Canada has the potential to be a plant-based food, feed and ingredients powerhouse. With global demand for meat alternatives set to rise to up to CDN$180 billion by 2035, this potential is on the cusp of becoming a reality.
Already, the country has a firm base to work from within the sector. The Ernst and Young report commissioned by Protein Industries Canada credits this primarily to five key areas: our market access; our sustainable production practices; our agricultural land base and crop production strength; our food safety and quality; and our research, talent and agrifood clusters. While each area can help strengthen and lead to new opportunities in the others, they each also represent important opportunities for Canada individually.
Protein Industries Canada’s CEO, Bill Greuel, said our continued market access will be of particular importance as we aim to meet the rising demand for plant-based foods.
“We have to recognize that Canada is a small country,” he said. “So if you want to have a robust ingredient and food processing industry, we have to think globally right from day one.”
Thanks to our relationship with other G7 nations, Canada is in a prime position to achieve this global footprint. We’re the only G7 nation to have trade agreements with each of the others, including through the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement, Canada-European Union Comprehensive Trade Agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Our ability to capitalize on these trade agreements comes about in part because of the other four strengths cited in the Ernst and Young Report. Greuel noted innovation as a recurring theme within these strengths, particularly as our producers, processors and manufacturers work to adapt new crop varieties or technologies while making the sector more sustainable.
He explained that Canadian producers, for example, are quick to adopt new varieties or add new crops into their crop rotations, which allows Canada to be responsive to market changes in a relatively short amount of time. Our processors and manufacturers, meanwhile, are conscientious of the environment, and how new technologies or establishing facilities closer to where they source their commodities can help strengthen Canada’s reputation as a sustainable source for ingredients and plant-based foods.
Achieving much of this innovation won’t be possible, however, without a skilled workforce and researchers.
“If you think that we have to increase processing capacity to the degree that we have to in Canada today, that will be driven by innovation, and that will be driven by talent,” Greuel said. “We really need to work with Canada’s post-secondary institutions to make sure that we’ve got highly qualified people trained in the science of processing and formulation and food manufacturing, but there’s a whole other component here about ensuring that we’ve got the business and financial acumen.”
Building this strengthened workforce and research sector will also have a ripple effect on the quality of the plant-based food, feed and ingredients Canada develops. As new processors and researchers enter the sector, they look at improving elements like protein content, taste and functionality of commodities used in processing. While improving these elements, however, they keep food safety a priority.
Canada has a strong global reputation for its food safety, built largely because of related regulations. The Ernst and Young Report cites this as one of our key competitive advantages, particularly because our food safety policy resembles that of the European Union. This resemblance, according to the report, provides a particular advantage for Canada in the EU market, while still providing benefits in other areas of the world.
Part of what makes these regulations strong, however, is Canada’s work toward regulatory modernization. While keeping food safety a top priority, the plant-based foods sector is working with government to ensure Canada’s regulations support innovation and encourage new investment into the sector, and the country as a whole.
Canada’s strength in these areas provides us with a solid footing for capturing much of the expected growth in global plant-based food demand, but our work isn’t done. Join Protein Industries Canada over the next few weeks as we discuss how Canada compares to other countries and what steps we can take to improve.