Talking innovation with Chicken Farmers of Ontario

How the organizing is meeting changing consumer demand and how its working with retailers on that journey

Shutterstock/MoonborneShutterstock/Moonborne

Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO) is heading into the second year of its Ontario Chicken Innovation award, which is designed to inspire new, consumer-facing products. This year CFO has upped the ante and is providing “millions of kilograms of chicken available for successful applicants.”

Canadian Grocer asked the organization about the importance of the award, challenges facing the industry and how its working with retailers to help grow consumer demand.

Tell us about the Ontario Chicken Innovation Award and why it’s so important to the industry.
The Ontario Chicken Innovation and Growth Program is a first of its kind program in the chicken industry designed to accelerate innovation and put new chicken products on the plates of Ontario consumers. The program recognizes top consumer-facing innovations in the chicken industry, directing an additional supply of live birds to enable the innovation. This industry is full of innovators–processors, further processors, foodservice companies, restauranteurs and retailers–and we know that Canadians love chicken and crave new products. Through this program we want to encourage that innovative spirit and introduce consumers to even more new chicken products. In doing so, we will further improve our industry’s record of meeting ever-changing consumer demand.

How can Ontario chicken help grocers grow their chicken category?
Ontario boasts the largest chicken farming, processor and consumer base in Canada. It is an excellent place to bring new products to the market. Every dollar of chicken sales by Ontario chicken farmers and primary processors generates $3.7 billion of economic activity throughout Ontario and bringing new products to market can only enhance our economic contributions.

How is CFO working with grocers to help grow consumer demand?
CFO is continually looking to meet the changing needs of Ontario chicken consumers and markets. These new programs will help farmers fill local food and seasonal markets and will give Ontario consumers more choice and options in how and where they buy locally grown chicken.

How can grocers assure their customers that the chicken they’re selling is of the highest quality?
From the moment they arrive on the farm to the time they’re shipped to the consumer, the quality and welfare of our chickens is of the utmost importance to us. Our farmers are proud to play such an important role in the production of safe and healthy chickens for Canadians.

What CFO programs and services can grocers leverage to help boost sales?
The industry has a history of innovating to meet consumer needs. In addition to The Ontario Chicken Innovation and Growth Program, which will bring new products to market, our Artisanal Chicken Program and Local Niche Markets Program meet consumer demand for locally grown chicken. And, the Specialty Breeds Chicken Program supports the growing demand from Ontario’s ethno-cultural communities, creating opportunities for producers and processors to support current and emerging consumer markets.

How has the popularity of plant-based protein impacted the chicken industry?
Consumer preferences are increasingly trending towards natural, fresh, local. Finding new ways to access fresh, local, high-quality chicken at affordable prices is what this Program is all about. The Ontario chicken industry has a great track record of innovation–from addressing the growing demand for locally grown food, convenient meal options and heightened interest in healthy eating, chicken farmers, processors, foodservice and restaurant operators and retailers have adapted, bringing new initiatives to the market.