Our complex food sector requires collaboration with government across all sectors of the industry
In my last article, I spoke of the need for a Food Sector Strategy that will lead to change and improvement in Canada’s food sector. I talked about the increase that is happening in the area of product complexity due to the changing demands of food and beverage consumers here in Canada as well as globally. I also spoke about the changes that need to be brought about in the areas of sustainability and productivity to ensure our environment continues to support our food sector, and that we are able to compete with global competition. Now I would like to explore the product complexity issue a bit more.
I have been reading some articles from various sources the past few weeks, and I have become even more aware of the complexity of our food products and the changes that are happening. I certainly cannot provide a detailed list, but let me summarize some of what I’ve read and talk about what I see coming in the area of product change. I have spoken and in the last article, and earlier articles, about some key consumer trends like the “Foodies,” the “Healthies,” the “Greenies,” the “Speedies,” the “Cheapies,” and the “Newbies,” all of whom have different drivers for the kinds of food they are looking to buy.
Our high level of global immigration has resulted in what is now being referred to as “Global Fusion Cuisine” combining different aspects of national food diets from around the world. That will definitely continue to evolve over time. All of this increases the complexity of product development in food processing, and is also leading to new varieties of crops and animals being grown in Canada, again increasing the complexity of products for growers, processors, and literally everyone in the food sector.
There is also a variety of foods sought by our various generations in the Canadian consumer market. It seems that the generations are each different as to the types of foods they tend to focus on. The silent generation (70 and older) probably are more like the traditional meat, potatoes and vegetables dinner types, but they are becoming more focused on healthier foods as they age. They are also somewhat wealthier than previous generations were at their age, and are gaining a little more variety in their diets.
The other major generational groups are the baby boomers, generation X, the millennials, and the younger generation Z, each focused on different dietetic patterns that challenge food marketers in appealing to each of them. This too, leads to greater product complexity.
Now think about what is going to happen if we increase our exports to many countries around the world. Even if those countries are seeking Canadian food, they will have their own ideas about what Canadian food is, and we will have to adjust to some degree to serve them.
It all just keeps getting more complex. More collaboration is needed between marketers and product developers and researchers all along the innovation value chain to be successful.
Then there are the areas of sustainability and productivity. Again, the key is going to be the need to be fairly leading edge and that, too, will require significant collaboration among the technology developers and the operations value chain to be successful.
We have such a complex food sector in Canada, looking at all levels of production and processing, and collaboration across all sectors at all levels seems to be essential. One way of encouraging that to happen is, as I have said many times before, the creation of a vision for the Canadian food and beverage industry and a strategic plan for achieving that vision. That is not for government to impose, but rather for the industry to collaborate with government to make happen.
With all of the uncertainty as to what is going to happen with regard to NAFTA and other trade agreements, the time to start working on this is now. Let’s make it happen!
Gary Fread is president of Fread & Associates Ltd., consultants to the food industry. He has spent more than 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]