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Maple Leaf Foods Unveils State-of-the-Art Food Innovation Centre

One-of-a-kind 25,000-square-foot facility cornerstone of innovation and growth

Maple Leaf Foods today revealed its ThinkFOOD! Centre, a state-of-the-art culinary innovation facility and the only one of its kind in Canada. It offers an unprecedented and holistic approach to creative thinking and collaboration to facilitate accelerated innovation and growth across Maple Leaf's global bakery and protein businesses.

The Centre will be the hub where Company experts in product development, brand innovation, food education, customer relationship development, consumer research and global trend tracking come together to share new product ideas and identify joint opportunities to bring innovation to life.

"We've created an innovative environment where all of our food innovators can work together under one roof in collaboration with customers and increase the speed-to-market for introducing exciting new food ideas from around the world," said Michael McCain, President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods. "ThinkFOOD! is a place where we draw inspiration from a global food basket of ideas and innovate to create products that will delight the palates of our consumers and customers."

The $12 million Centre occupies 25,000 square feet on the campus of Maple Leaf's corporate offices in Mississauga, Ontario, and operates as the Company's product development hub, supporting customer research and product testing. ThinkFOOD! was designed to provide a central hands-on learning environment where employees can develop, share and collaborate on new food concepts with foodservice and retail customers.

"ThinkFOOD! represents Maple Leaf's commitment to innovation, a key underpinning of our growth strategy," said Mr. McCain. "The Centre is a hub for collaboration on great food and menu ideas, and a place where our employees are empowered to inspire, innovate and grow new areas to satisfy consumer tastes and build on our Company culture that is passionate about food."

The Centre's culinary amenities include presentation kitchens, teaching and demonstration facilities, research labs, product development and sensory testing areas, simulated retail environments, and trends resource library. Highlights include:

  • Open Kitchen, a dedicated area for product development specialists to develop and test new technologies, processes and products.
  • Back of House Kitchen, a dedicated food service demonstration kitchen, allows Maple Leaf to collaborate with food service customers on product development in an environment that can be replicated to mirror the customer's own facilities.
  • Kitchen Stage, a retail demonstration kitchen, provides the opportunity for direct customer involvement in the product development process.
  • Marketplace offers a simulated retail environment with refrigerated display units, bakery racks and a full service deli counter. Here Maple Leaf can work with retail customers on merchandising and shelf planning as well as category and department strategies.
  • Innovation and development labs that allow innovators to develop product from both raw and cooked stages through to packaging, in an environment that meets regulatory standards.

ThinkFOOD! is home to nearly 60 dedicated employees, including internationally trained Chefs, Culinary Food Scientists, Microbiologists, Home Economists, Environmental Technologists, and Biologists.

Maple Leaf has also launched a new website at which delivers an improved online experience for consumers. The rich consumer experience provides a virtual market of wonderful food and great tasting meal solutions offered by Maple Leaf Foods with tips and solutions from Company experts represented by the Butcher, Baker, Pasta Maker and Meals Made Easy.

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. is a leading Canadian food processing company. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, the Company employs approximately 24,000 people at its operations across Canada and in the United States, the United Kingdom and Asia. The Company had sales of $5.2 billion in 2008.

ThinkFOOD! Centre - Fact Sheet OVERVIEW

The ThinkFOOD! Centre is the first facility of its kind in Canada offering an unprecedented and holistic approach to product development, brand innovation, food education, customer relationship development, consumer research, and monitoring global trends. This state-of-the-art culinary innovation centre is designed to foster collaboration among employees, customers and partners and to help accelerate innovation across Maple Leaf's global bakery and protein businesses. This food innovation hub also provides a central hands-on learning environment for Maple Leaf employees.

  • Location: Meadowvale North Business Park, 6897 Financial Drive, Mississauga, Ontario
  • Total Construction Cost: $12 million
  • Capacity: The 25,000-square-foot ThinkFOOD! Centre's culinary facilities include a designated foodservice kitchen, sensory and product development areas, teaching facilities and a global culinary insight and trend library.
  • Expertise: Nearly 60 employees, including Executive Chefs, Culinary Food Scientists, Microbiologists, Home Economists, Environmental Technologists, Biologists with international experience work at ThinkFOOD!

  1. ThinkFOOD! includes a number of presentation kitchens designed to highlight both the products and talents of Maple Leaf Foods and to involve customers directly in the product development process:
    • Kitchen Stage provides space for 24 people around its recessed tasting bar and can be used to film commercials and live broadcasts.
    • Back-of-House features portable food service cooking equipment and can be set up to simulate our customers' environments.
    • Mom's Kitchen is equipped as an "average" consumer's kitchen and its adjacent viewing room allows us to conduct focus groups and ethnography studies in-house.
  2. The ThinkFOOD! Reception area is equipped to host special events and corporate receptions. It features media towers that allow for simultaneously projection of 10 different streams of information, emphasizing Maple Leaf's commitment to innovation and our passion for food.
  3. The FORUM, ThinkFOOD!'s theatre, is ideal for large meetings and education and training sessions with a seating capacity of 124, full audio-visual and broadcast capability, and a state-of-the-art food service island for large demonstrations.
  4. Information Café is both a physical and virtual resource centre with a dedicated food information librarian. Its books, magazines, scientific journals and periodicals can be accessed in person in the relaxed environment of the in-house library complete with comfortable furnishings and small chat rooms. These same resources can be accessed company-wide by an on-line information system managed from ThinkFOOD!.
  5. Marketplace offers a simulated retail environment with refrigerated display units, bakery racks, and a full service deli counter. This area enables Maple Leaf to work with our retail customers on merchandising and shelf planning as well as category and department strategies.
  6. Open Kitchen is the heart of the ThinkFOOD! facility. Featuring fully equipped, independent workspaces for 24 product developers, it supports collaboration in an open environment with all of the necessary culinary and scientific tools required for them to innovate. Open Kitchen is used by developers across all Maple Leaf's business units.
  7. The Centre has a number of labs including:
    • Innovation Labs with flexible furnishings designed specifically for ideation sessions.
    • A Development Lab in which innovators develop product from both raw and cooked stages through to packaging, in an environment that meets regulatory standards.
  8. The Testing Bar is a dedicated space for sensory panels.

Environmentally Responsible Construction

The ThinkFOOD! Centre is an excellent example of a green building project that balances environmental concerns with occupant comfort and well-being and construction economics. In an effort to exceed industry standards, this building contains sustainable features in all five of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED(TM)) rating system categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.

The building features :
  • A TPO white roof reflects the sun to reduce the heat island effect.
  • The installation of low-flow fixtures and waterless urinals that result in a 40% more efficient use of water.
  • Advanced HVAC/mechanical systems and high-efficiency boilers with 20% greater energy efficiency.
  • A ventilation system designed with demand control based on occupant load so energy is conserved when the building has partial occupancy.
  • Fan-powered boxes promote superior indoor air quality due to the constant air changes while minimizing energy.
  • Advanced lighting controls use less than one watt per square foot for lighting.
  • Green energy will be purchased for base system loads.
  • More than 50% of waste diverted from landfill during construction.
  • More than 20% of building materials used were regional, and at least 20% recycled.
  • Perennial ornamental grasses that do not require mowing or irrigation were used in the islands in the parking lot instead of turf.
  • Management practices including green cleaning specifications and recycling programs that include food waste and organics with diversion from landfill targets of over 80% along with tenant education programs.
  • Parking spaces for energy efficient vehicles, car pool parking spaces and bike racks.

SOURCE: Maple Leaf Foods Inc.

Maple Leaf Media Hotline, (416) 926-2020; Caroline Spivak, (416) 371-9740,

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