Is a national food strategy the right way to go?
Does Canada need a national food plan?
I’m sure that my comments on “Canada Food Inc.,” the use of the Value Chain Roundtables and more involvement by government has raised some questions in some people’s minds about the status of businesses as independent organizations competing with one another within the Canada Food Inc. framework that I’ve spoken of. It has raised those questions in my mind too. But to me, ultimately, it raises the competitiveness level and the long-term success of companies within the industry by allowing them to keep on creating their own strategies that are best for their business, while raising the probability of the whole Canadian food sector having a collaborative framework within which to operate.
If the whole sector were to generally agree that our core purpose or “mission” is to be a key player in feeding the world as the population grows to 10 billion people, while at the same time preserving the planet’s resources required to do that while achieving long-term profitability, I don’t think many people could find a reason not to align with it.
And if the “core values” needed to carry out that mission was value chain collaboration both up and down the commodity value chains, and cross-commodity collaboration where possible to improve our level of excellence in meeting market needs, focusing on product quality, cost and service, as well as corporate social responsibility with regard to food safety and consumer health, and energy and environmental-related issues in order to improve long-term profitability, again I don’t think many people would find a reason not to buy into it.
If our “vision” for Canada Food Inc. were to be seen as the global leader in the food industry in all aspects of operations, that too should appeal to most people in the sector as well as governments, the financial sector, our customers and consumers. Now that is a BHAG (a Big Hairy Audacious Goal), but if we could do it, why wouldn’t we?
And then we would need more BHAGs in the area of strategies to achieve the vision. I believe those strategies then relate back to the core values stated above. We would need strategies like:
- Innovation: Linking our industry technical resources together with the machinery and equipment industry, the packaging industry, food development companies, etc., along with the academics in all of those areas to maximize our science-based innovation.
- Excellence: Utilization of concepts like value chain management, quality management, sourcing and purchasing management, and the logistics industry to maximize quality, maximize customer service, and minimize cost throughout the sector.
- Corporate Social Responsibility: Again, linking the value chain with scientists and academics to continue to improve food safety and the health impacts of food on consumers, as well as how to reduce energy use and use more sustainable energy sources, reduce waste and find some value-added uses for the waste that cannot be eliminated, and improve corporate social responsibility generally.
- Global Focus: This will mean putting a stronger focus on exports of value-added food and beverage products. This will require understanding foreign markets and how we could bring something valuable to them, and then creating the operational structure to do that efficiently and effectively.
- Profitability: Finding ways to link all of the results of these three strategies to improving both short- and long-term profitability from a pure corporate finance standpoint so that Canada Food Inc. becomes the most sustainably profitable sector of the economy.
With strategies in those five focus areas, I know we could become the global leader in the food industry.
In addition, we would need to do some global analysis on Michael Porter’s Five Forces that Shape Strategy: established rivals; customers, both current and potential; suppliers to the entire value chain, for example, packaging or equipment companies; possible new entrants, like other countries, who might try this global approach; and the threat of substitutes (for food, not too likely, but watch out anyway as science does some pretty incredible things).
I guess that sort of summarizes a lot of what I have said in earlier articles, but the more I get into thinking about all of this, the more it strikes me that Canada Food Inc. needs to move in this direction – not as a defensive approach to protecting its markets/market share, but as an innovative approach to achieving something new, different and remarkable. And we would be maintaining our corporate independence in a very businesslike manner.
I know we could be successful. Let’s do it!
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 email@example.com