Local Ontario Value Chain for Quinoa (2013-2016)

Funding: New Directions Research Program – ARIO and OMAFRA

Driven by consumers’ increasing interest in health and experience, demand for quinoa has markedly increased over the last few years. To date, however, the vast majority of quinoa consumed in Canada is imported from South America. A combination of factors – including the cost and challenges associated with transporting quinoa thousands of miles, along with inconsistent quality and reliability of supply, and growing consumer desire to buy high quality local food – has heightened industry’s interest in local quinoa produced in Ontario.  

Katan Kitchens has been researching the economic viability of commercial-scale quinoa production in Ontario and Canada over the past four years. Initial small-scale test plots had proven that the quality of quinoa grown in Southern and Northern Ontario is potentially higher than that grown in its native region of South America. This, along with local production potentially solving the problem of transport and logistical issues associated with imported quinoa, presented an opportunity to substantiate the viability of a valuable alternative crop for Ontario producers.

Katan Kitchens and Value Chain Management International (VCMI) have just concluded a thirty-month project to develop the value chain for quinoa in Ontario. Over the course of the project, the team has worked to identify how Ontario quinoa can be produced to consistently high quality and possess attributes valued by the end market. This occurred in conjunction with establishing best management and quality monitoring practices throughout the value chain, from field to consumers. The second year of this project focused on finalizing value chain stakeholder partnerships for production, processing and marketing/sales of the quinoa. The research team was able to secure over 100 acres of quinoa harvested in spring 2015, and are in the final stages of securing 500 acres for production in 2016. Partnerships with co-processors, as well as the creation of Katan’s own customized facility, have allowed Katan to complete the necessary processing steps in order to offer a food grade product.  Quinta Quinoa, Katan’s high quality, high in protein quinoa, is available online at www.quinta.co as well as at local retail locations. Katan will expand to additional retail locations and offer wholesale pricing after the 2016 harvest.

Knowledge translation and transfer (KTT) to investors, consumers, media, producers, potential purchasers, etc. has been a key focus of the research team over the course of the project, in order to promote value chain development and interest in Katan and its initiatives. KTT strategies – including press releases, daily tweets, blogs, industry website postings, and participation at industry conferences and tradeshows – have helped promote the local value chain project and have allowed Katan to gain leverage in the market, aided also by Katan’s appearances on CBC’s Dragons’ Den.

Through collaborations with agricultural associations (including the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, and the Organic Council of Ontario), food health associations, Ontario producers, processors and retailers (including Loccoco’s), another major outcome of the project in the near future will involve the development of new functional food and health products using local Ontario quinoa.