Food In Canada

Exclusive: CFIN’s new CEO plans to expand, diversify services

By Food in Canada Staff   

Business Operations Canadian Food Innovation Network Editor pick

The Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN) recently promoted Dana McCauley, formerly its chief experience officer, as CEO.

Working in step with outgoing CEO Joseph Lake, McCauley played a key role in building the organization, developing and implementing key strategic initiatives, identifying and working to solve the most urgent roadblocks to Canadian food innovation, and creating a meaningful member experience.

McCauley has, throughout her career, had her finger on the pulse of food innovation as a food writer, editor and commentator, a senior executive in the food manufacturing sector, and a trailblazing food business incubator and accelerator. In an exclusive email interview, we asked McCauley about her vision for CFIN and its members.

As CFIN’s new CEO, what are your immediate priorities?

DM: In the short term, there will not be any major changes to the organization. Our strategy and vision remain intact and our talented team is laser-focused on supporting our rapidly growing and diverse membership base. We are fully committed to enhancing member experiences, launching new funding calls, and building a national food community to make it easier for our members to find the right partners and collaborators.

What are your goals, for yourself as CEO as well as for CFIN, in the medium and long term?

DM: We want to learn more about our 2700+ members’ needs and identify ways to help solve their food innovation problems. Whether that’s connecting them to new partners and resources, launching funding calls to target these challenges or adding more features to YODL [a web-based interactive platform for members] to stoke more collaboration, our team is agile and always looking for ways to provide more value to our members.

As CEO, I’ll be looking at ways to expand CFIN’s offerings and services. That means creating international partnerships, diversifying our revenue sources, attracting new types of members, and adding new features to YODL to further build our national community of food professionals.

What are some of the challenges facing innovators in the Canadian F&B sector? How can they be resolved?

DM: We know our members’ biggest needs are access to capital, partners, customers, and talent. This is what we constantly hear from our members, regardless of where they’re located or what industry they’re in.

We’re alleviating these challenges in a few different ways.

Our regional innovation directors (RIDs) are situated across the country and provide our members with boots on the ground support. This includes connecting them with new partners, funding opportunities, and resources (such as suppliers, test beds, etc.) to help members grow their businesses. Although the RIDs work regionally, they collaborate every day to ensure members in one region have access to a national network.

To date, we’ve awarded more than $8 million to more than 30 Canadian foodtech projects, and we aren’t slowing down. In 2023, we’ll have new funding calls and we’re always open to collaborating with other organizations to provide more funding to Canadian food companies.

YODL is our first-of-its-kind platform that connects our members to new partners, fresh ideas, and daily original content. We’re always looking at ways to improve YODL and we’re excited about two notable features that we’ll be launching in the coming months that will help connect our members to resources, funding, and partners with just a few clicks. Stay tuned for those announcements.

The investment climate is currently chilly. How is CFIN supporting members?

DM: As I mentioned earlier, we’ve funded more than 30 projects over the last year-and-a-half. We’re de-risking these investments and bringing more attention to innovative food projects that have the potential to transform our food industry.

Our RIDs also make connections between our members and funders to help make capital raising easier for members and to expose funders to new companies and projects they may not have been aware or previously. Likewise, the investors who use our YODL platform report that our content and the discussion threads really help them to better understand the value of food innovation.

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