Cluster 101

220x339 ImageWhat is a Cluster?

Clusters are geographically close groups of inter-connected companies and associated institutions in a particular sector. Cluster-focused approaches to regional economic development are internationally proven to be one of the strongest avenues to increased business growth, productivity and new job creation. Cluster-based economic development initiatives are focused on collaboration among the private sector and groups including governments, universities, think tanks, vocational training providers and industry associations. Collaboration can collectively increase our sector’s competitiveness.

Why a Cluster strategy for the GTA?

The GTA region possesses all the qualities to support a globally competitive food and beverage cluster. It has a critical mass of businesses and connections to nearby rural agricultural lands. The region also has great access to arable lands in close proximity to the GTA, a safe and plentiful water supply, leading post-secondary educational institutions, high quality inputs, an abundant diverse and skilled labour pool, a multi-cultural local customer base, millions of potential customers locally and access to U.S. and global markets.

What about food and beverage manufacturers outside the GTA?

The Cluster model can be can benefit regions across the country, and we are eager to work with other clusters throughout Ontario and across Canada. As Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says, Canada should be a food superpower. With more than 6,000 food and beverage manufacturing facilities in communities from coast-to-coast, clusters will help our country leverage our strength to not just compete and grow locally, but to succeed on the global stage.

Why specifically focus on food and beverage?

Food and beverage impacts everybody, every day. Leaders from coast-to-coast, and right here in the GTA, including Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor, John Tory, have all recognized the strength and importance of our sector.

Are there other food clusters around the world?

Yes. Food Valley, Netherlands is the best recognized food cluster in the world for its innovation. They have established a system in which there is strong collaboration between industry, government and research institutes/academia. Within the region, Food Valley NL is intended to develop conditions so that food manufacturers and knowledge institutes can work together in developing new and innovative food concepts. The organization is helpful to the Dutch agri-food sector in many ways. It connects businesses to knowledge-based resources such as universities and research institutes and promotes knowledge development among its members.

They have made it easy for industry, government and research institutes/academia to collaborate and develop new products. It is an ideal environment particularly for small companies to start up their business with new products.

There are other clusters in Europe and in North America, including the Northwest Food Processors Association (NWFPA), based in Portland, Oregon, which is an example of a North American leader in the food & beverage cluster space.

To view the slide deck for the GTA Food and Beverage Cluster 101 webinar held on June 24, 2015 click here.

Key Facts

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  • 60,000 people are employed by food and beverage manufacturing firms in the GTA region – the second largest manufacturing employer in the region
  • More than half of Ontario’s food and beverage manufacturing jobs are in the GTA region
  • Three-quarters of agricultural production in the rural areas around Toronto is processed locally
  • Toronto’s food and beverage cluster has annual sales of more than $17 billion