Bakers Journal

Features Business and Operations
The Final Proof: June 2013


June 4, 2013
By Stephanie Ortenzi

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Business development via government funding: let’s start counting the ways

Business development via government funding: let’s start counting the ways

When I stumbled across news about the AgriMarketing Program (AMP) recently – with $341 million to spend over five years to develop agriculture and agrifood businesses – I wondered: who was getting this funding?  I wanted to see how the baking sector could benefit from some of this cash.

The AMP belongs to Growing Forward, a two-part program, five years each, first launched in 2008. Growing Forward 1, as it’s now known, expired March 31, and on the very next day, Growing Forward 2 was set in motion, but with a little less emphasis on making companies export-ready, and a little more emphasis on “developing new markets.”

I know. What does that mean, exactly, in terms of this program? According to Susan Powell, executive director of the Canadian Food Exporters Association, developing new markets can mean finding a new foreign market for your product, a new domestic market or even creating new business, period.

The AMP has two streams. In very general terms (links will run at the bottom of this column to fast-track you to helpful supporting documents), an Assurance stream is for national, non-profit associations to develop nationwide assurance programs in such areas as food safety. When giant retailers are beginning to restrict their supplier selection to only those who can certify to specific standards (like GFSI) it’s time to help more companies certify to increasingly higher standards.

The Assurance stream is for national associations only. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) don’t qualify directly in this stream. However, many associations have funding programs in place. (See www.bakersjournal.com under Links for a list of industry associations.)

The other stream is called Market Development. Again, in general terms, this stream focuses on national industry associations, but there is an SME element that can directly help individual business owners. Among the eligible activities for business development are branding, promotions and market research. However, to get this funding, SMEs have to apply through national associations.

“The national association is the door,” says Luc Marchand, director of the AgriMarketing Program. The department, says Marchand, is highly invested in helping individuals and companies with their applications. The spirit is to help applicants succeed. Marchand says that even if your first application gets rejected, the department will work with you to make the changes that will get your application approved.

“We’re open to that, too,” says Powell. “The goal is to increase business,” she adds, and she and her association have done quite a lot of business-building over the last few years. From Growing Forward 1, Powell’s association took in $2.5 million for its members. Her funding budget for 2012 was $900,000. Last year, she helped two large national cookie companies expand their markets. The baking sector accounts for 10 per cent of her funding program.

Powell also mentioned that there are two more funds that haven’t been announced yet. One is a “generic” fund for trade-show presence, and another is for entrepreneurial SMEs to “develop new markets,” which means, “any new business,” says Powell. “Any new customer is a new market.”

Comparing apples to apples, the other strong national association working with industry to dispense government funding is Food Beverage Canada. Executive director Wendy Hindle reports that her association distributed $3.92 million during Growing Forward 1 and had a little over $1million to dispense in 2012. During those five years, her association also distributed an additional $2 million from the now defunct program known as Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food. The baking sector represents 11 per cent of this association’s funding recipients.

But even with help from your association and/or a government funding rep, many companies have opted for more personalized help to sort through details. For that, they’ve gone to Mentor Works, an Ontario-based consultancy specializing in government grant writing and strategic business planning.

MentorWorks.ca is a font of exceptional content on government funding. Sign up for its newsletter, study their blog posts and read their FAQ pages. Ryan Weaver, one of the firm’s marketing analysts, told me that there are two programs that could be great matches for the baking sector. Take a look at the AgriProcessing and AgriInnovation Programs. 

Baking Association of Canada President Paul Hetherington says he hasn’t yet had any requests for funding. If he were to get any, says Hetherington, “we would first ensure all members were aware of the program to ensure fairness, and we would ensure that all interested members
could apply, to avoid any preferential treatment.”  For more information on how your bakery may be able to benefit from this program, visit www.agr.gc.ca.

CORRECTION: In the April Final Proof, it was incorrectly reported that Maple Leaf’s bakery product group sales were down 73 per cent. Correctly, the company’s adjusted operating earnings were down 73 per cent. 


Stephanie Ortenzi (www.pistachiowriting.com) is a Toronto-based food marketing writer.


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