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.