Food In Canada

Food Innovation at GIC Caters to Changing Needs

Birgit Blain   

Food Trends Products immunity meal solutions ruby chocolate

food innovation

The primary concerns of Canadians have shifted in reaction to the threat from coronavirus. That was evident at November’s Grocery Innovations Canada (GIC) virtual trade show, where I witnessed the emergence of three common themes related to food innovation: Protect Me. Nourish Me. Reward Me.


Health concerns are top-of-mind with Canadians. Many are looking for a panacea and quick fix. In response, brands are launching food innovations to boost immunity.

food innovation

The definition of immunity is resistance to, or protection from, disease. Food is one ingredient in the recipe to strengthen our immune system.



Health Canada does not permit health claims about boosting the immune system. However, OASIS® Health Break ImmuniForce® Juice Blend circumvents the problem by making the nutrient function claim that “Vitamin A contributes to the normal function of the immune system”, with ImmuniForce® providing 50% of the daily value in Vitamin A.


Good hydration is essential to maintain a strong immune system but let’s face it, plain water is bland. Real Sips Beverage Mix wakes up still or sparkling water with a burst of flavour and antioxidants. These innovative, single serve “sip sticks” are made from fresh-pressed juice and tea, sweetened with monk fruit extract and flash frozen to retain nutrients. This natural health product is available in two flavours: Lemon Ginger Turmeric and Wild Blueberry Mint Green Tea.



The Naked Collective from Ireland introduced Mude “health-boosting” beverages, “powered by ImmunoBoost”. Ingredients include beta glucan, valerian root and ashwaganda. I was surprised to see a whole host of health claims like immune health, “deep sleep” and “relaxation and clear mind”. However, such claims are likely not compliant with Health Canada food regulations. Regulations differ the world over. Labelling that’s legal in Ireland, the EU or US doesn’t necessarily fly in the Great White North, so a regulatory review is highly recommended.


The ketogenic diet, developed in the 1920s to control epileptic seizures, restricts consumption of carbohydrates in favour of fat and protein. Although it has become popular as a weight loss mechanism, it is difficult to maintain and the long term effects on health are not known.

Generals Mills has jumped on the keto bandwagon with :ratio™ Keto Friendly Bars, marketed as “the first crunchy keto bar”. Front of pack highlights “17 g fat : 1 g sugar : 12 g protein”. With almonds and pumpkin seeds as the star ingredients, these bars are sweetened with erythritol and Stevia.


With more Canadians working from home, there’s a greater need for convenient and nutritious meal solutions.

Clover Leaf brings incremental sales to the canned seafood category with BISTRO BOWLS™Wild-caught tuna is married with vegetables, legumes and whole grains for a complete meal that’s high in protein and fibre-rich. With no refrigeration required they’re an ideal pantry item. Just 30 seconds in the microwave and you have a nutritious lunch when working from home or convenient meal for one.


New from Burnbrae Farms, Organic NatureggSimply Egg Whites™ are an easy, mess-free way to whip up quick meals and snacks. These free range liquid egg whites provide 10 g protein per 1/3 cup serving, with no cholesterol or fat. Since they’re pasteurized they can be consumed raw, making it easy to protein-up smoothies without the chalky mouthfeel of powders.



UHT (ultra high temperature) milk is a staple in hot climates because it doesn’t need refrigeration until opened. It’s typically sold in aseptic cartons. Now Beatrice has introduced EverFresh UHT Milk in a bottle. I’m not sure why. Perhaps to make it look more like fresh milk to appeal to a wider market. In any case, it’s convenient to have as back-up in the pantry when you’re out of the fresh stuff and running to the store is not an option (like in a pandemic).


Is there anything more rewarding than chocolate? Ruby chocolate, launched by Barry Callebaut in 2017, is an exciting addition to dark, milk and white chocolate. Made from the ruby cocoa bean using a unique processing method, it tantalizes the taste buds with its fruity berry flavour and enticing pink colour. Nestlé introduces Häagen-Dazs Ruby Cacao Ice Cream Barswith a strawberry ice cream centre enrobed in ruby chocolate. Sadly this Special Edition is only available for a limited time.


Baking mixes are flying off the shelves, as Canadians are homebound. For most mixes you need to have additional ingredients on hand, but Betty Crocker™ Peanut Brittle Mix is complete, with no extra ingredients needed. Just spread on a cookie sheet, bake, break and devour in less than 60 minutes. Interestingly, American reviews are polarized and consumers either love or hate it. Perhaps baking instructions to “watch carefully” were challenging for some novice bakers.



Last, but not least, I have to mention this new product that I’m eager to taste. Angostura Bitters were first introduced in 1824 as a digestive aid. Decades later the brand entered the culinary scene, promoting bitters to enhance the flavour of food and cocktails. Their latest innovation, Angostura Cocoa Bitters, adds depth to savory and sweet dishes, with “top notes of rich, nutty cocoa balanced with light spices, with a lasting bitter finish.” Definitely intriguing!


Explore more innovations at SIAL and CHFA trade shows.

As a CPG food consultant, Birgit Blain gets brands ready for retail. Her experience includes 17 years with Loblaw Brands and President’s Choice®. Contact her at or learn more at

© Birgit Blain 2020

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