Food In Canada

Strategies to compete – let’s dig deeper

By Gary Fread   

Business Operations Grain & Oilseed Milling agri-food Exports

Gary Fread discusses his vision for Canada Food Inc.

A couple articles back I proposed a mission statement and vision for Canada Food Inc., and the strategies to achieve them. Let’s go into a bit more depth on what that means.

As the mission or mandate of the sector, we suggested, “To create food that is globally competitive and financially sustainable for the whole sector.” And as the vision, destination or goal we suggested “Canada = Food. By 2020, Canada is the global leader in the food industry.”

If Canada Food Inc. were a large corporation, it would be a very complex one, likely divided into a number of business units and operating divisions. What would such an entity do with regard to strategy? There would no doubt be a corporate vision, mission statement and strategies that together comprise the corporate business plan. Then each business unit/operating division would develop its own strategic plan based on its businesses’ needs and goals, but tied into the corporate plan.

A diversified business


So what would Canada Food Inc. look like? There would be a number of business units, beginning with the Red Meat Business Unit, with “brands” such as Canada Beef, Canada Pork, Canada Lamb, and perhaps some minor brands. Remember, many corporate business units do have brands that compete to some degree with one another. This business unit would include the growers in each brand, the slaughter companies, the meat processors, and so on. Its suppliers would be the agriculture input suppliers, the logistics and other service providers, equipment and packaging companies. The customers are the food retailers and foodservice operators in both domestic and external markets.

There would also be the Poultry Business Unit, featuring Canada Chicken, Canada Turkey, Canada Eggs, and again some minor brands. Other business units would include Dairy; Fish and Seafood; Fruit and Vegetables; Grains, Oilseeds, and Pulses; and Beverages, which would include bottled water, soft drinks, coffee and tea, brewers, vintners and distillers. One could argue that there should be a Complex Processing Business Unit that would include fresh, frozen, and heat processed products containing many commodities to make up a full or partial meal (for example, soups and frozen dinners), as well as products such as confectionery that rely to a great extent on imported commodities like sugar and cocoa. There could also be other business units I may have missed.

Combined strategies

So let’s say there is an overall corporate strategic plan, with strategies as we previously suggested:
1.    Become the most innovative food sector in the world;
2.    Become one of the most productive food sectors in the world;
3.    Become one of the most sustainable food sectors in the world, with a focus on food safety and security, environmental sustainability and social responsibility;
4.    Become a large net exporter of value-added products; and,
5.    Create a regulatory structure in Canada related to food that enables strategies one to four, and is seen as “global best practice.”

Each business unit would then need a strategy related to those corporate strategies, but perhaps tweaked a bit to the needs of the business unit. For instance, the strategy for the Red Meat division may be slightly different than Poultry’s, but each would still be inline with achieving the overall corporate goal.

The question of leadership

Now the big question: Who should develop these strategic plans since there is no CEO or business unit general managers, and no corporate infrastructure? Well, it could still be done. How do not-for-profits develop their strategic plans? They usually have a Board of Directors made up of representatives from their stakeholders and/or the communities they serve. They set the overall direction, and then the organization’s employees go deeper and set up the actual action plans to achieve the strategy.

So if we could create a collaborative, co-ordinating team for food featuring leaders from each of the business units, with all levels of the industry represented, as well as government policy makers and other key stakeholders (such as input suppliers, finance, logistics, customers and market analysts) couldn’t we accomplish the task? Each business unit would also require a similar team.

Sound a little too off the wall for Canadian mindsets? Maybe, but think about it – it could lead to Canada’s food sector being the best in the world. Oh, isn’t that the vision?

Next time, I want to dig deeper into how this might work.

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

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