Food In Canada

Innovation Insights: Quebec’s dynamic F&B sector includes pioneers in foodtech, sustainable solutions

By Julie Daigle   

Food Trends Canadian Food Innovation Network Editor pick Quebec Relocalize

Canada’s food and beverage industry is known for its high-quality products, its strong and reliable food safety system, and increasingly, for its innovative food technology solutions. One region that is thriving in these areas is Quebec, where entrepreneurial startups and creative innovators are working to solve some of the most persistent challenges facing food companies in Canada.

Quebec has a long history of excellence in food and beverage manufacturing. As the largest manufacturing sector in the province’s economy, the food industry generated $36.7 billion in manufacturing shipments in 2022, representing approx. 3000 food companies, and 75,000 jobs in the province. Quebec is the second-largest food processing province in Canada, primarily in meat processing ($7.8 billion), dairy processing ($7.4 billion), and beverages ($5.4 billion).

In recent years, Quebec’s food industry is focusing on foodtech-driven solutions, buoyed by provincial government initiatives. In 2020, the government announced $2.4 billion in funding to foster innovative, digital transformation, and the adoption of new technologies and processes such as automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence. As a result, Quebec is the number-one province for R&D investments in terms of per cent of GDP, drawing an additional $8 billion in venture capital financing for the food sector between 2017 and 2021. Montreal is recognized worldwide for its artificial intelligence ecosystem and its scientific community, which includes Mila, the Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute, the largest concentrations of deep learning academic researchers globally with more than 1200 researchers specializing in machine learning.

The Foodarom Group

Saint-Hubert-based Foodarom Group (owned by Glanbia Nutritionals) has been an innovator of custom flavours since 2006. The company received funding through the Canadian Food Innovation Network’s (CFIN’s) Food Innovation Challenge in 2022 to develop a natural antimicrobial for eliminating multi-resistant fungal contaminants found in concentrated fruit syrups and purées.

“We are targeting the problem of food waste, which is predominant in all modern industries in all modern countries,” explains Guillaume Brault, R&D scientist leader at Foodarom, noting that “[products with] very high sugar, cane syrup, jams, fruit syrups, have a lot of long-term stability problems with yeasts and moulds.”

Relocalize

Montreal’s Relocalize also received CFIN funding for its project to demonstrate the world’s first autonomous micro-factory for food and beverage. The project will “demonstrate the decarbonization, cost reduction and product improvement benefits of hyper-local food,” says Wayne McIntyre, co-founder and CEO of Relocalize. McIntyre adds the company’s mission is “to make packaged food and beverage products better, greener, and more affordable.”

Still Good Foods

Another company tackling food waste and greenhouse gas emissions is Montreal-based Still Good Foods. It works with local food and beverage partners to upcycle ingredients that are by-products of the manufacturing process, are “still good” and nutritious, and transform them into flour, baking mixes, cookies, granola etc. Since launching in 2019, Still Good Foods has transformed more than 1.4 million lb of spent grain, and almost 450,000 lb of fruit, vegetables, and pulp.

Meatleo

According to TRACXN, which tracks startups globally, there are almost 50 foodtech startups in Montreal alone. Just outside the city in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville is Meatleo, a foodtech developing cultivated beef through a proprietary precision fermentation process. Meatleo founder, president, and CEO Pierre Normandin writes on the company’s site, “Cultured meat and Meatleo could make a significant contribution to addressing a huge need to improve animal welfare, substantially reduce greenhouse gases and increase food security (from sourcing to reducing the risk of zoonotic diseases). An opportunity like I’ve rarely seen.”

Julie Daigle is regional innovation director for Quebec for the Canadian Food Innovation Network, a national organization stimulating innovation across the Canadian food sector. Contact her at julie@cfin-rcia.ca.

This column was originally published in the February/March 2024 issue of Food in Canada.


Print this page

Advertisement

Stories continue below