Restaurant Branding By Design

by Marni Andrews

When sisters-in-law Amreen and Seema Omar went from serving Indian street food at a Toronto farmers’ market to a 50-seat downtown restaurant, a trip to Mumbai with Toronto firm Jump Branding & Design helped inspire the decor for Bombay Street Food.

“The identity of the brand is no longer just the logo,” said Eric Boulden, president of Jump Branding. “The brand or the story is a better description of the experience projected to its guests. These stories do happen through signage, but can also be expressed through the way the bill is presented, the personality and tone of communication, the origins of the food, authenticity of the recipes or signature concoctions that make the space, brand and experience defensible.”

Another recent Jump Branding project is the flagship Basil Box location at the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre in Toronto. The fast casual concept also derives inspiration from exotic street food — in this case, the markets of Southeast Asia.

Fruit d’Or: From Bog to Table

by Marni Andrews

Fruit d’Or, the world’s largest producer and processor of organic cranberries, has been successfully introducing their new retail dried fruit snack line called Patience Fruit & Co. since last Spring. The name, which was inspired by the extra time required to produce a quality product, has six SKU’s, three Whole & Soft (from 113 g to 142 g unit size, eight to a case) and three Classic (from 196 g to 283 g unit size, six to a case). Sweetened with either organic apple juice or a little sugar they contain no other ingredients aside from organic sunflower oil (less than 1%).

Patience is distributed through most major food retailers and natural food stores in Canada and is being introduced to the U.S. through nearly 600 supermarkets in the next two months. Shelf cases and display racks are available.

After being in the retail market for several years, Fruit d’Or decided to develop this side of the business as their client base expanded. The new business is completely different than their bulk business so needed separate expertise and a different business model, says Vicky Samson, Key Account Manager, Eastern Canada for Fruit d’Or.

Fast Casual Is a Fast Mover

By Marni Andrews

In Canada, fast casual is a fast growing segment of foodservice, and operators are paying attention. Targeted towards a different consumer experience, some fast casual chains are using drivers such as health and international flavours to bring people in the doors. This month, ORN takes a look at how some operators are taking their restaurants for a drive in the fast lane.

“The fast casual model targets a customer who understands and is willing to pay more for the customer experience and quality of products,” says Scott Strickland, senior director of marketing, foodservice for Maple Leaf Consumer Foods, which offers a wide variety of products to the fast casual market. There is little margin for error with these attributes.

He identifies speed of service, specialty ingredients and globally-inspired flavours as trends. “Canadian consumers have adventurous palates and are willing to try bolder flavours. Chefs are able to scale back on high-end menus to demonstrate quality, flavour and unique preparation with only a few ingredients,” he explains.

Jackie at 20, Perpetually Sunny

(Without Prejudice magazine)
by Marni Andrews

While driving through Indianapolis about six years ago on a road trip with friends and family, the unthinkable happened to Jackie Johnston. The big transport truck just ahead blew its left rear tire. It hit Jackie’s car and windshield with heavy impact. According to close friend Gabrielle Lowry, who was in the car with her, Jackie did not miss a beat. In Gaby’s words, Jackie was “totally cool and collected, totally unflappable. All was well!” Read more →

COTA Continues Presence at SIAL Canada


by Marni Andrews

The Canadian Organic Trade Association (COTA) continues to build its presence at SIAL Canada. Since 2014, the two have partnered to support growth in the organic sector. In 2016 COTA will host two conference sessions at SIAL Canada, the first on the organic consumer and the second on the international trade landscape and the organic market. COTA will also have an Expert Hub stand to answer questions about the organic industry and international trade.

COTA is also working on an update of their benchmark 2013 report Canada Organic Market Research. Since the release, the domestic market has increased in value to more than $4 billion CDN in sales annually. From 2013 to 2014 there was a 7% increase in the number of Canada organic producers.


Raccoon Stories

(Metro newspaper)
by Marni Andrews

When farmer Harvey Andrews of Huntsville, Ont. watched a raccoon chase his large dog into the lake on his property, he was worried but far enough away to be helpless. His dog was smart, but he also knew how crafty raccoons were. What came next surprised even the experienced farmer. The raccoon chased the dog into the water just deep enough so that it was over the dog’s head. Then the raccoon stood on the dog’s head and drowned him.

“I knew it was going to happen,” Andrews said.

His neighbour, Don Evans, was playing cards at the dining room table one night with a group of people. One of the women looked up to see a couple of raccoons looming large in the full-length window, intently watching the game. She screamed.

A woman in downtown Toronto called the Humane Society in a panic when she discovered a large raccoon in her kitchen eating cereal from the box. He’d entered through the cat door.

Such are the Raccoon Stories that people tell.

For those who’ve never seen a masked bandit, the first time can be startling. For one, they are much bigger than expected, as Evans’ card-playing guest can attest. Todd Spencer, owner of Wildlife Removal and Prevention Services in Toronto, says, “They can be as big as a dog.”

In the city, they have become completely at home. So much so in Toronto that it is called “the Raccoon Capital of the World,” according to Amy White, director of communications for the Toronto Humane Society. “There are a high number of them in Toronto,” she agreed, “but the City can sustain it.”

Why Toronto? The abundance of wooded ravines and parks in conjunction with proximity to all kinds of food is a winning combination for the masked creatures.

“It’s a similar problem everywhere in Southern Ontario in the urban centres,” says Jane Sirois, information officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources in Aurora, Ont. “They’re city inhabitants; they’ve taken up residence.” She adds, “In urban areas of Ontario, raccoons can number 8 to 20 per square kilometre. In the lush, treed ravines downtown near a good food source, there can be as many as 100 per square kilometre.”

InToronto, people with raccoon problems can contact the Toronto Animal Services Centre in their district. An officer will look at the site, provide advice on animal proofing the property, and determine whether trapping is the best solution. Commercial wildlife removal companies are more commonly called in when a raccoon must be removed from between walls or crawl spaces.

Spencer of Wildlife Removal and Prevention Services says that in spring and summer, half of his business is raccoons, from seven to 10 jobs a day on average. “Years ago we used to trap and remove. Now we use one-way doors and monitor the device for four to five days. We leave some peanut butter out to make sure the animal is out, then repair the hole.”

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, trapping and relocating mature raccoons is detrimental to their health and welfare and is not recommended. Using devices that are inappropriate or illegal to remove raccoons, such as leg hold traps, can result in a fine up to $5,000. Leaving poison out to kill animals can result in criminal charges.

White says that 6,000 raccoons were taken in last year by the Humane Society’s Wildlife Department. “Very frequently, people trap mothers and leave babies behind. Raccoons are very good mothers; they’ll tear your house apart trying to find their babies.”

In the prescient words of the Toronto Humane Society from their website, “Raccoons really are not smarter than we are; sometimes it just seems that way. Raccoons cannot cause problems unless people allow them to do so. Instead of blaming them, we should work together to find a solution satisfactory to both humans and raccoons.”



Singin’ the Praises of Single Malts

(for Patron magazine)
by Marni Andrews

“The water of life” is what Scotland on Sunday terms malt whisky and who’s to argue? The good life is notable for quite a few things—not the least of which is time and the resources to indulge a taste for one of the fastest growing ultra-premium spirits: single malt scotch. As a category, single malts have been marketed for only the last 25 years and have exploded in popularity in the last 15 years. Read more →

Las Vegas: A Sure Bet for Food Gamblers

(Patron magazine)
by Marni Andrews

Not long ago, a ticket to Vegas was not a culinary ticket to ride. It may have been a ticket to Wayne Newton heaven, to slot machine nirvana, to 24/7 action, to transcendent golf, but it was not a place to go for a good meal. The Strip has changed, in many ways. Now Vegas is as often touted as a family destination (imagine that ten years ago!) as it is a foodie’s haven. Just mentioning this, because I’m sure you could find a business reason to visit Vegas some time soon and, while you’re writing it off, visit a few of the landmark restaurants that are revivifying this desert outpost. Read more →