Toronto: the new global hub for the food and beverage sector?
Could the center of the food and beverage world soon be Toronto? It’s quite possible, and trade association Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC) is working hard to make it happen. This week Toronto announced the launch of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Food and Beverage Cluster, an FCPC-led initiative aimed at bringing food and beverage manufacturing businesses operating in Toronto closer together to achieve stronger growth and more innovation through collaboration.
What exactly is the GTA Food and Beverage Cluster? According to the FCPC, it’s a regional economic development strategy that focuses on encouraging private sector business to collaborate closely with local government, colleges, vocational schools and trade associations. This collaboration can uplift all aspects of the sector and make an entire region more competitive in its field—in this case the field of food and beverage manufacturing where Toronto is already a rising star, eclipsing Chicago and second only to Los Angeles in terms of North America food manufacturing jobs.
“Food and beverage manufacturing is an exciting, vitally important economic sector with huge impact, and enormous potential,” said Nancy Croitoru, FCPC President and CEO, in a statement announcing the opening of the Food and Beverage Cluster. “Our industry right here in the GTA employs 60,000 people—the most of all manufacturing sectors in the GTA. There are more people working in food and beverage manufacturing in the GTA than anywhere else in North America, outside Los Angeles. We can and should be first.”
Toronto has already attracted many major Canadian and global private sector food manufacturers, from Canada-based Burnbrae Farms and Upper Crust to multinational brands like Ferrero and Mondelez. Why should other food manufacturers consider becoming a part of the Toronto cluster?
- Toronto is a Natural Supply Chain Hub: The GTA Food and Beverage Cluster may be aiming to improve Toronto’s food and beverage industry, but that sector has been growing strong for years now—and it’s not hard to see why. With its close proximity to major North American cities from Detroit to New York, plus a Great Lakes-adjacent positioning that gives the city equally easy logistics access across roads or waterways, Toronto is a smart choice for food manufacturers looking for widespread distribution. It is also quite close to Chicago’s and Northwestern Ohio’s food production centers, creating additional synergies.
- Promoting Education: Support of food industry education in your region means a new generation of qualified employees ready to recruit after graduation. The GTA Food and Beverage Cluster has teamed up with Colleges Ontario and the University of Guelph to support quality education in fields like hospitality, nutrition, food technology, agricultural science, and greenhouse management (to name a few) in order to ensure that Toronto’s food and beverage industry keeps innovating into the future.
- Support for Innovation: By working with regional and federal government agencies, The Cluster is working to offer programs to businesses in Toronto that will promote innovation. This includes several research and development funding programs from initiatives like FedDev Ontario and Growing Forward 2, and tax credit incentives for businesses that offer apprenticeships, internships, and student programs.
- Support for Small Business: The GTA Food and Beverage Cluster isn’t just about growth for the largest corporations—it’s also pledged to help small businesses and start-ups flourish through pilot projects like the Toronto Food Business Incubator (which is currently building a 20,000 square foot shared production facility in Toronto to further help start-ups grow their operations).
These incentives and initiatives could prove intensely attractive to food manufacturers, and give Toronto the push it needs to become the leading center of food and beverage production in North America—or perhaps even the world.