Guelph – Ontario’s greenhouse cucumbers have strengthened their presence in the United States and will soon be on the market in Asia. That’s due to Growing Forward 2 (GF2) funding that the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) was able to access for various market development initiatives.
OGVG represents 212 growers from southwestern Ontario to Ottawa and Niagara Region with over 3,000 acres of greenhouse pepper, cucumber and tomato production. Most of their North American markets are less than a day’s drive away.
“With year over year growth in our sector averaging six per cent per year, we are consistently focused on new market development in the U.S. and overseas,” explains Jacquie Trombley, OGVG’s Marketer Liaison Officer.
Those efforts included programs to enter the Pan Pacific market and two projects focused on OGVG’s valuable U.S. markets, as well as development of a strategic plan for entering the North American food service market that includes restaurants, hospitals, and educational institutions.
“We are heavily reliant on Canada and the United States for distribution so we wanted to explore the Pan-Pacific region, setting our sights on Hong Kong and Shanghai specifically,” Trombley says. “We had three projects funded through GF2 that have significantly helped us open doors in that region.”
OGVG representatives attended trade shows and meetings with qualified produce buyers, retailers and government officials in Hong Kong and Shanghai to sample product and gauge interest in fresh Ontario greenhouse cucumbers. Through those relationships, the organization also developed its own branding and packaging for direct-to-retail export into Shanghai.
There will soon be regular shipments of Ontario greenhouse vegetables into the Pan Pacific Region, and OGVG is continuing its own market development activities in Asia as well.
U.S. market development activities included an extensive two-year demo program aimed at getting consumers and retailers in the Midwestern and Northeastern U.S. to try Ontario grown greenhouse vegetables.
“The success of this demo program was phenomenal and OGVG has made the decision to continue it, funding it exclusively through our own budgets,” Trombley says. “We have seen a significant increase in the number of participants and retailers and the overall reach of this program.”
OGVG also ran a successful outreach program for about 1,500 retail locations in the Southeastern U.S. focused on merchandising techniques and proper storage temperatures for all three commodities to ensure produce is being displayed correctly, reduce shrink and enhance flavour profiles.
Greenhouse vegetable grower and marketer Pure Flavor had long been interested in shipping internationally as well as working more directly with its U.S. markets.
Director of Marketing Sarah Pau credits the OGVG initiatives with helping the company expand its markets and take advantage of new opportunities, as well as develop educational tools to reach consumers.
“The Growing Forward 2 program has helped us explore market development opportunities. Expansion into international markets will help grow our business and requires a different strategy than working domestically. The Growing Forward 2 program has really helped us better understand the Chinese market and related demographics,” explains Pau.
“The product sampling opportunities really help with introducing Ontario grown vegetables to new markets. A positive first-hand experience can help us gain momentum organically with consumers which will strengthen relationships with our retailer partners,” she added.
These projects were funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.