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Longo's helps shoppers "Taste Ontario Too"

Longo's expands in-store and digital program with help from government funding

Longo’s has received just under $450,000 in government funding to develop an in-store and online marketing campaign called “Taste Ontario Too.” The program is aimed at helping consumers learn about local farmers and food processors.

Longo’s also plans to use the funds, which come via the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Local Food Fund, to expand the search function for mobile devices, and make its own fresh pork sausage.

Stoney Creek, Ont.-based VG Meats Limited, a longtime Longo’s supplier, will also receive just under $1 million to bring more Ontario beef to Longo’s stores. The funding will be used to purchase equipment for beef processing, as well as customer friendly leak-proof packaging featuring the Foodland Ontario logo.

The Local Food Fund, which is being discontinued this year, has provided more than $22 million in funding for more than 130 projects since its 2013 inception.

“It helps us continue our leadership in local,” said Longo’s spokesperson Rosanne Longo. “We’ve been committed to supporting local partners since 1956; from a value standpoint it’s always been the right thing to do for our economy, the farmers and the environment.

“Building a stronger connection with our partners allows us to bring the best tastes to our customers, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Longo said that during peak growing season–roughly June to August–as much as 70% of Longo’s produce comes from local suppliers, while the company has also expanded and renovated its stores to offer a bigger meat and seafood selection.

Longo described “Taste Ontario Too” as an extension of the chain’s existing Taste Ontario program, which profiles local farmers and processors via both in-store signage and the Longo’s Experience magazine.

“It’s going to help us give more information to consumers about local farmers and processors so that consumers can make informed food choices,” she said. “It’s allowing us to elaborate on and elevate the whole Taste Ontario commitment.”

Longo said that the GTA-area chain also plans to use the government funding to continue other ongoing initiatives, including:

  • Adding additional SKUs to its Cork’s Beer & Wine Bar, which features local craft beer and VQA wines at three Longo’s stores;

  • An enhancement of the search functionality–specifically relating to local producers – for and;

  • Expanding The Loft by Longo’s cooking school, currently in 11 stores throughout the GTA, to incorporate additional local chefs for cooking lessons

Longo said that many of these programs are already in various stages of development, but that the funding will enable the company to expand and “take them to the next level.”

The funding is part of $5.2 million distributed by the provincial government via the Local Food Fund. The other 14 recipients include Saugeen Specialty Grains, which is receiving up to $200,000 to purchase and install modern steam flaking equipment; the Hamilton-area Gala Bakery, which is receiving just over $241,000 to purchase equipment that will help production of European pastries, particularly burek and vanilla custard, and a cold storage retrofit to improve capacity by 500%; and York Region’s Quality Cheese, which is receiving up to $1.2 million towards the purchase of leading-edge cheese making equipment, including a pasteurizer.

The Local Food Fund was created to support what the provincial government describes as “innovative” local food projects that reduce barriers to regional economic development, create sustainable regional economic development and produce a positive impact on the province’s economy.

The projects span four categories: Regional and local food networks; enhanced technology, capacity or minor capital; research and best practices and marketing, promotion and education.

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