Search the Site

Producing and Processing for the World

Canada’s Industrial Heartland is at the center of the country's most robust food and beverage industry. The fertile soil and rolling landscape have welcomed many generations of food producers and created a strong local food processing industry. Markets for food processors are growing and there is a strong push for more locally grown and processed foods. Ontario's food processing sector is the third largest in North America with manufacturing revenues of more than CA$48 billion (Invest Ontario, 2021).

Locally Produced

In Southwestern Ontario, companies in the food processing industry have direct access to a virtually unlimited supply of all the necessary ingredients for their products.

  • In the three counties of Elgin, Oxford and Perth, there are more than 5,400 farms operating on 542,049.7 hectares (1.34 million acres) of highly fertile land. And there is more supply from Ontario's other nearly 45,000 farms working almost 4.5 million hectares (11.1 million acres) – producing more than 230 agricultural products.
  • Farms in Southwestern Ontario are major producers of dairy products, grains, oilseeds, and vegetables. Livestock production includes beef, pork, poultry, and eggs. Major crops include corn, soybeans, and several varieties of wheat.
  • This diverse mix and focus on new customer needs allow the region to thrive in both commodity and niche markets.
  • Farms in Canada’s Industrial Heartland generated CA$2.73 billion in revenue in 2020 (OMAFRA, 2021).

New and Growing Markets

The markets for Ontario's food processors are growing and there is a strong push for more locally grown and processed food. Local demand for end-consumer products is extensive with the Heartland's farmers helping to feed a province of more than 14 million people. The huge consumer market of Toronto, Canada's largest city, lies just 1.5 hours away.

  • Ontario is North America's third largest centre for food processing (Invest Ontario, 2021).
  • From 2010 to 2020, Ontario’s agri-food exports grew at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 6.3%, from CA$9.4 billion to CA$17.24 billion (OMAFRA, 2021).
  • Agri-food imports grew to CA$30.4 billion in 2020. There is also more room for further processing locally, with agricultural commodities currently leading Canada’s exports while processed food products lead in terms of import value. This provides a large potential to companies for further local processing in Canada’s Industrial Heartland, where business costs are generally lower.
  • Hundreds of greenhouse vegetable growers in Ontario produced food worth CA$1.21 billion in 2020 - that accounted for two-thirds of total greenhouse vegetable production in Canada.
  • More specialty crops flourish in Ontario’s fields: from nutritious pulses, such as white beans and coloured beans, to Asian vegetables, herbs and mushrooms.

Many Growing Advantages

Ontario food and beverage processors enjoy many competitive advantages.

  • Energy costs in Canada's Industrial Heartland are lower than Michigan and Ohio for both electricity and natural gas. Operating expenses also tend to be lower than or competitive with most U.S. states.
  • The Ontario government is progressive and proactive in supporting all manufacturing and business enterprise.
  • The unique blend of climate, geography and soils also allows producers to grow a variety of top-quality fruits (e.g. apples and strawberries) and vegetables (e.g. corn, tomatoes, and green peas). In fact, the wider region grows more asparagus, tart cherries, ginseng, peppers, pumpkins, and other vegetables - than anywhere else in Canada. It is also Ontario’s leading grower of cabbage, rye, squash, zucchini and other vegetables.
  • As of 2020, Ontario has more than 16.3 million sq. m. (175.6 million sq. ft.) of greenhouses in vegetable production (Statistics Canada, 2021).
  • Firms in Canada’s Industrial Heartland region have access to superior, end-to-end supply chain solutions including processing, packaging, specialized storage, and transportation. If needed, neighbouring U.S. states such as Michigan, Ohio, and New York extend the supply frontier even further by 12.3 million hectares (30.3 million acres) (USDA, 2021).

Thriving Research Community

Ontario is the heart of the Canadian research community for agriculture and agri-food. More than 60% of all of Canada's agri-food research and development takes place in Ontario.

  • Canada's Industrial Heartland has one of the most advanced agri-food sectors in the world. Ontario’s extensive network of universities and colleges provides leading-edge food and nutrition programs that are among the best in North America. Universities offer fully accredited agri-food, food science and food safety nutrition programs, and are the sites for human clinical trials. Colleges offer applied training in culinary skills, food processing, food safety and more. Researchers and innovators work in over 55 university and college programs from nearly 30 institutions.
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) network of 20 research centres focus on food safety, quality, and nutrition, on developing and transferring new technologies to produce greenhouse vegetables, field-grown processing vegetables and edible beans. Five of AAFC’s leading research institutions are in Ontario, with the London Research and Development Centre (London RDC) located in this region.
  • The Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in the Niagara Region is a world-class research and commercialization support in horticultural science and innovation with more than CA$25 million in Provincial support.
  • Both the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the Advanced Foods and Materials Network (AFMNet) fund industry-driven research and scholarships to develop future research and workforce capacity in agri-food areas.
  • The recently established Ontario Institute of Food Processing Technology (OIFPT), which offers advanced training and applied research that supports a competitive and sustainable food and beverage processing industry, was created by the Alliance of Ontario Food Processors and Conestoga College.

R&D Cost Advantage

Small & Medium Sized Manufacturers R&D Expenditure1 R&D Expenditure2
Gross Expenditure $100 $100
Actual After-Tax Expenditure $47.16 $36.88

1 General   |   2 At eligible Ontario Research Institutes