Category Archives: Research & Innovation

Innovative snacks get help to the market

As a busy health professional and a new father, chiropractor Colin Swala started to recognize the challenges in the eating habits of families. He noticed that people were skipping important meals and tended to grab unhealthy snacks on the go.  

“This meant that important nutrition was missing from their diets, leading to low energy and many of the symptoms we associate with stress,” notes Swala. 

This realization led him to create a new company called 3S Foods Inc. and develop B.A.R.E. Creations, an innovative snack company that offers a line of dry granola snack mixes that can be made into no-bake bites, snack bars or baked granola. Further, they can be customized by the consumer by supplementing with their own ingredients. 

“By simply removing one step from a completed product, we enable families to customize their fresh bars, bites, or granola to suit one’s dietary needs,” he says, adding the goal was creating a mix with a balanced proportion of healthy ingredients, and boosted with foods that help the body adapt to stress. 

Getting the product from idea to reality needed the help of food experts for recipe development. Swala turned to Niagara College’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre to optimize formulations of the dry mixtures and source key ingredients for six different SKUs. 

“Niagara College has a great reputation for food innovation, and I thought there would be no better place to get help at this stage,” he says. “Considering our product is a dry mix of ingredients, it wouldn’t seem like it would be difficult to formulate; however, it was critical to us that the finished (prepared) product was chewy yet crispy and had enough flavour without making the product unhealthy.” 

He says this required working backwards from the prepared product, considering the ingredients that the consumer would add, in addition to the dry mix ingredients. 

The dry mixes use plant-based proteins in flavours like Power Berry, Double Chocolate, Apple Spice, White Chocolate Mint, White Chocolate & Green Tea and Coffee Toffee. 

“The research team at Niagara College was able to save us an unbelievable amount of time, considering we had so many SKUs we wanted to launch. Each required careful analysis and taste-testing to perfect,” says Swala. “Considering we wanted to include some special health ingredients, there were also challenges that they helped to work out to mask any off-flavours that would come from adding those special ingredients.” 

“Our company’s partners are health professionals with full-time responsibilities so taking a brand-new food product from idea to something you can hold was hardly possible without working with this team.” 

While the pandemic delayed the project considerably, things are now opening up, and the company is preparing for its first production run to start selling the product on its website.  

“It’s been a very long ride to get to this stage, but we are very excited to see it finally come together,” says Swala, adding that the experience working with the Research & Innovation team “exceeded all expectations.”  

“Our company’s partners are health professionals with full-time responsibilities so taking a brand-new food product from idea to something you can hold was hardly possible without working with this team,” adds Swala. “We were involved in helping direct them on our vision of the product, and they were able to do the rest.” 

This project received funding 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 a Technology Access Centre (TAC) to solve a specific business or technical challenge. 

This is one example of the technical services 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. 

POSITION AVAILABLE: Footcare Project Assistant position available with our Research & Innovation team

Footcare Project Assistant

The Footcare Project Assistant is a role that encompasses two roles (Research & Footcare Assessment Assistant) and is dependent on the work available with restrictions due to the pandemic. As a Research Assistant, the selected candidate will work remotely and meet regularly with the Research Project manager and other members of the research team through virtual software programs. As a Footcare Assessment Assistant, the selected candidate will enter homeless shelters and provide professional assessments to their clients.

We are looking for a motivated Footcare Project Assistant who is interested in supporting the pilot phase of the research project and is enthusiastically enrolled in one of the mentioned allied health programs at Niagara College and looking to assist vulnerable individuals with footcare assessments. Some duties and responsibilities include preparing creating research-informed resources, surveys and interview guides, preparing reports, footcare assessment tasks and participating meetings.

Click HERE to see the full job posting. To apply, please email your cover letter and resume to [email protected] and reference ‘Footcare Project Assistant’ in the subject line.

The deadline to apply is Friday, September 10, 2021 at 12pm. 

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

R&I efforts to protect healthcare workers recognized

With files from InsideNC 

Niagara College has received commendation from the Niagara Region for its role in assisting the community this past year during the pandemic. Award of Merit certificates were recently presented to the College in honour of Research & Innovation’s exemplary support of healthcare workers through the manufacturing and donation of face shields, and for the Canadian Food & Wine Institute’s Feed the Community initiative. 

The recognition is part of the Region’s Niagara Impact Awards, which recognize individuals, non-profit organizations and private sector businesses for their efforts in improving the quality of life of those living in Niagara. Learn more about how College students, staff and faculty are making a difference. 


An Award of Merit recognized Research & Innovation’s support of healthcare workers over the past year through the manufacturing and donation of more than 17,300 face shields to Niagara Health. 

“Your ability to pivot, design and manufacture these much-needed shields as well as your generosity in donating those to most in need is outstanding,” states the Award of Merit signed by Niagara Region chair Jim Bradley. 

In 2020, research at the College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) produced 37,300 face shields, certified by Health Canada with a Medical Device Establishment Licence (MDEL Class 1). WAMIC distributed 17,300 face shields to the local Niagara Health System for front-line workers, and the rest were donated to other essential workers and community members throughout the province. 

The WAMIC research team used computer-aided design to create the face shield prototype and then partnered with a local industry partner, Niagara-based Jay-Line, for its die-cutting services to accelerate the number of plastic visors pressed. 

“It’s a priority for us at Niagara College to respond to the needs of our community,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, vice president, Research and External Relations. “We are proud to leverage our spirit of innovation to help support those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Niagara Health expressed its gratitude for the College’s efforts. 

“The Research & Innovation division at Niagara College provided invaluable services at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when PPE inventories were running low, and the supply chains were disrupted,” said Amir Gill, director, Capital Planning, Engineering Services, and Biomedical Engineering, Niagara Health, “The Niagara College team stepped in and started to locally manufacture and supply us with face shields. They continued to send us a daily supply until the supply chains were re-established.” 

The project was funded by the Niagara College-led Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) through Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) contributions. 



At the College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute (CFWI), the Feed the Community program was launched during the Winter 2021 term. The initiative aimed to address food insecurity and to support health and wellness in the community and within the College’s student population.  

Each week, 300 fresh healthy meals were prepared at the CFWI and transported to different shelters on a rotating basis. Some meals were also provided to students living in on-campus residences. 

The meals were prepared, cooked and packaged by participating chefs and student volunteers from the Culinary Management program who used top quality products from supplies in the kitchen labs. The team then connected with shelters to transport all the meals each week to those who needed them. 

The initiative was spearheaded by chef professor Olaf Mertens with leadership from the CFWI’s former associate dean Gary Torraville (director, International). Chefs Dan Leblanc and Tom Liu joined the effort along with four second-year Culinary Management students who volunteered to get involved. Full health and safety measures were followed, noted CFWI dean Craig Youdale. 

“I am immensely proud of our team and their continued support of the Niagara community,” said Youdale. “The Niagara Impact Award of Merit is really special to our staff because it will bring some light to the important issue of food insecurity and also inspire more of our team to join the effort.” 

Making her mark in the craft beer industry

Sarah Polkinghorne is a 2016 graduate of Niagara College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management Program and was a research assistant with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre from October 2015 until December 2016. Sarah was hired in July 2020 as the head brewer with Black Kettle Brewing in North Vancouver, B.C.

As one of only a handful of female brewmasters in B.C., Sarah has received much media attention this past fall: She was featured in North Shore News, and Vancouver Is Awesome, which led to a CBC Radio & TV story. She also landed the cover of The Georgia Straight, Vancouver’s weekly lifestyle magazine, and articles in Brewers Journal and Beer Me BC.

Tell us about where you work:

Black Kettle Brewing is a brewery, a bottle shop, and a communal hub that has been creating and pouring brews in North Vancouver since 2014.

What were you doing before that, after graduating?

After graduating, I worked in quality assurance and as a brewer at Foamers’ Folly Brewing from January 2017 to March 2020.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

As head brewer, I am in charge of creating and brewing all beers, packaging, creative design of labels, quality assurance, and general brewery operations. I created the recipes and helped design the new labels for our line of canned beers that we released in May 2021.

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?

It helped me expand my knowledge of quality assurance testing by allowing me to research various quality assurance testing techniques – and do more hands-on testing that I had not done previously.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

I was the research assistant for the Craft Brewers Shelf-Life Reference Manual project. I learned how to monitor beer stability by doing flavour analysis and how to identify biological and non-biological products found in beer under a microscope and how each affects the beer over time.

You initially earned a chemistry degree from the University of Victoria; what then led you to Niagara College?

After graduating from the University of Victoria, I worked at Northam Beverages as a quality assurance technician, doing analytical testing on all their beers, ciders and coolers. This led me to become fascinated by brewing, and I began brewing my own beer at home. After a year of working there, my interest became a passion, and I decided I wanted to become a brewer and applied and was accepted to Niagara College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management Program.

Most memorable experience at NC?

While taking the Brewmaster program, I was able to travel to Freising, Germany for one week with the Be World Ready program and visited some of the world’s oldest breweries, as well as global suppliers of grains and equipment. This included visiting the longest operating brewery, Weihenstephan, malt supplier Weyermann Malts and Weltenburger Kloster Monastery. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip to see the behind-the-scenes of such important places in brewing history.

Is there a particular mentor at either R&I or a faculty member who influenced you?

Dr. Dirk Bendiak was the project lead for the Craft Beer Shelf-Life Manual. He taught me techniques for beer analysis than I hadn’t known before and how important shelf stability is in the craft beer industry.

What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?

Follow your passion. You never know where it will lead you. When I studied chemistry, I never thought I would wind up becoming a brewer, but that is where life led me and it’s been a great adventure.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

Hard work and a willingness to go after what you want, even if it’s far away or completely different from what you are doing, will result in a great career.

Sarah Polkinghorne brewed a single malt and single hop hazy IPA and donated $1 from every pint sold for the Pink Boots Society, a non-profit supporting women in brewing.

Proudest achievement since graduating?

Increasing female representation in the brewing industry by joining the only 7.5 percent of female head brewers.

Tell us more about how you are collaborating to support women in the beer industry.

I am a member of the Pink Boots Society, a non-profit organization that supports women working in the brewing industry. They exist to ASSIST, INSPIRE, and ENCOURAGE women beer professionals through EDUCATION. I brewed a single malt and single hop hazy IPA [India Pale Ale] using the Pink Boots Hop blend named “S.M.A.S.H the Patriarchy” with $1 from every pint sold going to the society, and raised $1,645.

You received a lot of media attention this past spring. What has that experience been like?

The media attention has been unexpected. It started when I posted on Black Kettles’ Instagram page about the Pink Boots Society fundraiser. This led to an article about me in the North Shore News, then a radio and news interviews with CBC and then a front-page picture and article in the Georgia Straight. I’m not very comfortable giving interviews and being photographed, but it has been great to showcase women in brewing, bringing attention to the Pink Boots Society and to Black Kettle, so it’s been worth it!

Interests outside of work?

In my spare time, I play soccer, softball, travel and visit all the wonderful breweries the world has to offer.

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

Believe in yourself, and it will all work out in the end.

A curious thirst for the engineering of beer

Like many engineering minds, Rodrigo Ribeiro Meireles is endlessly curious. The 30-year-old chemical engineer always wanted to learn how things work, intrigued by how machines function – and notably, how beer was made from barley, and vodka from potatoes.

“I am so curious in that regard that I would see myself satisfied in other types of engineering as well –like mechanical, electrical, or even automation,” Meireles explains. “But chemical engineering was the one that answered most of my questions.”

It’s also the one field that could combine his passion for beer and engineering, offering a playground to apply technical know-how to the precise process of brewing.

For Meireles, it also set the stage to work for the top two largest breweries in the world.

“The process of making beer applies a lot of what we learn in chemical engineering, and the good part is that you can taste it at the end … well, at least if you make good beer,”says Meireles, currently a student in Niagara College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program (Canada’s first ever program) and a brewery research assistant working on real-world projects with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre.

“The structure of the lab and pilot plant is incredible, and I get experience working with the equipment I will surely have to deal with in a brewery in the future.”

After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Universidade Federal do Ceará, in his home country of Brazil, Meireles was accepted into a one-year international chemical engineering exchange program in Bordeaux, France. During that time, he was exposed to various types of beers, different styles he could not find back home.

“I tried different beers from Russia, Germany, Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, England, Spain, and more,” he recalls. “It fascinated me how broad the beer culture could be and the different flavours I could extract from mainly three ingredients: yeast, hops and malt.”

After returning to Brazil, Meireles got the opportunity to work at the multinational AB (Anheuser-Busch) Inbev as packaging supervisor. There he learned best practices and management methodologies, leading teams with up to 50 employees. He later joined another giant, Heineken, in 2019, as packaging coordinator, overseeing four major production lines, including mineral water, soft drinks, canned beer and bottled beer.

“These two breweries were like a second university to me, as I learned a lot about beer, engineering and people management – and it just made me more certain that I chose the right path for myself.”

He describes the packaging and production field of brewing as dynamic and an opportunity to learn something new every day. Yet, he wanted to take a deeper dive into the making of the beer itself. In his search for the best education in this specialization, he identified the NC Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program for its excellence in this field.

“The quality of the staff was sure one of the main reasons to choose Niagara College; they are all highly experienced and renowned in the field,” explains Meireles. “Also, with the practical learning aspects that come with the Teaching Brewery here, it really makes this course stand above most in the industry.”

This spring, he jumped at the chance for additional hands-on experience when the Research & Innovation’s CFWI Innovation Centre posted a position for brewery research assistant.

Inside the research labs and the Centre’s new pilot processing plant, Meireles is currently working on three different projects: One is related to dairy emulsion formulation. The second, quality control and product development for alcoholic ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages. The third involves distilling and creating one vodka-based and one gin-based RTD beverage.

“The most interesting for me is the vodka and gin distillation, as this is something I have studied in chemical engineering but never had the chance to actually do it.”

In all the projects, he has the opportunity to learn from the research experts. “The specialists are all very knowledgeable and willing to help and teach, and that, in my opinion, is one of the best benefits of working here,” he says. “The structure of the lab and pilot plant is incredible, and I get experience working with the equipment I will surely have to deal with in a brewery in the future.”

As a surprise wedding gift, Meireles created and bottled a unique India Pale Ale and dedicated it to his new bride Luísa.

He’s hoping that future includes a permanent opportunity to stay in Canada and work in the beer industry.

“I’m working on it, and I am one French test away from it, and hopefully, I can obtain permanent residency this year.”

Meireles continues to enjoy his hobby of homebrewing. In fact, using his brew-engineering savvy, he created and bottled a unique India Pale Ale as a surprise wedding gift to his bride for the 2018 celebration. The bottle was adorned with his wife’s name, Luísa, and included a special side description (translated from Portuguese): “This beer was made to celebrate one of the most important moments in a couple’s life, the wedding day. Luísa is a strong, balanced beer, perfumy and memorable, just like the woman in which it was inspired. This beer was made to be appreciated for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; in joy and in sorrow; to love and to cherish.”

He and his wife live in St. Catharines.

The art of risk management during food innovation

By Angela Tellez-Lance, PhD,
Research lead and senior food safety and risk analyst
CFWI Innovation Centre – Research & Innovation

The Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre uses a holistic approach to food innovation, where the product development team and the food safety experts work in parallel to develop successful, novel and safe products. We use food safety risk analysis tools to help manufacturers protect their brand, build consumer trust and loyalty.

Assessing the food safety risk of the proposed formulation and processing steps as the product is developed enables us to design the best risk management options to reduce risk without compromising sensory attributes, optimize costs and comply with regulations.

Over the years, we have worked on risk assessments for new and existing products, validation studies of process and formulations, shelf-life extension studies, and the design of food safety strategies to solve regulatory issues.

Did You Know?

~ The Safety Foods for Canadian Regulations applies to food (including ingredients) that is imported, exported, or inter-provincially traded for commercialization.

~ Bacteria such as Listeria and viruses like hepatitis survive in frozen foods. Listeria and hepatitis are biological hazards to food safety.

~ Food safety risk assessment has four steps: hazard identification, hazard characterization, exposure assessment, and risk characterization. The risk assessment is carried out to know the level of risk associated with a particular hazard.

~ Validation is required to determine if a control measure (for example, pasteurization at a set time and temperature) can reduce the risk associated with a particular hazard (for example, Listeria). Validation studies can be done using predictive modelling tools, scientific studies, and challenge studies.

~ Verification is conducted to know if a preventive control is working efficiently. For example, the metal detector is verified during production at a set frequency to ensure the equipment is working as expected.


As part of the full suite of services to support industry innovation and commercialization, the CFWI Innovation Centre provides essential food and beverage safety and regulatory assistance. This includes guiding industry partners through applicable food and safety standards, developing HACCP/CFSI plans and food safety documentation. Find out more on the website.