2014 Nine & Dine Golf Tournament a Success!

While the weather might have been a bit cold and drizzly, over 100 golfers took to the course at Eagles Nest Golf Course in Maple, ON on Tuesday May 20th.  And the helicopter was able to take off to fly over the 18th hole & drop our lucky golf balls as we watched from the balcony of the Great Hall.   Then we enjoyed networking and a fabulous meal!

Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped in the planning & execution of the event.   Your time & energy is much appreciated by all who attended.

Thank you to everyone who donated items for the swag bag – they were chock full of exciting products! Thanks to everyone who donated prizes for the charity raffle.  And finally, thank you to all of the sponsors of the tournament.   With 20% of the sponsorship fees and 100% of the raffle ticket sales going to Second Harvest, we raised $3850, which turns into 7700 meals for Toronto’s hungry families.   What a success!


Nancy Klassen

WFIM Chair

How Traceability can Increase Profitability

Photo-Bar CodeHighly publicized food borne illness outbreaks and recalls have weakened consumer trust in the safety of our food system. This has given rise to Canadian and U.S. government initiatives focusing on food safety and traceability.

Food processors and brand owners undoubtedly view this as unnecessary added cost and red tape, further impacting their efficiency and ability to compete.

How can food processors turn this into a positive, value-added proposition?

Judith Kirkness, author of The Traceability Factor, a comprehensive guide for food processors, shared her insights at the 10th Annual North American Food Safety Summit.

For traceability purposes, food processors must collect and track information related to:

  • Receiving and storage of raw materials
  • Manufacturing and storing interim and finished goods
  • Shipping finished goods

The data sits in individual silos. Connecting those silos of information enables food processors to identify and correct inefficiencies. That’s what traceability technology can do for you.


By automating the traceability process businesses can:

1.  Respond quickly to recalls. Bad news spreads like wildfire through social media. In the event of a recall, traceability information is at your fingertips, saving precious time and reducing stress.

2.  Calculate accurate costing for raw ingredients, batches, work in progress and finished goods. Knowing the true product cost is critical for improving profitability.

3.  Monitor yield by comparing inputs and outputs to reduce waste.

4.  Reduce errors and manual data entry.

5.  Improve inventory management.

6.  Report profitability by product and customer, also factoring in marketing program costs.


Admittedly, it’s a big investment, but it can pay for itself through:

  • increased manufacturing efficiency
  • labour productivity enhancement
  • reduced waste
  • improved product quality
  • reduced risks
An added bonus is the protection of your brand and building customer trust.

There are a variety of hardware and software solutions on the market, each with their own capabilities and features. The technology package is customized for the food processor’s unique requirements. Ask service providers for a free assessment, to compare apples to oranges and find the right solution for your business.


Government funding programs like Growing Forward 2 from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) can dramatically offset the technology cost. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/growingforward/gf2-processor.htm


Where to start? These publications will help you to get informed and learn what questions to ask.

The Traceability Factor http://www.thetraceabilityfactor.com

Traceability for Dummies (free download) http://www.carlisletechnology.com/traceability

Traceability is not only a legal obligation for food processors and brand owners, it’s an investment that will strengthen your business and your brand.


P.S.  Judith Kirkness is offering Canadian food processors a complimentary copy of her book The Traceability Factor. It’s an excellent resource and must-read for any food business. Call Minotaur Software 905-458-7575 or 1-800-668-1284. Ask for Judith and mention Birgit Blain’s blog. There is absolutely no obligation. Offer is available while supplies last.


Posted by Birgit Blain, president of Birgit Blain & Associates Inc.; food business specialists, helping brand owners break down barriers and position their brands for growth. Her experience includes 17 years in the grocery trade with Loblaw Companies and President’s Choice®. Her extensive knowledge base spans product management, account management and food retailing. www.BBandAssoc.com




Financing a business is a challenge for any company, but especially for small food businesses. The pressure is on to comply with North America’s new food safety regulations, expected to take effect in 2015. Health Canada is implementing the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and the FDA in the U.S. is drafting the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Canadian food businesses exporting to the U.S. will have to comply with both.

How can a small Canadian business afford the cost of implementing the required food safety measures? Read on.

Is it worth it? It’s all in the way you look at it. Yes, food safety is a cost of doing business but, it’s also a trust-builder. In this age of social media, consumer expectations of transparency and authenticity and growing concern for the safety of their food, can there be a stronger message than “our brand invests in food safety”?


At this month’s North American Food Safety Summit in Toronto, Randy Josephs, VP of Operations at Kisko Products, described how his family’s business overcame challenges to grow into a medium-size business. They were able to implement technology within a budget, keep up with regulations, provide ongoing employee training and find funding through Canadian government programs.


Government programs will not fully fund your business. Additional capital is required. For Kisko, the benefits outweighed the costs. Over a 5 year period improvements included:

  • Direct labour
  • Machine usage, changeover, throughput and capacity
  • Decreased production waste and garbage cost
  • Market development
  • Export expansion capabilities


Canadian government funding programs are typically focused on innovation, market growth and export development. Each program has its own eligibility requirements and window of availability, and may not be an option for your business. Randy shared some programs that helped grow his business. There are also other programs and grants available, including tax incentives like SR&ED.

  • Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME)
  • Yves Landry AIME Global Initiative
  • Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP)
  • Growing Forward 2
  • Local Food Fund

But, who has the time for research and filling out applications? Where do you start? Mentor Works helped Kisko navigate through the government maze, identifying and successfully applying for the appropriate funding opportunities. According to Randy, Mentor Works builds their business on referrals. What sets them apart is that they provide the necessary knowledge and tools to enable their clients to submit future successful applications on their own. I asked Randy if he’s related to anyone in the company. He assured me he’s just a happy customer. To learn more, Mentor Works provides webinars and workshops.

So don’t despair. Check out what the Canadian government has to offer.

Posted by Birgit Blain, President of Birgit Blain & Associates Inc., packaged food specialists providing pain relief for food brands.www.BBandAssoc.com

Cronut Burger Lessons

Photo-cronut burgerToronto’s August 2013 food-borne illness outbreak attributed to the “Cronut Burger” is now a distant memory for most of us. But perhaps not, for those unlucky souls who were sick and hospitalized. One consolation is that more people weren’t affected and no one died.

This event is a learning opportunity for packaged food brands and food service businesses, at someone else’s expense.


As we have seen from recalls and other food-borne illness outbreaks (2011 Jensen Farms cantaloupes, 2012 XL Foods, and so on), consequences include financial penalties, bankruptcy, legal action, criminal charges and economic impact that can spread far beyond the company at the source, with a ripple effect through an entire industry.

The more I learn about food safety, the more I realize how much more there is to learn. That’s why I attended the 10th Annual North American Summit on Food Safety. Here are some key learnings from a presentation about the “Cronut Burger” investigation by Toronto Public Health Inspector Jim Chan, (now retired) who had a major role in managing the outbreak.

  1. Food safety is everyone’s responsibility, from upper management to the most junior employees. Developing a culture of food safety throughout the company can be a source of pride for employees and will build customer trust in your brand. What a great competitive advantage!
  2. Resist the temptation to put financial considerations before food safety. It can kill your customers and your business. Consider the costs of a recall and PR nightmare.
  3. Education and training is needed, from top to bottom, to raise awareness of the hazards and how to control them.
  4. Ensure food safety is part of the product development process.
  5. A Quality Assurance or Food Safety Manager who does their job well, is the “hero” helping you make a better product, not the “bad guy” costing your business money.
  6. Having and strictly following a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) plan is a must. You owe it to your customers. Certification under GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) schemes such as BRC, SQF, etc. is even better. Most major food retailers require their suppliers to be GFSI certified.
  7. When sourcing ingredients, don’t automatically trust your suppliers. Due diligence is required. Inspect their facility, if possible, and insist on proof of quality and food safety (certificates of analysis, product and ingredient specifications, audit reports, etc.).
  8. Your accountability doesn’t stop when your product goes out the door. Following a traceability program will be required under Health Canada’s Safe Food For Canadian’s Act (SFCA) and the American Food & Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

When it comes to food safety, validating your assumptions can be an eye-opener. Even an expert doesn’t know everything.

One final thought… Celebrate food safety. It’s part of a strong and competitive brand.

Posted by Birgit Blain, President of Birgit Blain & Associates Inc., packaged food specialists providing pain relief for food brands. www.BBandAssoc.com


Innovation is the lifeblood of a brand. Packaged food brands need to innovative to stay relevant in today’s rapidly changing market. Relying solely on “regular flavour” offerings is not enough, although they typically represent about 80% of a brand’s sales.

For inspiration, look to the restaurant industry, the birthplace of many trends. Here’s a sampling of innovations and trends from the 2014 CRFA show, Canada’s biggest event for the restaurant industry.

IMG_1307MAPLE in beverages and cheese…

KiKi Maple Sweet Water® beverages, made in Canada with our own maple sap, are a refreshing source of 80+ micronutrients, prebiotics and antioxidants. Just slightly sweet, they’re available in maple and 3 maple/fruit blends.

Maple Milk from Natrel® gives kids a tasty reason to drink milk.

IMG_1297TRUFFLES (not the chocolate variety)

Taste for Luxury imports Truffle Pearls from Italy – a gourmet delight with the taste of truffles and texture of caviar. Their NoH2O finely sliced Dehydrated Alba White Truffles awaken when added to warm dishes, releasing the true truffle flavour.


A truly Canadian innovation from Niagara-on-the-Lake, with the sweetness and flavour of ice wine and versatility of maple syrup.


More flavourful than Canada Dry, Powell & Mahoney’s Ginger Drink & Mixer makes a refreshing and invigorating beverage with or without alcohol.

Real ginger enlivens Iroquois Cranberry Growers’ Cranberry Juice with Ginger.


Backerhaus Veit’s authentic Pretzel Buns, made with traditional pretzel dough, stand up to saucy meat fillings. And they’re great with beer. I see hearty German comfort food on the trend horizon.


InHarvest blends artisan grains like farro and amaranth with coloured rices and legumes, boosting nutrition, colour and texture to elevate side dishes and mains to a whole new level.


Healthy, vibrant, colourful and versatile, beets are popping up on menus.


Cooking under vacuum locks in the flavour, colour and nutrients of food. It’s the ideal concept for today’s time-starved consumers. If Canadians could just get over the negative image of “boil-in-bag”. For food service operators, Nobly™ steamed sous vide vegetables, legumes, fruit and grains are fully cooked, taking the time, labour and waste out of prepping.


Taking the snack category up a notch, kale is the new potato chip. Loaded with nutrients it adds colour, texture and a unique taste to soups, salads, side dishes or mains. Sadly, consumers are intimidated by the prep work required for fresh kale. The solution, skillet-ready COOKIN’ GREENS™, take the work out of prepping and cooking.


When Starbucks gets in the game with Teavana tea bars, you know it’s a trend with legs. Tea is bursting out of the confines of black, green and herbal. Premium artisan tea brand “Tea Squared” offers over 100 blends of fragrant, sensual and stimulating loose leaf tea. So, sip a cup of artisan tea and envision how the flavour can transcend to other food categories.

Numi® Organic Tea introduced savory teas blended with vegetables, wild herbs, decaf tea and aromatic spices.

MATCHA (not macho)

Convenient pre-mixed Matcha green tea powder invigorates beverages and smoothies. Cooking grade Matcha has a stronger flavour that shines through in desserts and baked goods.

IMG_1305And just for fun, Piller’s® makes HEART-SHAPED SALAMI, a novel Valentine’s gift for those who don’t like chocolate or flowers. The sky’s the limit!

Posted by Birgit Blain, President of Birgit Blain & Associates Inc., packaged food specialists providing pain relief for food brands. www.BBandAssoc.com

Excelerate Excellence

I  recently attended the HRPA annual conference, and, as always, came back inspired.  Here are a few insights from several of the great key note speakers that presented.

Excelerate excellence:  both personally & professionally.  Everything is going at a faster rate to get to where we want to go, and when we excelerate, we can then go even further.   Leadership, culture and employee engagement were expressed as means to excelerate our organizations.

Author Dan Pontefract spoke of the “Flat Army”.  In Latin, the word “arma” represents a flotilla of vessels moving together.  “Flat” is a level surface.  Think about that in an organization:  not a hirerarchy or collection of silos, but an engaged workforce that can get out of the trenches and work together. Employee engagement is reciprocal trust between the employee and leadership, to do what’s right, however, whenever, and with whomever.

He has developed a participative leadership framework, one that is authentic, reciprocal, educating, and continuous (acronym:  CARE).  And his leadership philosophy ensures a fair process through engagement, exploring options, explaining, executing, and evaluating.

Vanessa Judelman, of Mosaic People Development, focused on how to bridge the generational gap for a more productive workplace.  Leaders need to understand what from the past is still valuable, and what has changed.  And then determine how to put those together in a new business model to create a value proposition for the brand new world of work and all the generations that are working in it, to keep everyone engaged and productive.

Heather Dranitsaris-Hilliard and Anne Dranitsaris discussed fearlessness.  Every employee and leader has a fear.  To engage with that fear and take action is courage.  Their program “Striving Styles” adds emotional intelligence to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  Knowing and understanding the predominant needs of your personality type will allow you to attend the fear, engage it, and get over it, allowing you to be a productive employee/leader.

In an organization, change and transition can lead to a culture of fear.  Leaders need to engage the whole person, address the fears, and provide for emotional security to get their organization to a place of fearlessness.

Geoff Colvin asked “What separates world class performers from everybody else?  Where does great performance really come from?”   In a global labour market, standards are rising, and demands are increasing.  Organizations have to be world class innovators to meet the demands.

Poor innovation is an organizational issue, not an individual issue.  Great performers at innovation get better /great in the same way everybody else does.  It is not hard work, having a massive IQ/memory or innate talent that make world class performers.  It is “deliberate practice”.  Lifetime hours of practice that is designed specifically for each person, that pushes you just beyond your current abilities, that can be repeated a lot, and includes continual feedback.

Applying the principles of great performance and deliberate practice in leadership development means that tomorrow’s leaders are always being stretched and grown – pushed just beyond their abilities.  Great performance is not limited to a preordained few.  It is available to everyone, and every organization.

Levity is another way to gain employee engagement.  Scott Christopher shared his philosophy on developing a culture of levity (humour) to the workplace.  Levity includes the concepts of:

  • Latitude (allowing others the flexibility & freedom to add their own personality to their work),
  • Attitude (what you bring to the table), and
  • Gratitude (expressing thanks in some fashion – and more than just a paycheque)

Using levity will engage your employees, give them pride with where they work and who they work with, and will develop team loyalty faster.

Finally, organizations should be like Canadian Geese:  collaboration is a behavior, there is a lot of communication (honking!), and leadership is shared.  Employee engagement is critical.

Stress Management for Health’s Sake

WFIM January Health Event -Eat Play and be Healthy 

Named after the Roman god of the doorway, January signifies the passage into a new year.  And here we are, more than half way through the door.  Hopefully by this point, not all of us have foregone our new year’s resolutions.  Luckily, for those of us focused on health, we had WFIM to keep us motivated.

Last Thursday’s WFIM event with Leah Warner, of Employee Wellness Solutions Network, focused on the importance of stress management for a healthy, balanced lifestyle.  Leah provided us with tips and strategies for successfully managing stress through eating, sleep and exercise.

Among the attendees that evening was Doris Valade, President of Malabar Super Spice Co Ltd.   I caught up with Doris after the event, asking her about her own stress management habits, and how her company promotes healthy habits within the office and beyond.  Here’s my Q&A with her:

Q: Being reactionary to stress is common in the work place as stress can happen any time, any day for a variety of reasons.  What is your proactive approach to minimizing stress?

A: My proactive approach involves a good night’s rest and an early start to the day.  Although I wake up at 5:45 A.M., I average 8 hours of sleep a night.  My daily routine varies as I travel a lot to visit customers, but I ensure consistency on the weekends by attending a Pilates class every Saturday.  It helps me expend some of the stress-induced energy from the week past, while preparing me for the week ahead.

Q: Although stress is often seen as debilitating (an effect), Leah encouraged us to view it as empowering (a cause).  How you deal with a stress-inducing situation is highly dependent on your mindset.  How do you promote a positive mindset/environment in your workplace?

 A: Through regular and open communication.  We hold daily 8 A.M. meetings involving all Malabar team members to allow for quick updates and a bit of fun (humour) to start the day.  We encourage additional, smaller team meetings to discuss and deal with challenges or issues as they arise.  We also engage in team building activities to strengthen cooperation and in turn promote a positive company culture.  Our team building event this month is indoor rock climbing!

Q: In the health workshop, we learned that properly fueling our body, engaging in activity and allowing time for rest are effective ways of reducing the impact of stress.  As a food processor and ingredient supplier to the food industry, how do you promote the development of health conscious products? 

A:  Health conscious formulation begins with making informed decisions.  We communicate industry trends, promote new products and discuss important issues facing food processors, in our bi-monthly newsletter, website and LinkedIn page.  Although we have been a supplier of spices, ingredients and seasonings to the food industry for over 30 years, we strive to offer a variety of natural and dietary specific products.  Some of our new additions include salt replacers for sodium reduction, rice crumbs as gluten-free filler in meat products and natural extracts as flavour enhancers.

Upcoming Food Safety Summit

 There’s one event that I definitely enjoy attending on an annual basis – the North American Food Safety Summit. It provides me with the opportunity to learn and stay abreast of industry related issues, to connect and network with others and gain insight from key leaders. WFIM has partnered with the Team at the Strategy Institute and we are both very excited to celebrate the “10th” Annual North American Food Safety Summit!

As mentioned above, WFIM is very pleased to be partnering with The Strategy Institute on the 10th Annual North American Summit on Food Safety – and invite you to mark your calendars for two wonderful days of learning and best practice sharing on March 5th and 6th, 2014.  As a partner of the summit, all WFIM members get a 20% discount on the registration fee!  Just use the code WFIM20 when you register.

The Food Safety Summit provides an opportunity for Manufacturers and Processors, and those up and down the value chain, together with service providers, government agencies and suppliers to connect on all issues related to the conference focus.  It is a perfect opportunity to learn the latest in legislative updates, to gain insight from peer best practices, and to hear from industry experts.

It’s going to be a great two-day event that tackles issues relating to food safety such as:

* Outbreak Management:  Learn from the Cronut Burger investigation
* Government Regulations:  Updates from the CFIA and FDA
* Supply Chain Management:  Lessons learnt from the European horse meat recall
* Food Defence:  Prepare against acts of intentional contamination
* Sanitation Innovation:  Improve safety with cutting-edge technology
* Food Safety Culture:  Maximize safety and value from the front-line
* Risk Management:  Provide detailed information to key stakeholders
* Retail Food Safety:  Global best practices from Wal-Mart and Target
* Vendor Management:  Drive continuous improvement
* Small-to-Medium Businesses:  Compliance on a restricted budget
* Pathogens Detection:  Tools to prevent the spread of microorganisms
* Auditing Roadmap:  Enhance your processes for increased productivity

This year’s Pre-Conference Workshop will be help on Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 and will be focusing on Internal Risk Assessments.

Each day will include a variety of case studies and panel discussion and new this year will be two tracks that attendees can choose from – Safety and Logistics!

Without a doubt – this will be an excellent, excellent Summit full of opportunities!

The 10th Annual North American Food Safety Summit (www.foodsafetycanada.com) is scheduled for March 5th and 6th, 2014 and will be held at the International Plaza Hotel in Toronto, Ontario.  More detailed information and a complete Agenda overview is available online and if you are interested in joining us, we would love to see you there!

Three Easy Ways to Register:

  1. Register      Online at:  www.foodsafetycanada.com
  2. Email:      registrations@strategyinstitute.com
  3. Call:      (866) 298-9343 ext 200 (Toll Free)

Remember, to use the code WFIM20 to get your 20% discount!

All the very best!


Bren de Leeuw, WFIM Director of Events
bren.mckeachnie@gmail.com – 519-372-6009