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.
Growing up, and in a household surrounded by five other siblings, it was Kaitlyn (Kate) Jonker who stood out as the high-energy and outgoing one.
“My parents always said I didn’t stop talking and I didn’t really have a filter – I just said it how it was,” she says.
Today, in her second year of the Business – Sales and Marketing program at Niagara College – and mid-way through her co-op as research assistant with the Business & Commercialization Solutions team with the Research & Innovation division – she remains just as spirited, loves to talk and works the “zoom” room like a pro.
“I guess today I still carry on those traits except I like to think I have more of a filter now,” she laughs. “But I’m a social person with lots to say on issues that are important to me. I’ve always loved working and talking with people with a problem-solver attitude.”
Her energetic and social temperament – something she says she inherited from her father – ostensibly helped shape her career path.
Yet, she didn’t always know what she wanted to pursue, only that her dream was to attend Niagara College. Ultimately, it was her dad who took her to his company for a visit with the sales and marketing manager. She knew that was her calling.
A wise choice, given her penchant for presenting and speaking in front of people – an essential skill in her chosen vocation and one she had cultivated while still in high school. There, she and some classmates worked on a project that required raising awareness for an initiative in a developing country, and successfully pitched the campaign to a not-for-profit organization panel.
“My group and I actually ended up going so far that we presented our project to multiple schools and at events,” says Jonker. “Our project was taken across the world to be carried on by the non-profit organization.”
“I love being a part of helping others by using my problem-solving skills, as well as brainstorming with other members of the research team.”
During her studies at NC she has received even more opportunities to sharpen her public speaking abilities and has learned to love social media, advertising and promotions. Still, it wasn’t until she started working with real businesses, on official marketing plans, with the Business & Commercialization team, that thing really came into focus for the 19-year-old.
“While working with businesses, I almost have to remind myself each time I work that this is not just a school project – this is a real client’s business!” she says. “Working on these research projects has really allowed me to put to practice what I have learned in the classroom and apply it in the real world and for that I am grateful to Paula Reile, my project manager, and Research & Innovation, for the experience and opportunity this position has given me.”
Her first project was for a client operating a high-end lifestyle website wanting market research assistance to bring their brand from the web to store shelves in North America. It was something she was completely unfamiliar with, but eager to learn about.
Jonker and her fellow research assistants developed marketing strategies to help with a successful entry into the market, with detailed promotional, branding, packaging and distribution recommendations.
“I really enjoyed working with the business team to come up with ideas and strategies for the client’s business,” she notes. “I love being a part of helping others by using my problem-solving skills as well as brainstorming with other members of the research team.”
Yet, even with all the brainstorming, this past year has been difficult for Jonker, forcing the sociable people-person to pivot to a more isolated environment while studying and working remotely at her Smithville-based home. Despite this, Jonker has skillfully used it as a learning experience.
“It’s not always easy to motivate yourself to keep going, especially when I am such an extrovert and thrive off being around people,” she explains. “Balancing the crazy online school life and this job has been extremely challenging and time consuming, but it’s taught me patience and time management skills to get the work done and on time.”
She has also had to redirect her high-energy nature from her regular sports life – a passion she’s held since childhood – and in which she’s usually taken a lead role, either playing or coaching.
“Sports has been my life and I love everything about it – the energy, the competitiveness, the rush – I guess it’s fair to say that I miss it a lot with lockdown.”
For now, she gets outside into nature, spending time with her boyfriend Joel, as well as her family.
She’s also thinking about her next move once she graduates this April.
“I am really excited to take what I have learned as a business research assistant and apply it to my future career – though I’m not sure what that might be.”
For the sixth year in a row, Niagara College has earned the honour of being in the top 10 colleges in the country for research funding, according to a special report released today.
In its special report called Canada’s Innovation Leaders, Research Infosource Inc. announced the rank of eight for Niagara College, based on total research funding numbers for 2019. The publication includes its national study “Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges,” which shows a steady placement of six years in a row in the top 10, since NC earned spot No. 10 in the 2014 research funding year.
“We are proud of our continued recognition among Canada’s top 10 for research funding, as research and innovation have been a growing focus for our College. These extraordinary times have served to highlight the important role of innovation in our College and our community,” said Niagara College president Sean Kennedy. “By leveraging the expertise of our researchers and capabilities made possible within our state-of-the-art facilities, Niagara College helps local companies stay competitive. We are pleased to have been providing healthcare with made-in-Niagara solutions during the global pandemic – all while equipping our students with essential applied experience.”
Looking at colleges with applied research funding in Canada, NC earned the No. 8 spot by having attracted $7.828 million in funding to conduct innovative projects involving industry partners in the food and beverage, advanced manufacturing, precision agriculture, and related environmental technologies sectors.
Niagara College also jumped to the No. 2 position in the category of completed research projects, with a total of 262. Further, the College increased its paid student researchers to 105, a rise from 83 the previous year.
Looking closely at the number of interactions with industry – small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) who turn to colleges for help on expertise and resources to innovate – NC’s total for the number of research partnerships was 208.
Marc Nantel, PhD, vice-president, Research & External Relations at the College, noted that remaining in the top 10 among research colleges is an ongoing source of pride for NC’s Research & Innovation division.
“We are delighted to acknowledge this demonstration of the exceptional work our staff, faculty and students are doing on industry partner projects,” said Nantel. “Our priority has always been to provide innovative solutions to help local companies compete, while also enhancing our students’ education through real-world research opportunities.”
Research funding allows the College to partner with SMEs in the region to conduct projects and services, which provide innovative solutions for industry. These include producing and testing prototypes, evaluating new technologies, and developing new or improved products and processes. NC Research & Innovation conducts applied research, technical services and business and commercialization solutions with industry partners through its Agriculture & Environment Innovation Centre, Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, and Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre.
Niagara College also administers the funding for two multi-institutional research networks, including the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), and the Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN).
The College’s innovative solutions have helped one company commercialize Canada’s first non-alcoholic gin product following a product development research project with NC’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre and industry partner DistillX Beverages Inc. Now sold in 20 stores, as well as online, Sobrii Ø-Gin (zero gin) has since received praise in national print, TV and radio media this past year.
“Expertise from Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division was instrumental to being able to sell a product that was not only superior tasting, but something I can commercially scale and replicate safely,” said DistillX president Bob Huitema. “I think it’s important to support local academic and manufacturing resources as this is a ‘made-in-Canada’ initiative.”
In the annual Canada’s Innovation Leaders publication – which includes a comprehensive listing of all categories, analysis and insight – its theme delves into how academic institutions have helped Canada combat the pandemic. At NC’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Centre, researchers produced a total of 37,000 licensed face shields, nearly half of which went to the Niagara Health System, and close to 20,000 shields were donated to other essential workers and community members throughout the province.
Research Infosource annually compiles listings of the Top 50 research universities, corporate R&D spenders, and research hospitals. This is the seventh year a list has been released for the Top 50 research colleges in Canada. For more information on the Top 50 list, visit researchinfosource.com.
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. Students come from a variety of the College’s programs, such as Mechanical Engineering Technology, Culinary Innovation and Food Technology, Business Administration – Marketing, and Computer Programmer.
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.
Mechanical Engineering Research Assistant (Co-op)
The Mechanical Engineering Research Assistant will have a comprehensive skill set to work with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team, Faculty Leads and Industry Partners on a variety of time-sensitive projects. The successful candidate may work on research projects or technical services in Additive manufacturing, Product Design & Development, Product Testing, Reality/Spatial Capture, Reverse Engineering and Lean Manufacturing Assessment. Hours completed during this work term may be used toward your co-operative placement hours.
Click HERE to see the full job posting. To apply, please email your resume, cover letter, transcript and school schedule to [email protected] and reference ‘Mechanical Engineering Research Assistant SR Co-op’ in the subject line.
The deadline to apply is Friday, February 26th, 2021 at 4pm.