MITCHELL, Ontario – Willowgrove Hill received the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence – which recognizes industry innovation, and comes with a significant cash prize — for its Willowgrove Hill brand DHA/EPA Omega-3 Pork.

Paul and Rosie Hill's pioneering efforts to create an innovative new product in the marketplace was recognized as premium pork that is nutritionally enriched with DHA/EPA Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Organic Selenium. Adding these nutrients, naturally through feed, establishes Willowgrove Hill as the first and only pork in North America able to make the health claim "Supports the normal physical development of the brain, eyes and nerves."

The pork is raised locally, at the Hills’ farm in Mitchell, Ontario, without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones.

"We set out to offer Ontario families exactly what's important to our family: farm fresh, great-tasting, premium pork that's traceable from farm gate to plate," said Paul Hill, owner/farmer. "We're truly honored to be recognized for our contribution to the industry. We're also thankful to the grocers and butchers who have not only embraced our unique product – but have also successfully marketed it to discriminating customers."

After losing their young son, Ryan, to liver cancer in 2001, Paul and Rosie Hill were inspired to enrich their premium pork to ensure their family – as well as all of their customers – had an accessible, healthier choice, according to a news release. Working with Grand Valley Fortifiers, a market leader in animal/livestock health and nutrition, Willowgrove Hill introduced DHA/EPA Omega-3 and Organic Selenium naturally, through feed.

"We undertook a long process, in a very challenging industry, because developing delicious, nutritionally enriched pork was important to us as a family," said Rosie Hill. "We're committed to this both professionally and personally."

Product development began in fall of 2007, Paul Hill told “Although the product was not yet developed [at that time], we started to talk about our concept to a lot of different people and had a lot interest in the product,” he added. “We did not have product until spring 2009. At this time we went to Remark fresh Markets in London with product and Chef Rory Golden from the Deerhurst with our productto get feedback – all of which was very positive. We then decided we needed distribution and approached GFS, who was very impressed with the product and concept. Remark also was very impressed with product and we waited to see how the market would respond to Willowgrove Hill DAH/EPA Omega-3 pork.”

Product is distributed several ways. “For foodservice, it is listed with GFS and Leavoy Rowe. For retail, product can be found at a number of independent grocers.

“Our product is being extremely will received,” Hill said. “A lot of our retailers are seeing at least 50% growth rates with our pork and some are doubling sales. We have made this product scalable so as demand increases we are able to meet it with some lead time required.”