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Ont. backs new fruit snack process

Provincial funding is expected to bring “breakthrough technology” to the production of snack foods made with Ontario fruit.

The province on Friday pledged $884,570 to Niagara Natural Fruit Snacks, which the company said will allow it to use new technology to make “healthy and nutritious all-natural products that are comparable in taste with artificially flavoured, sugar-based snacks.”

The project will help create nine full-time positions and potential sales of $2 million in the first year of operation and will create a market for process-grade locally-grown fruit, the province said in its release.

“This project will help create local jobs and allow us to utilize breakthrough technology to produce innovative fruit products that are safe, healthy and nutritious,” Niagara Natural Fruit Snacks’ president, John Boot, said in the province’s release.

According to the St. Catharines Standard newspaper Friday, the funding will also allow the new company to revive the former CanGro Foods fruit cannery at St. Davids.

The U.S. owners of CanGro — the Toronto-based marketer of Del Monte and Aylmer products — shut down that cannery last June, taking with it a market for pear and peach producers in the Niagara region, the paper said.

Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor said in the province’s release that the new company “will help develop a stable secondary market for locally grown fruit.”

The project also brings Boot, who’s originally from Ontario, back from B.C., where he had operated snack maker Kettle Valley Dried Fruit until he sold the business to Toronto-based SunOpta in 2003.

“I am pleased to see the former CanGro plant is once again producing locally grown and processed fruit,” St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley said in the province’s release. “This innovative technology used by Niagara Natural Fruit Snacks will create a new value-added product from our local fruit, while providing new opportunities for our local growers.”

The province’s funding will flow through its Rural Economic Development Program, which invests in projects in areas such as community revitalization.

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