Can we compete?
Food in CanadaBusiness Operations Exports national food strategy
How might the complexity issue help us?
As I thought more about the complexity issue, I realized I was looking at it in a pretty one-sided way. Namely, that it could be seen as an obstacle to our sector’s growth and development. True, it can be an obstacle if we let it be. But how might we take advantage of that complexity to help us be more competitive and profitable? Could we?
Well, several articles back I talked about the trends that were happening, especially the merging of the Foodies and the Newbies (new immigrants) and the evolution of what has been called Global Fusion Cuisine. What that means is the inevitable combining of the various ethnic cuisines into a more flexible type of cuisine. For example, maybe on the warm summer night you still want your barbecued pork ribs for dinner, but maybe you have decided that you should try an ethnic dish from, say Southeast Asia, that you had never eaten until a couple of years ago, to go with your ribs. So you try it, and WOW! It’s good. That would never have happened if we didn’t have new immigrants from Southeast Asia immigrating here. And now, there are restaurants serving their cuisine. See? That’s global fusion cuisine where we get exposed to it.
Also, those Southeast Asian immigrants (or Newbies from anywhere in the world) have children attending Canadian schools. As they grow up, more and more of them will marry spouses from other ethnic groups. As that couple evolves, they will inevitably start combining their favorite dishes from both of their ethnic cuisines. Again, global fusion cuisine…it’s just one example of the culinary evolution that will happen, and is already happening.
OK, so what, right? Well, as pointed out in the Meat Report by Valerie Ward in the March 2015 issue of Food in Canada, one fact that threw me off a bit was that chevon, or goat meat, is the most widely eaten red meat in the world. Many regions of the world eat a lot of goat meat, such as the Middle East, Latin America, Southeast Asia, China, and the Caribbean. As I recall from my trips to the Caribbean, I must admit, the most common “livestock” one sees being raised is goats. Well, we have a meat goat industry in Canada. So here’s an opportunity for domestic sales of chevon. And perhaps, there are export opportunities, for example to regions of the U.S., that could be jumped on.
And in other “divisions” of Canada Food Inc. there are opportunities. The Canadian cheese industry has grown more diverse in the past few years, especially Quebec cheese processors (but not exclusively Quebec). North Americans are becoming more interested in variety and new tastes in their food. Is there room for more sales of bison, venison, elk, pheasant, etc.? I think so. Find a way to market them as unique tasting meats with creative recipes for how to cook them, and there may be a bigger market than one might expect.
In all of the “divisions” there are such opportunities. The Healthies are finding plenty of accessible “healthier” grains and oilseeds produced in Canada than what has traditionally been the norm. Barley, flax, canola, and soy all have healthy aspects and resulting health claims. In addition, the “ancient grains” such as spelt, amaranth, quinoa, millet or kamut also bring interesting flavours and textures, and are said to be healthier that many of our traditional grains. The same can be said of oilseeds such as sunflower and safflower. We are already beginning to market them to the Healthies to some extent, but could we do more? And are there export opportunities? I think so. I’m sure there are examples in the horticulture “division” as well.
And as for alcoholic beverages, we have and are continuing to develop craft beers and regional terroir wines that are becoming known not just in Canada, but are being exported as well. And even our old Canadian whisky is undergoing some changes such as a 100-per-cent rye version and maple whisky liqueur version, just to name the first two that come to mind. I’m convinced that Canadian whisky could become as popular as, say, bourbon or scotch in North American and perhaps elsewhere.
I’ve gone into all this because I just believe so strongly in our agri-food/seafood sector. We have all the ammunition we need to become a global leader in the food industry. And we won’t be known like some of the more narrow ethnic cuisines, for example Italian, Chinese, South Asian, and many more, but rather Canadian cuisine will more and more be the best example of global fusion cuisine, and we will have our “Canadian specialty” elements as well, like maple. Suddenly, I’m hungry!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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