How to make Canadian food the top choice for global consumers: Canada Food Brand Project releases final report

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With a growing global, middle-class population, increasing demand for quality food and rising consumer expectations about how food is produced, food systems everywhere are being challenged. And, with its natural advantages and positive reputation, Canada is poised to become a global agri-food leader.

Taking that next step will require a strong Canada food brand, which is exactly what Canada 2020’s year-long Food Brand Project set out to assess. Canada 2020, an independent think tank from Ottawa, has been leading a national dialogue on stewarding Canada's food reputation. Informed by the inspiring Barton and Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table reports, the Canada 2020 Food Brand Project catalyzed this timely conversation on how to enable the country’s agri-food ambition.

Over the past year, the project engaged nearly 600 food system stakeholders, including Protein Industries Canada (PIC), to find out how to make Canadian food the top choice for global consumers in the coming decade, and how it should define and defend its claims of safe, nutritious and sustainable food. As one of Canada 2020’s official lab partners, PIC hosted two roundtables in Saskatoon and Winnipeg in 2019 and participated on several others – the outcomes of these sessions helped feed the report’s conclusions and next steps.

The project’s final report was released last week at the Arrell Food Summit, organized by the University of Guelph’s renowned Arrel Food Institute, where industry, government, researchers, and other agri-food stakeholders came together to review the opportunities and challenges for Canada to become the world’s most trusted and sustainable food supplier.

Here are the report’s highlights and recommendations:

  • Food reputation needs to be a strategic priority – how Canada stewards its food claims (e.g., safe, sustainable, nutritious and reliably-supplied) is vital to compete, collaborate, innovate and regulate in this ever-changing marketplace.
  • Canada needs to step-up how it protects its food brand. Three enablers were identified as opportunities for change.
    • People: Accelerate systems-thinking and add more diverse voices in government roundtables and industry boards.
    • Metrics: Canada needs a consolidated set of metrics to show what industry is doing to deliver on key food claims and a new index to benchmark progress against global environmental, social and governance principles as well as the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.
    • Policy: To be a more predictable jurisdiction, accelerating regulatory decisions need to be science-based, but clarifying what this means is a priority as well as adapting to changing science.

The report concludes that these three enablers will justify more balanced policy-making and present Canada as a safe harbour for investors. As for next steps, the report states “at the cusp of the next policy agenda, it is up to agri-food stakeholders to decide whether this is important enough to take the necessary steps to, indeed, become one of the world’s most
trusted and sustainable food suppliers.”

Looking Forward

The enablers that were highlighted in the Canada 2020’s final report are well-aligned with PIC’s Ecosystem Strategy and our mission to invest collaboratively to accelerate innovation and the competitiveness of the Canadian plant protein sector.

Our Ecosystem Strategy includes eight priority areas, including Canada’s Global Brand, Regulatory Reform, Talent & Skills, Data & ICT Management, to name a few. We are working to do things differently and inspire collaboration in the prairies and on a national level and the work done by Canada 2020’s will help guide our projects.

At PIC, we are committed to making Canada’s food reputation a priority, and with our industry partners, we’ll help implement the project’s recommendations – with the ultimate goal of making Canadian food the top choice for global consumers in the coming decade.

Working together, we will build a shared competitive advantage for Canada.