by SUSAN MANN
Ontario Pork’s ongoing marketing and promotional work got a huge boost Thursday after the provincial government announced funding of up to $2 million for the organization to expand its efforts.
Ontario Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Jeff Leal made the funding announcement at Queen’s Park in Toronto. He says in a press release the funding for Ontario Pork supports the province’s local food strategy and is helping to make more local food available in Ontario’s schools, cafeterias, markets, grocery stores and restaurants. Since 2003, the provincial government has invested more than $140 million to support sales of Ontario foods.
Investing in local food generates greater economic activity and creates mores jobs in Ontario’s agri-food industry, he notes, adding that promoting local food is part of the government’s economic plan for Ontario.
“Buying and eating local is one of the most important ways we can support our economy and our hardworking farmers,” he says.
Mary Jane Quinn, Ontario Pork’s communications and consumer marketing manager, says by email “this funding is being used to support our branding and reputation management efforts.”
The $2 million in grant money is in addition to the $450,000 the Ontario government gave Ontario Pork last year to develop a branding and marketing strategy and pilot it in retail stores. The pilot was considered successful and now the government is helping Ontario Pork establish and expand the ‘Ontario pork’ brand in retails stores and foodservice locations.
Quinn says Ontario Pork along with federally registered processors Conestoga Meat Packers and Sofina Foods ran the pilot-branding program from January to March. The pilot includes a new label to put on packaged meats at retail stores, television commercials, transit and print advertising and point-of-sale merchandise. The on-pack label is a green circle with the words ‘Ontario pork’ and a grey checkmark inside the circle. It’s voluntary and free for retailers and others to use.
“We are now building on that program” by adding radio and additional digital advertising, Quinn says.
Currently, 44 participants have signed a label agreement with Ontario Pork that ensures the pork they are selling is born, raised and processed in Ontario. The participants signing the agreement include retailers, restaurants, food service operators and farmers selling at the farm gate.
“Being able to identify our local pork products at retail is critical to the sustainability of our domestic industry,” Ontario Pork chair Amy Cronin says in the government’s press release.
Quinn says part of Ontario Pork’s promotional efforts include ensuring consumers know more about the industry, pork farmers and their production practices “so when consumers see the new label on pork they will know the commitment our farms have to these products.”
Farmers’ commitment to animal care and information about the economics of farming will be contained in messages that will go out to more multicultural audiences and some digital media, she notes.
As for how Ontario Pork’s promotional efforts are being received, Rick Strano, owner of Farmboy Markets Ltd. in Peterborough, says in the government’s press release the pork organization’s branding strategy “has had a noticeable impact on our sales volume and our customers appreciate being able to identify local pork.” BF