Food in Canada is once again pleased to partner with KPMG in presenting our industry roundtable. This year we gathered with four executives from different sectors of the Canadian food and beverage industry to discuss how they are meeting the challenge of changing consumer needs and demands.
Steve Smith: Some consumer demands tend to be a little bit transient or faddish, while others represent real trends with long-term staying power. What are your companies doing to identify and invest in trends that enable future growth for the business?
Brian Rainey: We’re doing a number of things. A lot of our consumer research is focused on identifying where we think it’s going to go. We have an aging population so health is very high on our radar screen, so a lot of our innovation efforts are focused around how do we deliver better products to the consumer. We’re spending a huge amount of time on clean ingredient labels, primarily because of our belief the consumer wants a healthier product. So on a proactive basis we’ve had a four-year project going on to put better-quality products on the shelf for consumers. There’s also a move away from generic-type products and there’s been a significant shift in value-added products. People want to spend money, but they want to buy products that give them better value and are easier to use.
Patti Thompson: I think that probably the best example of that is the change in our business. We’ve been in business for almost 60 years and about a year and a half ago we decided to take the next step to value-added products. Although we’ve had some further processed products for probably about 10 years, we’ve taken a big step to build a development kitchen and have a plant where we can produce value-added products to bring the consumer an easy-to-serve, good-quality product that they can prepare in minutes, something consumer-friendly. Your point about the clean ingredients is really important as well. We’ve always focused very much on a natural product, a clean label – duck, salt, spice is all that’s in our roasted half ducks.
Smith: Do recent changes in consumer demands and attitudes represent fundamental change, as compared to how consumer demands and attitudes have behaved and developed over the last couple of decades? Is there anything new here happening as compared to how things were maybe 10, 15 years ago?
Henry Mizrahi: Speed. The pace at which changes occur has dramatically accelerated. So those companies that are able to bring about changes quickly, aggressively, efficiently and with quality are the ones that thrive. Medium-size companies such as ours have the flexibility to bring about rapid changes and to make decisions quickly without a multi-layer approval process.