pilling keen to work with the College again on other projects, including expanding the brand to overseas and U.S. markets.
“It sounds ambitious but we have a market in the United Kingdom and the States, and we would like to discuss this with Niagara College, and combine the power of Niagara College and Pilling Foods,” Pilling says. “Niagara College got to know us. They listened. That was the turning point. We have many more projects.”
When Miski Organics wanted to create an innovative organic, gluten-free beer made from a grain the market had yet to tap into in 2018, all directions pointed to Niagara College.
As home to the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program and the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, both were poised to help Miski Organics craft tasty suds that would capture a growing segment of beer drinkers.
“Nobody wants to be the new Molson here,” said Ricardo Irivarren, Miski Organics president. “We just want to be in your fridge — a six-pack if someone says ‘I’d like to have a beer but can’t have the gluten.’ People are going to drink gluten-free beer more and more and we are at the right time bringing something new to market, and the College is a big part of it.”
The brew is nearing the end of its development with those involved in the project, including Scientific Manager Ana Cristina Vega-Lugo, PhD, working to perfect it and make up for production time lost during the pandemic. But like many conversations over a beer, the relationship between the CFWI Innovation Centre and Miski Organics blossomed into something even bigger.
“I realized they had other expertise,” Irivarren recalled.
The research team could help Miski Organics, a Barrie-based company with strong environmental sustainability, and organic and fair-trade practices, commercialize other recipes that upheld those values.
They started with two peanut butter alternatives, made from roasted sacha inchi seed in regular and chocolate flavours, that would be safe for children to pack in school lunches. They also created an organic, gluten-free and vegan pancake and waffle mix.
Working with the CFWI Innovation Centre, Irivarren says, included much collaboration, access to funding sources, regular meetings and progress updates, and finally, prototypes for testing.
“By that time, we had a clear understanding of the capacity of the college to create recipes, the professionalism, the quality of staff, the confidentiality, the steps, which are important, and of course, the knowledge of local suppliers for ingredients,” Irivarren notes. “We developed a good relationship with Ana as well.”
As the sacha inchi spreads and the pancake mix hit the market and grew to become flagship products, the company and College embarked on another project in 2020. This time they would create a new, non-dairy base for ice cream that would star unique super-fruit flavours for those wanting an alternative to the sugary sweet options dominating North American grocery store freezer sections.
Once again, Vega-Lugo led the research team, which includes student researchers, and provided Miski Organics with a detailed report on a potential product for which the company is now working to secure funding and other resources to bring to market.
Meanwhile, the gluten-free beer that started it all continues to progress, with Miski eyeing an August release and more partnerships with the CFWI Innovation Centre.
“It was a challenge for the College. Can we have a beer made out of this grain? They were consistent in their approach and it took a couple of years through the pandemic to work on, but kudos to the College for the creation of this alternative option,” Irivarren says. “Hopefully we can continue working with the College on other things.
Pilot Plant Production Specialist, Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre
Reporting to the Centre Manager, CFWI Innovation Centre, the successful candidate is responsible for the overall operation and management of the CFWI IC Beverage and Liquids R&D Pilot Processing Facility (the “Pilot Plant”).
The Pilot Plant Product Specialist is the principal operator and is expected to prepare and deliver on all food processing work orders delivered through the Pilot Plant on-time, on-budget, and in accordance with all food safety, health and safety, and regulatory obligations under Canadian and Provincial statutes, regulations, and laws.The Pilot Plant Production Specialist will also manage suppliers and technology partner relationships while staying current and familiar with competing technologies in the liquid food and beverage production space, making recommendations for continuous improvement to operations and processes as appropriate.
Thu Trang (Chloe) Hoang is a 2021 graduate of Niagara College’s Culinary Innovation & Food Science Technology Co-Op program and served as a research assistant with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre from January 2020 to May 2021. Chloe is employed with Give & Go Prepared Foods Corporation as a food product developer assistant.
I really appreciated R&I for the opportunities and the experiences, and for providing the foundation for me to get my current position.
Tell us about where you work:
Give & Go Prepared Foods Corporation is one of the companies under the Mondelez International umbrella. The company is one of the top sweet baked goods providers in North America. Give & Go is often known for its brands such as t two-bite, Create-A-Treat, Mason St. Bakehouse, and The Worthy Crumb Pastry Co.
Describe your role and what you like about it:
My current position is a food product developer assistant and I started just four months ago. I am still new to the company, yet I have already learned a lot from everyone here. I am lucky to get a job that is related to my field of study and related to what I love: baking.
At Give & Go, I get the chance to understand the full process of how a product gets commercialized. I can see how different departments work together, how baking products are made at the production facilities and tested at a plant trial; and how a project is managed and completed. I even have a chance to help minimize the impact of real issues such as the availability of ingredients and COVID-19 on food production processes.
How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?
Working at R&I has allowed me to build experience in creating new product recipes, and modifying products and processes to meet regulatory requirements and clients’ requests. Many things that I am currently working on at Give & Go, I had similar tasks at R&I. I am very thankful for the opportunity at R&I.
A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?
One of the most exciting projects that I worked on at R&I was the cricket project [Entomo Farms’ edible cricket food line]. It was the first time I worked on something outside of our daily consumptions. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to work on alternative protein and interesting products in the future.
What led you to Niagara College in the first place?
I was already accepted into the Foods & Nutrition program at Brescia University College; however, I was not sure if working in a lab and consulting people as a nutritionist was the right career for me. I learn better with a practical and a more direct approach. At Niagara College, the Culinary Innovation & Food Science Technology program has taught me not only how to process foods but also why I must do so.
Most memorable experience at NC?
My program has good, friendly, and approachable professors. They want to ensure that we are successful as students, and as professionals. They want us to truly understand the course materials instead of just memorizing for good marks.
Is there a particular mentor who influenced you?
Ana [Dr. Ana Cristina Vega-Lugo, scientific manager], my supervisor at R&I, was my mentor during the time I was working there. Her intelligence, wisdom, and her tactful ways of dealing with team members have earned my admiration. She always tries her best at what she does and that motivates me to become a leader like her.
What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?
In my humble opinion, communication is one of the most important skills either at school or at work. I always show that I am open to learning, ask questions when I do not understand and make sure people understand my message correctly. By ensuring everyone is on the same page, we would work, study and contribute to the shared success in a more efficient way.
After being in the workforce, what have you learned?
Communication is very important and you have to always upgrade and improve yourself.
Proudest achievement since graduating?
Being interviewed for this article. This means all my efforts at school and R&I have been recognized. I really appreciated R&I for the opportunities and the experiences, and for providing the foundation for me to get my current position.
What are you passionate about at the moment?
The only thing I want to focus on right now is to learn as much as possible and perform well in my current position.
Interests outside of work?
I love cooking, baking and trying out new dishes and recipes. I would love to create, introduce and commercialize more products, and especially bring Vietnamese products to Canadian and North American consumers.
If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?
Find your passion, follow your dreams, work hard and put all your efforts into it.
Anything else you want to say?
I hope our program would become a four-year bachelor degree program. I already miss my wonderful time at Niagara College. If possible, I would love to come back and get my degree at our College.