Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute Innovation Centre

Read on to meet with Lyndon Ashton, Centre Manager at Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute Innovation Centre. Enjoy!

Q. Lyndon, from what we have read, every food and beverage processor in Ontario should know about your centre at Niagara College.

A. I would agree! We assist food and beverage businesses of all types and sizes develop new products and processes, scale up production, and be ready to enter markets. The concept for the Centre was cleverly designed. We have a team of in-house researchers and can quickly engage academic expertise and students from across the college for additional project support.

Q. Your mission is to help businesses get product on the shelf. Can you share a few recent success stories?

A. We have over 100 success stories to tell. Although many of the companies we work with are SMEs, we have enjoyed partnerships with businesses like Rich’s, Bacardi and Ferrero. It’s important to know that our company clients always retain the intellectual property developed at the Centre.

For a recent story that I love, I would have to mention Royal Canadian Mead. This company came to us with a challenge to develop a line of mead products – an alcoholic beverage made from honey, yeast and water. Together with Niagara College’s Teaching Winery and beekeeping program we crafted new styles of session brews. Check out the hopped buckwheat mead, Feels Like Friday, in the LCBO. Delicious!

Q. Niagara College has always been a champion of FBO’s Taste Your Future program and developing the next generation of talent. Tell us how the college’s students factor into your work.

A. Students from Niagara College’s brewmaster, distillery, culinary, food science, and winemaking programs are key to the success of our company projects. Students bring their education and passion to the table and in return learn in the real-world environment of product development and innovation. For many it’s a gateway to their dream job. For employers, it’s a talent pipeline of people who have worked directly with industry partners and gained relevant, practical training that helps in the hiring process.

Q. What about new technology at the Centre?

A. It’s a given for us. We are making it possible for companies to transition from an innovative idea to prototype and prepare them to scale up for commercialization with processes and technology to support that pipeline. We are just reaching the final stages for a beverage and liquid pilot space that will be ideal for niche products and test market production. And since we operate like a business, we know our value proposition well and build solutions around the client’s needs.

At the Centre, we have our own value chain which includes public and private partners that can provide complementary expertise and resources for a complete solution through a single window of service delivery. For instance, we connect with co-packers, certified labs, flavour and ingredient houses, and other innovation centres to lend support where it makes sense.

Q. For those interested in food innovation and trends you have the upcoming Niagara Food & Beverage Summit on October 23rd.

A. This summit with internationally-recognized food trendologists, food marketing experts and panel conversations will bring together entrepreneurs, innovators, developers, thought leaders and foodies to explore future trends. It’s a great and unique opportunity to learn the latest on hot topics like cannabis edibles from experienced product developers and connect with industry leaders. It’s our pleasure to offer FBO members a discount to attend.

Thanks Lyndon. You are a red seal chef, trained meat cutter, economic development professional and clearly passionate about the Centre and its role in the success of Ontario food and beverage businesses.

To learn more about specific services of the Centre, visit the Canadian Food and Wine Institute Innovation Centre or have a listen to Lyndon’s recent radio interview here with Tim Denis, Newstalk 610.

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