The three Prairie-based canola grower organizations invest in personal, high-quality and hands-on canola oil promotion events in Ontario – with the goal to improve canola oil’s share of Canada’s biggest market.

Ellen Pruden shows the group what canola seeds look like before and after rolling. Everyone got a chance to crush a strip to see the yellow inside. Credit: Josh Tenn-Yuk

Toronto food influencers Bake With Canola

While the author is not all that good at rolling cheese-filled rice balls, he gave it the college try and the final product actually looked and tasted pretty dang good. (He had lots of help.) This all went down at a Canola Eat Well “Bake With Canola” event in Toronto in November, where he worked and ate and laughed with a dozen or so others — including a good selection of food bloggers.

The Canola Eat Well brand is a joint partnership with Alberta Canola, SaskCanola and Manitoba Canola Growers. The holiday bakefest was the last of seven Ontario events in 2016 created to help consumers in Canada’s most populous province appreciate the benefits of canola oil.

Emily Richards shows Kiran Menzies how to roll dough.
Credit: Josh Tenn-Yuk

While the themes vary, each Canola Eat Well event needs the right hook to attract interest, the right host to keep people excited and on message, the right venue for lots of attractive photographs (Instagram rules in food) and the right attendees to share the word. To use a fertilizer analogy, these are the 4Rs of buzz creation.

The hook this time was holiday baking with Emily Richards. Richards is a home economist based in Guelph. She writes cook books, including “Per La Famiglia”, which each attendee at Bake With Canola took home. And she often appears on television, including Canada AM, CTV News and other Ontario-based television programs.

Alberta farmer Jeannette Andrashewski and host Joey Salmingo launch Bake With Canola with a chat about farming.
Credit: Josh Tenn-Yuk

The host was Joey Salmingo, a live-event and TV host. His website, articulateeats.com, would suggest a specialty in food, but he has done some red carpet work and just took a job in Los Angeles. “Farming in itself is a science with the process farmers go through to put food on our table,” he said in his introduction at Bake With Canola. “And we really appreciate it.”

Screenshot of an Instagram photo containing two fried eggs and containers of canola oil in the background.The venue was Luxe Appliance Studio, a high-end appliance store that allows for hands-on testing of the equipment. The well-lit attractive studio in downtown Toronto was an Instagrammers dream.

Attendees were hand picked for their voices in the Ontario food scene. They Instagrammed and tweeted all evening. Rachel Barbaro tweeted: “Sharing an amazing arancini recipe by @ERiscooking from the @CanolaEatWell holiday baking party.” Linda Matarosso shared a photo on Instagram with the caption: “Look at all the great stuff we baked last night with @ERiscooking at #bakewithcanola…” Victoria Weiss wrote on her momwhoruns.com blog: “In my cupboard at the moment is vegetable oil and olive oil. No ideas why I have never considered buying canola oil.

One could easily blame it on my mom – I have a good feeling she never bought canola either!! At the event, I learned a few reasons why I should be choosing canola oil.”

Alberta Canola rep Jeannette Andrashewski told the group why she farms, what sustainability means to her and the benefits of canola oil. “It’s super functional and it’s affordable, so you have more food dollars to spend on other gourmet items,” she said. “And it’s Canadian – grown by farm families like mine.”

Ellen Pruden, education and promotions manager with Manitoba Canola Growers, gave a demonstration on what canola seeds look like before and after crushing. Then it was food time. Emily Richards gave a short demo on how to cook Nutella-filled Italian doughnuts, and attendees broke out into stations and made a bunch of goodies to share and take home.

Jay Whetter and Donna Ramirez work on arancini, balls of rice stuffed with cheese then breaded and deep fried in canola oil.
Credit: Josh Tenn-Yuk

Moving the needle

These are small events, but the hope is that by following the 4Rs of buzz, Canola Eat Well can move the needle on canola oil sales in Ontario. Canola oil has 65 to 70 per cent retail market share in Western Canada but just 32 per cent in Ontario, the lowest among all provinces. “Given the size of the Ontario market, a canola promotions effort in that market is so important,” Pruden says.

Canola Eat Well will continue to host culinary workshops in 2017, engaging with all audiences who want to learn more about canola oil and engage with canola farmers. “We will continue to grow our #CanolaConnect community,” Pruden says. “We will continue to be active on social media and engage with our audiences. Our big goal is to have everyone we encounter be ambassadors for canola farmers and canola oil.”

The final products.
Credit: Josh Tenn-Yuk

Pruden refers to a Facebook post from Erin MacGregor, who attended one of the Canola Eat Well events. “I was so moved and inspired by the people I met that I’ve returned with resolve. Resolve to use my platform as a dietitian, a blogger, a home economist and (most importantly) a momma to help Canadians understand where their food comes from and why we should feel grateful for having access to one of the safest, most abundant and affordable food supplies in the world.”

“That is what it’s all about,” Pruden says.

Canola Eat Well influencers

Here is a list of top food influencers who have attended Canola Eat Well events.

Name Twitter Instagram
Mairlyn Smith @MairlynSmith @mairlynsmith
Claire Tansey @tanseyclaire @tanseyclaire
Pay Chen @PayChen @paychen
Abbey Sharp @AbbeysKitchen @abbeyskitchen
Matt Dean Pettit @MattDeanPettit @mattdeanpettit
Matt Basile @fidelgastros @fidelgastros
Christy Brissette @80twentyrule @80twentyrule
Zannat Reza @thrive360ZR @thrive360zr
Afrim Prisinte @AfrimPristine @afrimpristine
Erin MacGregor @erinmacfoodie @erin.macgregor