A new brand that promotes local agrifood values and builds on the goals of the region’s food producers will soon be introduced in Eastern Ontario.
SavourEastON is a “public-focused” brand that will promote food that reflects the culture and values of the region, organizers say.
“A lot of these communities and cultures have something that defines them. For example, in Italy, they’re famous for pasta,” said Louis Béland, executive director of the Eastern Ontario Agri-Food Network (EOAN), which is the driving force behind the new brand. “I grew up in Eastern Ontario and it’s nothing magical on the geological scale, but I embarked on a quest to find that magical feeling.
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“I know we have that and I truly believe it is the agrifood culture that defines us,” he explained. “It just hasn’t been explored and put forth.”
Since 2010, EOAN has served as a network for producers in the agrifood industry throughout Eastern Ontario. Originally created as a non-profit organization to support and connect small local food producers, the organization is “flipping the narrative” with the SavourEastON brand, said Béland.
Stickers and packaging will identify food as SavourEastON-approved and promote the products as “something the community can be proud of,” Béland said. It isn’t a certification, he added, but more of a stamp or identifier.
The food doesn’t necessarily need to be made in the region. One business that has signed on is The Spicy Pearl, a Cornwall restaurant that serves a fusion of Thai and Caribbean cuisine. The restaurant has to import ingredients that aren’t local to the region, but its menu will still boast the SavourEastON brand.
“(The Spicy Pearl) is still part of the local food scene and it still promotes local agrifood values,” explained Béland.
“The goal is to bring all that richness that we have forth, whether it’s a product that sits on the grocery shelf or working directly with restaurants to include the brand on menus,” said Béland. “The goal is to share that passion and if that improves the local production, that’s wonderful.”
The website for SavourEastON will launch this spring and connect consumers to producers through online mapping, digital platforms and video profiles telling consumers “the story behind the food.” It will also be a one-stop shop advertising farmers’ markets, special agri-food events, and agritourism.
Part of the aim of SavourEastON is to unite the region and kickstart agritourism. While tourism offices are specific to municipalities, SavourEastON spans all of Eastern Ontario.
“We’re trying to grow the region … We’re building attraction and tourism in a larger community sense. Agrifood is our biggest industry and (SavourEastON) can help consumers to get to know the producers and build relationships … And create a sense of pride and identity for our communities,” Béland said.