Overlooked avenues for growth in the Canadian food industry
By Robert Coard
Consolidation is a big buzzword in the Canadian food processing industry today. For small and mid-size companies, consolidation often seems like the only option to attract much-needed capital or to win market share in an industry dominated by larger players.
The challenge is that the competition for deals in the Canadian food industry can be fierce. Current multiples are quite high – driving investor interest, not just domestically but from overseas and financial buyers. Small and medium-size companies can easily get priced out of deals by investors with much deeper pockets.
But, if you’re looking to grow or to obtain a new injection of capital to make much-needed business improvements, traditional consolidation isn’t your only option.
We often see companies in the food industry overlook significant opportunities either because they aren’t aware of them or because they don’t think they have the right expertise to make deals outside of their niche markets.
If you don’t look outside the box, however, you may miss out on some of the best prospects available to you. That’s why we’ve identified three opportunities we often see companies overlook when it comes to examining their growth options.
Take advantage of government programs and incentives
When considering ways to raise capital or finance new business activities, one area you should never overlook is the government. Both the federal government and most provincial governments provide programs and incentives to Canadian businesses looking to grow. For example, the federal government offers significant tax incentives to companies investing in new products or innovative business processes through its Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program.
Other government offerings focus specifically on the agriculture and food processing industries. Here in British Columbia, for example, the Ministry of International Trade has a dedicated Export Development Agri-Foods office to assist businesses; other provinces have similar foreign development units. Some provinces also offer direct funding.
Consider foreign investors
Over the past several years, Canadian food producers and processors have gained a lot of attention globally. Here in B.C., we’ve seen increasing interest from Chinese investors attracted to the quality of Canadian food products, the stability of our supply chain and the stringency of our regulatory and food inspection regimes.
Canada’s attractiveness is a key reason Canadian food companies should consider foreign investment when looking to raise capital. A foreign investor or strategic partner may be keenly interested in investing in a company that can help them obtain access to specific technologies, address gaps or meet demand in their own local markets.
Don’t let size matter when determining sources of assistance
We often see small agri-food and other food processors’ businesses fail to consider certain funding options out of a belief they are too small. The reality is that a number of organizations offer growth-focused advice and financing specifically for small and medium-size businesses – such as Export Development Canada (EDC) and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). Other Canadian banks may also have industry-focused financing priorities. Dismissing any of these options because of your size could limit your potential.
Whether you are focused on technology integration, production expansion, or foreign growth – investigating and evaluating all of your financing options and sources of support can help you find the missing ingredient you need to achieve your business objectives.
Robert Coard is a Partner in the Food & Beverage and Retail practice for PwC Canada and is based in Vancouver. Contact him at [email protected]
This article appeared in the print issue:January/February 2016 edition, Ask the Expert section