A recipe for success: Conestoga accelerates R&D time

January 16, 2024
three assorted soups

Tracy Butt, M.Sc. (PI) Conestoga Food Research & Innovation Lab

Since 1963, Pusateri’s Fine Foods has been serving the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) as an authentic butcher and provider of fine foods. Through their five stores located across the GTA, Pusateri’s serves a collection of gourmet, artisanal, and imported products.   

As Pusateri's has evolved since its establishment in 1963, the company has continually aimed to enhance its offerings and operational efficiency. In 2021, Pusateri’s partnered with Conestoga’s Smart Manufacturing & Advanced Recycling Technologies (SMART) Centre to explore automation solutions to grow and maintain their operations.   

With the help of the SMART Centre during the first project, Pusateri’s was able to automate their processes, enabling them to make more, faster. While this provided enormous benefits to Pusateri’s in their production process, it also meant they were storing more product. 

That is where the Conestoga Food Research & Innovation Lab (CFRIL) came in. Since CFRIL’s researchers share over 80 years of combined industry experience in food and packaging, CFRIL was the obvious choice for Pusateri’s next research partnership.   

“It was a natural extension to continue using the Conestoga team to look at extending the shelf-life of the soups,” said Shannon Shorter, plant operations manager, Pusateri’s.   

Over the year-and-a-half project, CFRIL researcher Tracy Butt, with the help of research students, began the task of extending the shelf-life of Pusateri’s soups and stews.   

Because Pusateri’s produces a diverse range of soups and stews, the research team had to identify different groups to separate them, ensuring a large enough sample size for testing that could accommodate all possible variations of the recipe.  

Next, the research team had to pay special attention to any suggested modifications to ensure the taste, texture, appearance, and aroma would not be significantly altered. Knowing the products are clean-label and clean-flavour, any additives would be picked up in the flavor profile of the product.  

“You don’t want to change the product so drastically, unless the industry partner is okay with it,” said Butt.   

Although the focus of the project was to extend the shelf-life of Pusateri's soups and stews, the collaboration extended beyond that to include how the changes may affect the retail side of the business.  

Shorter says this holistic approach allowed Pusateri’s and CFRIL to openly collaborate and consider more than just the scientific perspective of the project.  

“With Conestoga, we had the opportunity to collaborate and determine the changes needed. It was not just about the science but also the retail side of things. We could ask, ‘is this product something we want to sell to our customers?’”  

With the help of CFRIL, Pusateri’s was able to extend the shelf-life of their soups and stews, enabling them to scale up production and expand in the market.  

Longer term, it also gives them a path forward to take these findings and use them for future recipe development, allowing them to accelerate their research and development time.  

We acknowledge the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

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