Maple Leaf Foods Inc. officially opened the doors to its ThinkFOOD! Centre this week.
The 25,000 sq.-ft. state-of-the-art facility is located at the company’s corporate offices in Mississauga, Ont.
The centre will be a hub where company experts in product development, brand innovation, food education, customer relationship development, consumer research and global trend tracking can come together to share new product ideas and identify joint opportunities.
The centre was three years in the making and also represents Maple Leaf’s move to becoming a “consumer packaged goods company,” explained Kathryn Fitzwilliam, vice-president Corporate Marketing.
The impressive facility boasts several spaces. They include:
• the Open Kitchen or main presentation kitchen, which has a combination of commercial and domestic appliances. It’s a dedicated area for product development specialists to develop and test new technologies, processes and products.
• a Back-of-House Kitchen, which simulates a back-of-house kitchen in a foodservice site. This dedicated demonstration kitchen allows Maple Leaf to work with foodservice customers on product development in an environment that can be replicated to mirror the customer’s own facility.
• a Reception area that is equipped to host special events and corporate receptions. It features media towers that allow for the simultaneous projection of 10 different streams of information.
• Mom’s Kitchen, which has domestic appliances only. It’s set up just as any average Canadian kitchen might be. It also has an adjacent viewing room, separated by a two-way mirror. This allows Maple Leaf’s marketing staff to observe consumers preparing dinner and to see how these consumers are using Maple Leaf products.
• the Forum, which is the centre’s theatre for special events and corporate receptions. It has a seating capacity of 124, full audio-visual and broadcast capability and a state-of-the-art foodservice island for large demonstrations.
• an Information Café, which is both a physical and virtual resource centre with a dedicated food information librarian. The space also includes small chat rooms and a café.
• Marketplace, which offers a simulated retail environment with refrigerated display units, bakery racks and a full-service deli counter. The area allows Maple Leaf to work with its retail customers on merchandising and shelf planning as well as category and department strategies.
• the Open Kitchen, which is the heart of the facility. It features fully equipped, independent workspaces for 24 product developers. It’s used by developers across all Maple Leaf’s business units.
• labs: the centre has an Innovation Lab with flexible furnishings designed specifically for ideation sessions and a Development Lab where innovators can develop products from both raw and cooked stages through to packaging, in an environment that meets regulatory standards.
• a Testing Bar, which is a dedicated space for sensory panels.
The centre is also an example of a green building project and it contains sustainable features in all five of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.