Canada’s food strategy: Now is the time
I have spoken a lot about the development of a Canadian food and beverage industry strategy. Now would be a great time to get started. First of all, we have a new government that is looking to strengthen and grow the economy. Well, the food processing/agriculture/fisheries sector is the largest sector of the economy, so why not put some focus there. And its supplier base is large. For example, food and beverage packaging accounts for about 70 per cent of revenues in the Canadian packaging industry. But, food processing has lost jobs and had plant closings over the past few years. Climate change is having some effect on the agriculture and fisheries sectors, and that will likely continue.
At the same time, the market is changing. The global population will be reaching nine billion in about 30 years, and close to 10 billion by the end of the century, and Canada has the capacity to produce more foods to feed that population. Consumers are looking for healthier foods that are produced in ways that do not ruin the environment. We also need to find ways to produce our food in more productive ways while not impacting the environment negatively. That will require close collaboration among all levels of the food value chain and its suppliers, as well as among government departments at both the national and provincial levels. We need to respond to those, and other changes to the market, and that will almost certainly mean we will need new strategies to provide the market what it wants.
We are a very complex sector in Canada, with so many key commodities produced and such variation in the food processing sector from a large number of Canadian SMEs to large Canadian companies and many foreign-owned multinationals. So, again, it is a challenge to come up with a strategy for the industry, but with the right level of collaboration between industry and government, I believe it could be achieved.
The only way to achieve that collaboration is to jointly develop a strategy including both government and industry. We have new ministers in addition to the new prime minister. And we must include the provincial governments to get the buy-in needed to move forward. That is why I have recommended the AAFC Sector Roundtables as a venue for doing so.
There is a group there called the All Chairs Forum made up of the Chairs of all of the commodity sector Roundtables. That Forum includes interaction with the deputy minister directly. That would be a good forum to use to develop the strategy and get the commodities’ buy-in to a national strategy. There would also need to be representatives from the dairy and poultry sectors which do not have Roundtables. It would also need to have provincial participants to ensure the provincial governments also buy into the resulting strategy. To accomplish all of this, there would likely need to be an independent process facilitator to move the process forward efficiently.
The strategic planning process that I have outlined in previous articles could be put in effect with such a group. The first step would be to carry out a PEST Analysis to ensure we understand the external factors (Political, Economic, Social, and Technological) that are affecting the industry and need to be addressed in the Strategy.
Secondly, a 5 Forces Analysis would be done to look at our industry in terms of what’s happening with our Customers/Consumers, Suppliers of all types, Existing Competition (other countries with strong food sectors), possible new Competition from developing countries, and possible Substitutes.
Third, with the information derived from those analyses, we would do a SWOT Analysis looking at what our industry’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats/Challenges are.
And finally, out of all of that, what will be our Values, Vision, Mission, and Strategies to move the industry forward?
It’s really not that complex, but to be done successfully, it needs the whole industry and governments to be involved. Again, I know it could be done, so let’s do it and have the greatest food and beverage industry in the world. The time is right. Now!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org