This January, Gay Lea Foods unveiled a modern new look reflective of the Canadian owned and operated businesses’ recent growth, continuing evolution, and investment plans as a leader in the Canadian dairy industry.
Founded in Ontario in 1958, Gay Lea Foods is a farmer owned and operated co-operative with members on more than 1,360 dairy farms and more than 4,000 members overall. Dedicated to innovation, the development of high quality products and growing the market for Canadian milk, the co-operative is the first of its kind to include licensed dairy cow and dairy goat members, and process both kinds of milk into a range of dairy products – from the consumer favourite Spreadables and North America’s first Smooth™Cottage Cheese, to the extensive selection of traditional Italian cheeses produced right here in Hamilton under the Salerno brand name.
“We’ve been on a fantastic trajectory, expanding our foods and ingredients business across Canada and investing to further our strategic focus on innovation, sustainable growth, and high quality ingredients and food products,” says Chair, Rob Goodwill. “Now, after 60 years, our brand embodies the business we’ve become and the direction we’re heading.”
In November 2016, Gay Lea Foods announced an historic $140 million investment to establish an innovative, nutraceutical-grade dairy ingredients hub in Ontario. The four year investment will modernize and expand a number of Gay Lea Foods’ facilities, create new market demands for Canadian Milk, and deliver on the the co-operative’s mission to build an innovative and market-driven ingredients business in Canada.
“Today’s global dairy marketplace is more diverse, more developed, and more demanding than ever,” says Gay Lea Foods President & CEO, Michael Barrett. “To maintain competitiveness, we have to continue to explore the tremendous opportunities ahead for milk and drive growth through innovation in products, dairy technology, the production and application of dairy ingredients, and enhance utilization of by-products.”
The new Dairy Innovation Centre in Hamilton will include a 1,200 sqf pilot plant with viewing windows, a 350 sqf laboratory for analytical equipment, and a 1,200 sft second-floor, open-concept “Innovation Hub” where innovators can work, host media and sales events, and meet with customers and partners in a modern, creative space.
Well positioned between McMaster University, the University of Guelph, the University of Toronto, and local colleges such as Mohawk, George Brown and Conestoga, the centre is expected to attract young innovators and developers, and become a training hub for young scientists to acquire practical and manufacturing experience.
“The Gay Lea Foods Dairy Innovation Centre will bridge Research & Development, academia and government research to create new products, improve our current products and ingredients, and respond to competitiveness demands,” says Barrett. “This will allow us to grow our co-operative’s ability to continuously adapt to changing market demands and international standards.”
Construction of the Dairy Innovation Centre began in October 2017 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2018. The project involves the renovation and repurposing of an existing warehouse at the co-operative’s production facility on Morley Street, in the city’s lower East end.
Phase 1 of the investment plan also includes a number of upgrades to the production facility in Hamilton itself, to increase productivity, grow the value of milk and milk components, and decrease the environmental footprint of the facility, all through leadership in innovation.
“Gay Lea Foods is re-designing its future,” says Goodwill, “and a big part of that is happening in Hamilton.”