Richardson International isn’t just a grain company and regional player any longer, and it’s spending more than $30 million to prove it.
A new Richardson Innovation Centre will be built in downtown Winnipeg, in the shadow of the Richardson Building, both as a way to develop new food products and to prove to buyers and users that the company is a world class supplier.
“We want to do something where people come here and they say, ‘wow, wow, we should be dealing with Richardson. They’re not afraid to make the kind of commitment to this business as a supplier to me … that I’m going to want to see going forward,’ ” said Richardson International chief executive officer Curt Vossen.
The innovation centre will bring together about 100 people working with the company’s oilseed processing, cereal grain milling, plant protein and other food product and ingredient research, development, analysis and quality control.
It will also allow the company to demonstrate its products to customers and consumers, including housing a demonstration kitchen.
The centre will be close to the Canadian International Grains Institute and the Canadian Grain Commission, something Vossen said should help create a critical mass of food development and quality people at Portage and Main. As well, the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie will be an hour away.
Vossen praised CIGI’s work and said he thinks the Richardson centre will be complementary.
“I think this is going to be a great collaboration with us and CIGI because it’ll put food scientists together, talking about issues that are relevant to the marketplace and evolving in the marketplace,” he said.
“Our marketplace is the global marketplace.”
Vossen said Richardson supplies giant multinational food companies with ingredients for their products so it needs to demonstrate that it has the ability and commitment to supply them with what they need.
“You cannot be isolated as a regional business. You are by definition involved in a global business and you have to meet global standards in order to be successful,” he said.
Consumers are also demanding more from food companies, so this centre will be able to address demands for “clean labelling,” traceability, food safety, sustainability and social media food concerns.
Food research players in Winnipeg have lobbied for years to create a grain and food research hub at the University of Manitoba. Those plans never materialized, but the university ended up housing the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals and the Paterson grain company built the “Paterson Globalfoods Centre in downtown Winnipeg. This project adds a Richardson-specific element to the mix.