In the wake of a successful beverage development partnership with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre in 2017, Reinhart Foods Ltd., has followed up with the launch of two hard ciders into the marketplace.
“Things continue to be extremely dynamic in the alcohol space, increasingly so with COVID-19’s impacts,” says Scott Singer, general manager and third-generation family member of Reinhart Foods.
Indeed, in 2019 the Stayner, Ont. company launched Reinhart’s Red Apple Strong Cider at 7 per cent alcohol and last year, released Reinhart’s Strawberry Hibiscus Cider at 5 per cent alcohol. Both products use 100 per cent Ontario-grown apples.
For these two products, Niagara College’s CFWI Innovation Centre assisted with carbonating, pasteurizing, and canning the samples when Reinhart first presented to the LCBO, explains Singer.
In 2017, Reinhart’s introduced its Red Apple Light Cider to the market, as a result of a close collaboration between the company and the research team at the CFWI Innovation Centre. At 3.8 per cent alcohol, it was the first light beverage of its kind in the Canadian hard cider category and is also made using 100 per cent Ontario-grown apples.
All three cider beverages are available at select grocery and LCBO stores across Ontario.
Singer credits Niagara College’s Research & Innovation team for its education and guidance in developing their initial cider, Red Apple Light: “Their skill, expertise, and knowledge was an invaluable asset. The journey of development was an experience for which we are most grateful.”
Thanks to funding by a College and Community Innovation Enhancement grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the team, which included students, scientists and faculty, handled everything from product development, competitive and sensory analysis, and quality control, to knowledge transfer in providing final recipe and process for making the cider at Reinhart’s production site.
To read more about Reinhart’s Red Apple Light Cider project, click here
Kyler Schwind is a 2020 graduate of Niagara College’s Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program. He was a research assistant with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre from October 2018 to April 2020. Kyler is now a product development scientist at Rich Productions Corporation.
Tell us about where you work:
Rich Products Corporation (Rich’s) is a family-owned company that brings innovative products and solutions to the culinary world. They provide a multitude of products for food service, in store bakeries, and prepared foods. Starting with the world’s first non-dairy whipped topping in 1945, Rich’s has exploded into a multifaceted innovation powerhouse.
Describe your role and what you like about it:
I am a product development scientist in the Toppings, Creams, Culinary Solutions department. Every day can be something different. I am responsible for the product development of various emulsion-based food products. A typical day could include: colour and flavour development, product testing and evaluations, reformulation and ingredient inclusions, and whipping/process testing. Most importantly, product tasting. With the amount of product tasting, I was focused on finding an R&D position that was either in the dessert or beverage industry.
How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?
Working at Research & Innovation gave me more than 18 months of hands-on product development experience. Being able to work with customers directly and develop products that suit their needs helped me to understand the product development process. Gaining this experience has made a world of difference in my current role. As well, being able to manage my time efficiently to complete projects has been invaluable in this career.
A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?
Being heavily involved in Sobrii “Zero Gin” was an opportunity to learn the product lifecycle. I was able to see the product from brainstorming and development phases, all the way to scale-up and commercialization. Taking part in this project let me see the big picture of product development.
What led you to Niagara College in the first place?
I was drawn to their hands-on approach to food science. The Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program was not only geared towards industry needs, but also exposed students to the many different areas of food science. Being able to practice product development side-by-side with industry partners was also a key selling point.
Most memorable experience at NC?
In one of our product development classes, we were all tasked with developing a product using cricket powder (powdered insects). Considering cricket powder is a high protein powder, I decided to turn it into a high energy nut and fruit bar. After I finished creating these energy bars, I was able to take them home and have family members try them. I did not disclose the ingredients until AFTER the tasting. Wow, was my mom not happy. I also learned about sensory ethics through this experience.
Is there a particular mentor at either R&I or a faculty member who influenced you?
Although there were many faculty members that influenced me throughout my years at Niagara, Chef Olaf Mertens influenced me a great deal. Chef Olaf taught my first year “Food Theory” class. Olaf’s passion and dedication to food was a true inspiration and opened my eyes to the variety and versatility to food. Watching him fry schnitzel in butter was a life-changing experience.
At Research & Innovation, I was strongly influenced by Stephanie Skotidas [research lab technician, CFWI Innovation Centre]. Stephanie was always able to take on new tasks and projects with a “can-do” attitude. I was able to experience her passion for science and ability to uncover the solution to problems. Lastly, her ability and commitment to eat the same lunch every day was truly inspiring.
“Being able to work with customers directly and develop products that suit their needs helped me to understand the product development process. Gaining this experience has made a world of difference in my current role.”
What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?
Don’t be afraid to “learn on the fly.” Experience can be just as valuable as a degree, so push to gain real-world experience whenever possible.
After being in the workforce, what have you learned?
I have learned that working remotely and remotely attending classes are much different. My first four months in the workforce have been a 50/50 split of virtual and “in-person” work. I found that being able to create my own work schedule and schedule my own lab time has been a great way to break up the week.
Interests outside of work?
Outside of work you can find me hiking through the forest, eating, woodworking, or playing a round of disc golf. I also enjoy being a handyman for my family and fixing anything they throw at me.
If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?
“A Jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” – Robert Greene
With a 25-year career as a research professor, including with one of the top-ranked agri-food universities in the world, it is no wonder Robert Lencki, PhD, is considered the cream of the crop in his field.
Prior to retiring from academia seven years ago, Lencki spent the previous 23 years with the University of Guelph as an educator in their elite food science program – this following his professorship at Université Laval in Québec City.
Throughout his professional life, Lencki became a highly regarded authority in food processing design and optimization, product development, packaging and food chemistry.
After earning a doctorate in Chemical Engineering (he also has his PEng designation) from McGill University, and while all his classmates ventured out to Alberta for the first big oil boom, Lencki went to work for Procter & Gamble (P&G) Canada. He gained experience in product development for big names like Crisco shortening, Duncan Hines cake mixes and Jif peanut butter.
The food engineer and scientist is widely published and has papers included in prestigious publications, such as the Journal of Chemical Reviews, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the American Chemical Society.
When he retired from the academic community, Lencki says he was happily enjoying his cottage up north and working on his book and not actively seeking out consulting work. However, his phone kept ringing.
“If something interesting came up, I’d go for it,” he recalls thinking.
The something that truly piqued his interest came when he got a call in 2019 from a previous student of his at the University of Guelph, Ana Cristina Vega-Lugo, PhD, now senior food scientist at Research & Innovation’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre. She told him about a particular research project and asked if he was interested in providing his expertise.
“It sounded like a fascinating challenge to save food wastage from millions of pounds of produce,” says Lencki, who has been a research lead ever since, with the CFWI Innovation Centre at Niagara College’s Daniel J. Patterson campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“Industry is happy because they have a new or improved process and students learn to problem-solve and achieve important project milestones.”
That project was with industry partner Can-AM Pepper Company, an Aylmer, Ontario-based major grower, shipper and packer of fresh produce for the western hemisphere. One of its core products is spaghetti squash, where every season sees upwards of 40 per cent of food waste due to visual skin imperfections in the sensitive produce. Retailers will reject squash with excessive scarring, even though it’s completely edible.
Can-AM Pepper was looking to capitalize on the spaghetti squash seconds.
Typically, with butternut and other hard-shelled squash, growers process the extra, freezing and packaging chunks; but with spaghetti squash the processing is much more challenging, explains Lencki. In fact, few processed spaghetti squash products are currently on the market due to this challenge; most products use the butternut variety for its higher solids concentration.
“It’s very fragile, very delicate and will just disintegrate, and loses all the fibres and turns just to baby food,” he says.
The CFWI Innovation Centre research team, led by Lencki, conducted extensive research experiments, including sensory, shelf-life and preparation tests. A frozen spaghetti squash that is pre-peeled, cored, and par-baked was developed and was commercialized by Can-AM Pepper.
While this challenge involved bringing a new product to market, other projects he has worked on have focused more on improving the efficiency or helping to scale-up current processes. Often, suggestions, while individually only improving the bottom line by a few per cent, can in total lead to significantly increased profitability, he explains.
“One client wanted to freeze soft cheese in order to extend shelf-life, but we demonstrated that this led to an unacceptable loss in product quality,” he notes. “Unfortunately, not all projects have a happy ending.”
Lencki describes the distinctiveness of working on real-world projects with industry partners at R&I: “Compared to many of the projects I worked with at the University of Guelph, which tended to be more theoretical and long-term, those at Niagara College are generally focused on quickly solving specific industrial problems,” he says.
“Industry is happy because they have a new or improved process and students learn to problem-solve and achieve important project milestones.”
This same industry will soon have access to new product development labs and a beverage and liquids R&D pilot processing facility – all part of dedicated research space in the recently opened Marotta Family Innovation Complex, which includes the CFWI Innovation Centre’s Beverage Centre of Excellence.
Lencki is looking forward to having the new facility, with state-of-the-market equipment, at his fingertips. “We will also be able to produce larger product quantities for test markets or even do small-scale co-packing.”
Apart from his consulting work, Lencki volunteers his time to help improve food processes in developing countries, and recently finished a project with Bolivian peach and strawberry farmers.
“Their postharvest losses can be as high as 40 per cent, so I was helping them develop improved packaging and handling procedures to minimize waste.”
Lencki lives in Guelph, Ont., where he’s still working on his book.
Following more than a year of research and experimenting, the Toronto-based start-up developed its novel meat alternative product, resulting in texture versatility equal to that of meat, with more protein than chicken, says co-founder Adrian Pascu.
With an unflavoured product, the company wanted to expand its taste offerings to provide customers with more variety. They also wanted to explore options for textures to enhance mouth-feel. The product is prepared by extrusion of a proprietary blend of plant protein flours.
“We enlisted the help of Niagara College to identify potential post-process procedures that can help us bring our product to market,” explains Pascu.
The Alternative Butcher partnered with the food scientists at the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre to develop flavour options for the meat-alternative product, as well as conduct a regulatory assessment, and create a nutrition facts table for the product label.
The research team developed six flavours, including BBQ, Honey Garlic, Teriyaki, Smokey, Italian and Sundried Tomato. “Secondly, we learned that our base product can be made into texture profiles that might be more commonly seen in the grocery store with meat,” says Pascu.
As a result of the texture research, The Alternative Butcher is now procuring machinery in order to scale up some of the techniques and apply them to their production process. They are currently working with co-manufacturers and short-listing flavours and textures with future prospects.
“Working with the research team at Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division was beneficial for both parties. We learned a lot about our product in ways we didn’t really think of,” Pascu. “They provided us with a different perspective and helped determine some limitations of our product.”
Some funding was provided through the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) – Interactive Visits, which provides up to 20 hours of access to the equipment, facilities, and expertise of NC’s Technology Access Centre (TAC) – in this case, the CFWI Innovation Centre – to solve a specific business or technical challenge.
This is one example of the applied research capabilities offered by the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre. To learn more about the full suite of services to support industry innovation and commercialization of new products and processes, visit the website.
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 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. On-campus work and remote work is required.
New partnership expands range of facilities and brings aerospace R&D capabilities
Today, Centennial College becomes the newest member of the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), a Niagara College-led (Research & Innovation) consortium of post-secondary academic institutions that provides competitive, disruptive and innovative solutions to Ontario’s manufacturers.
The partnership will expand the range of facilities and expertise available to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and extend SONAMI’s reach further into Southern Ontario. The addition of Toronto’s Centennial College to SONAMI now brings the total in the network to eight postsecondary partners, including: Conestoga, Fanshawe, Lambton, Mohawk, Niagara and Sheridan colleges and McMaster University.
Through the centralized SONAMI hub, member institutions pool their resources and talent to match them to the needs of SMEs in various industries, giving them access to cutting-edge technologies, knowledge and funding in order to de-risk their applied R&D, create innovative new products and optimize processes. Targeted industries include agri-food, health, environmental, computer and electronic automation, industrial internet of things technology (IIoT), traditional manufacturing – and now expanded capacity in aerospace and aviation, with the addition of Centennial College’s Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Services (ARIES). Centennial has been a leader in aviation for more than 40 years, and its Bombardier Centre for Aerospace and Aviation at Downsview Campus is in the first phase of development of an Aerospace Hub at Downsview Park.
“Centennial College is honoured to have been chosen to join SONAMI. We look forward to working with local industry partners and the other academic institutions in the SONAMI network to help SMEs in Southern Ontario develop their technologies in advanced manufacturing,” said Jonathan Hack, executive director, ARIES. “We will be leveraging the state-of-the-art equipment located at our Downsview Campus, and the expertise of academic experts and staff within our ARIES department, to continue developing the transformative potential of additive manufacturing technologies of the aerospace industry.”
In 2019, the award-winning SONAMI entered its second phase after a significant reinvestment from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), following a successful first three years. With this continued support came the announcement the network would increase its membership to 10 postsecondary partners, enhancing its reach to help manufacturers innovate.
Since its inception, industry partners have benefitted from collaborative projects by: increasing sales, reducing manufacturing costs, diversifying product lines, and realizing their innovative ideas. SONAMI partners have worked with more than 200 SMEs to complete more than 265 projects, created or maintained 140 permanent jobs and provided skills and training for hundreds of students to prepare them for future jobs.
“Centennial College’s focus on aerospace, aviation and automation brings a unique set of capabilities to SONAMI, further enhancing support for manufacturers,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, vice-president, Research & External Relations at Niagara College.
“By welcoming this institution – with its strong history of applied research – to the partnership, the network will advance its resources available to assist SMEs to remain competitive by offering leading-edge solutions for industry partners,” said Nantel, who is also the chair of the SONAMI Steering Committee. “At the same time, we continue to provide more students with the opportunities to gain essential skills by working alongside research staff and faculty on real-world projects.”
To access the advanced manufacturing network, representatives from interested businesses can contact SONAMI’s project manager, Sarah Dimick, at [email protected]. For more information about the network, please visit the SONAMI website.
Centennial College has several focused applied research activities in aerospace, advanced manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, sustainable energy systems and data analytics. A significant amount of Centennial’s applied research activity is in partnership with the School of Engineering Technology and Applied Sciences (SETAS) and School of Transportation (SOT), and programs at Downsview Campus place the school at the forefront of Aviation and Aerospace training in Canada.
NC’s award-winning Research & Innovation division administers research funding support from various regional, provincial and federal agencies. Students and graduates are hired to work alongside faculty researchers and assist industry partners with leaping forward in the marketplace.
Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest part-time studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.
FedDev Ontariohas actively worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy for nearly 12 years through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation and growth in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in Southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving their productivity, growing their revenues, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. For more information view FedDev Ontario’s pivotal projects.
In August 2019, FedDev Ontario announced a reinvestment contribution of $14 million towards a five-year project (through to December 2023). With that award came the announcement the network would grow to 10 partners, enhancing its reach to help manufacturers innovate.
Niagara College received the 2019 Research Partnership Award from the Canadian Association of Research Administrators (CARA) for the significant impact SONAMI has had on the regional economy.
Through specialized expertise, resources and R&D capabilities, SONAMI partners have a broad range of capabilities that provide effective innovation and technology transfer in areas of automation, additive manufacturing, product testing & validation, Industry 4.0, process optimization, simulation & modelling, and digitally-enabled and intelligent manufacturing.
SMEs wanting to innovate but do not have the resources of time, knowledge/skills or finances to take them to the next level can de-risk their R&D by leveraging a 1:1 funding match on projects. This could reduce overall project costs by up to 50 per cent and help more manufacturers participate.