TORONTO/April 26 -- Maple Leaf Foods today announced plans to establish a food innovation center that will enhance product development, culinary knowledge and consumer insights across the company's global meats and meals and bakery businesses.

"Over the past few years, Maple Leaf has grown our portfolio to provide consumers with exciting new products that deliver taste, nutrition and convenience," said Michael McCain, president and CEO. "We want to accelerate our leadership in innovation, which is fundamental to broadening and deepening our customer relationships and achieving our financial goals. This food center will provide a powerful catalyst to drive new product development. The result will be a focused and profitable stream of innovations that build on our strengths as a value added meats and meals and bakery company."

The company plans to invest approximately $12 million in the food center. The facility will be constructed adjacent to its existing office tower in the Meadowvale Business Park in Mississauga, Ontario, and is expected to open by early 2009.

The food innovation center will be home to many of the company's experts in innovation and culinary strategy, and will foster collaborative product development across Maple Leaf's global bakery and protein businesses. Resources located at the center will include culinary facilities, a designated foodservice kitchen, sensory and product development areas, teaching facilities and a global culinary insight and trend library. The center will provide a central hands-on learning environment for sales, marketing and product development staff to develop and share new food concepts, recipe ideas, and evaluate preparation and display techniques with foodservice and retail customers. It will also support consumer research and product testing.

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. is a leading Canadian food processing company. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, the company employs approximately 24,000 people at its operations across Canada and in the United States, Europe and Asia. The Company had sales of $5.9 billion in 2006.

From the May 9, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash