Two articles ago, I spoke to the issue of “How could we make this happen.” We talked about the Value Chain Roundtables as being a good starting point. Each of these roundtables would be the “management team” for the “business unit” of Canada Food Inc. that they represent. I do think that some rationalization of the roundtables should happen so that they better align to our business sectors, for example, do we need both a Beef Roundtable and a Pork Roundtable or could we have a Red Meats Roundtable instead, and what about Dairy and Poultry? I’m not sure, but it should be looked at.
We also indicated that the All Chairs Forum could be the senior management team for Canada Food Inc. And that team would report to a “Board of Directors” composed of, say, the deputy ministers of the provincial agriculture and food ministries. The “Chair of that Board” would be the federal deputy minister.
And we indicated that we felt it could work. So why wouldn’t it work? Well, the number-1 reason it might not work would be that the Board didn’t create a vision for Canada Food Inc. We said some time ago that a vision might be something like “Canada = Food. By 2020, Canada is the global leader in the food industry.” Without that kind of vision, and “Board” and “Management” alignment and commitment to it, we would remain splintered both provincially and by sector. With it, we could all work within our provinces/sectors to do what we needed to do to make that vision happen.
So the mission of this governance/management structure we’re suggesting would likely be “To create food that is globally competitive and financially sustainable for the entire food and beverage sector along the entire value chain from producer input suppliers to food retailers and foodservice operations, including non-food inputs like packaging, logistics, labour, energy, etc.”
Then that governance/management structure would need to establish “corporate strategies” to pursue to accomplish the mission and achieve the vision. As we’ve said before, there are likely four or five strategies that would need to be in place:
- Become the most innovative food sector in the world in terms of both response to the market needs, but also through what I call “blue sky innovation.”
- Become one of the most productive food sectors in the world in terms of efficiency, quality and cost control, through the entire value chain so that our costs and resulting prices make us market leaders.
- Become one of the most sustainable food sectors in the world in terms of environmental sustainability, food safety and corporate social responsibility in general.
- Become a larger net exporter of value-added food products rather than mostly commodities.
- Create a regulatory structure in Canada related to food that enables strategies one through four, and is seen as “global best practice.”
And then, each of the sector-based business units would need to create implementation plans for their sector value chain. What is the Grains strategy for innovation, for productivity improvement, for improved sustainability, and for increased value-added exports? They would have to ensure that their strategies were consistent with the national strategies for those things. They would then have to collaborate with the food businesses in their business unit and the suppliers to that business unit to implement the plans in a way that the entire business unit’s individual businesses and supplier companies benefit in the greatest manner possible.
We don’t want to underestimate the challenges inherent in doing this, but it could take us to being the global leader in the food industry. I think we would all be much better off in the long run. I think the starting point is the All Chairs Forum linking in with a “council of deputy ministers.” Let’s do it!
Gary Fread is president of Fread & Associates Ltd., consultants to the food industry. He has spent 25 years in management positions in the food processing industry, with a background in sales, logistics, purchasing and technical areas. He has worked with Procter & Gamble, Campbell Soup and Morrison Lamothe, and is the past president and CEO of the Guelph Food Technology Centre. He is active in many food industry associations and organizations, serving on the boards of several. Contact him at [email protected]