A major supplier to the food industry has dramatically increased its use of Ontario wheat over the past 30 years to the point that it now almost exclusively buys locally.
Griffith Foods made purchasing Ontario wheat a priority as part of its effort to reduce its carbon footprint and as a result has become a major partner in the sector.
Why it matters: Finding local markets for Ontario wheat is critical to add value to a crop that farmers sometimes have a difficult time justifying.
Joachim Baur, director of product and process innovation and Jennifer Neate, senior director of marketing with Griffiths Foods, spoke to farmers at the recent Grain Farmers of Ontario March Classic.
The American company was started 100 years ago in the Chicago area, but has been in Canada for 90 years. Its factory in Scarborough has been making breaded products since 1962. About 350 people are employed there.
The company, which many may not have heard of, further processes products, especially grains, to add “flavour and functionality” to products that it sells to the major food processors and retailers of the world.
If you’ve eaten breaded meat product in Ontario, you’ve likely consumed a Griffith product.
Ontario wheat flour is used throughout their processes, said Baur, including in the dry mixes that are made into pancakes and waffles, their dough mixes and bakery products that are used in binders. They also use different methods of cooking dough into crumbs, side dishes and croutons.
Baur said that the company used 60 per cent wheat from Western Canada in 1990, but by 2018, 96 per cent of the wheat used by Griffiths in its Ontario plant comes from Ontario.
The company is a research and development company, with food scientists employed. The company has filed 300 patents over its 100 years of existence. Baur said Griffiths introduced food science to food processing companies.
They have had several recent breakthroughs including technology that keep breaded food crisp, called Stay Crisp.
“It’s the holy grail of coatings and we have managed to crack that nut,” said Baur.
They have also created products with higher fibre and protein content, as requested by their customers, and also a product that isn’t fried but tastes and feels like it has been.
Purchasing increased volume of Ontario wheat is helping make sure the company can check the “local” box with consumers.
Using Ontario wheat allows the company to tell the story of local to consumers that are trying to incorporate at least one Ontario-based meal per week into their menus, says Neate.
Grain Farmers of Ontario invested $321,000 in helping Griffith make the change to more Ontario wheat. The change has increased the market for Ontario wheat by 8,200 tonnes, said Baur.