The Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Brian Coburn, honoured 24 Ontario food retailers for their continued support of the Foodland Ontario programme.

Speaking at an awards ceremony held at the Toronto Congress Centre, Coburn said: "We are paying tribute to the excellence and creativity of our food retailers who play an essential role in promoting Ontario-grown fruits and vegetables.

"Store owners, managers and staff consistently find innovative ways to carry the Foodland Ontario message to consumers and influence their food buying choices."

The Foodland Ontario Retailer Awards programme highlights those retailers who have put effort into promoting and selling Ontario-grown fruits and vegetables. As well as the ministry, it is co-sponsored by the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association, the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers' Association, the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers' Marketing Board and the Bradford and District Vegetable Growers' Association.

Each year, approximately 1250 stores across the province are involved with promotions, and they are judged on factors such as impact of display; creative and effective use of Foodland Point of Sale material; cross-merchandising; location in store; balance and design.

Amongst the winners this year are Longo's, McDaniel's Your Independent Grocer, Garden Market IGA, Morello's Independent Grocer, Galati Brothers Supermarket and Loblaws.

Partnering with the 22 year old Foodland Ontario awards offers retailers a competitive edge, because research has shown that local consumers place a or higher level of trust in Ontario-grown produce. Coburn commented: "Today, 92% of Ontario's shoppers recognise the green and white Foodland Ontario logo. The symbol has become associated with quality, freshness and taste, thanks to our grocery retailers, our farmers and our consumers."

The stores compete for three types of award; Platinum Year Round Support, Gold Category Awards and the Silver Award of Merit. New this year, the Foodland Ontario Award of Excellence will be awarded to three of the top Ontario retailers to recognise consistent merchandising achievement two years in a row.

The Silver Award of Merit will be presented to retailers later this month.

For more information on the programme, click here.