It sounds ambitious: grow the global plant-based foods market to CND$250 billion, including CDN$180 billion in alternative-meat products, with Canada supplying 10 per cent of the food and ingredients needed to sustain said market. But while ambitious, it’s a goal that’s both achievable and necessary to the future of Canada.
However, it will also take work. In order to grow our plant-based food, feed and ingredients sector while also keeping pace with those of our international competitors, Canada will need to invest in a number of areas. The Ernst and Young report recently commissioned by Protein Industries Canada identifies six in particular:
• Implementing diversified strategies;
• Advancing processing capabilities;
• Enabling ingredient manufacturing and formulation;
• Improving branding and showcasing Canada’s competitive positioning;
• Facilitating regulatory modernization and improving interjurisdictional coordination and collaboration; and
• Improving access to capital.
“We really need to think about developing our innovation economy, improving the business acumen of our organizations, creating a better line of sight between our ingredient manufacturers and consumer packaged goods companies, improving the access to capital,” Protein Industries Canada CEO Bill Greuel said. “We need all of this to be successful.”
While attention needs to be paid to each of these key actions, Greuel added that Canada may benefit from giving four in particular a little extra focus to start: advancing processing capabilities, diversifying strategies, improving interjurisdictional coordination and collaboration, and improving access to capital.
Canada still has a relatively small plant-protein processing sector; the majority of our raw commodities are exported, and then some return to the country in a processed form. Not only will building out our ability to process more of those commodities here at home help achieve our goal related to the global plant-based food market, it will also help make our agrifood sector more sustainable by limiting transportation of commodities.
There are steps we need to take in order to build out those processing capabilities, however. One of the largest is improving the sector’s access to capital.
“The amount of capital required is significant,” Greuel said. “We have to find a way to ensure that these companies that are two to three years away from positive revenue generation and need a significant amount of capital to build a processing facility can have the capital they need to build that. That’s not an easy problem to solve.”
One of the ways to help attract the interest of the capital community is to diversify what the processing sector has to offer. Focusing on one area of plant-based foods won’t get Canada to its 10 per cent goal; we need to supply all plant-based foods and beverages, while using a diverse selection of crops, ingredients, technology and processing methods to develop them.
With these diversified strategies, however, comes challenges related to the use of new technologies and ingredients. Improving coordination and collaboration can go a long way toward filling this knowledge gap as it occurs.
“We’re the new kids on the block,” Greuel said. “Yellow pea protein, canola protein, fava protein—all new, all have different functionalities, all have different properties, all have different applications. And so, really to create opportunities for the ingredient manufacturers to iterate and innovate directly with consumer packaged goods companies in an open-innovation model will really be critical to the long-term growth of the sector.”
Combined, the success of these actions can help Canada meet its potential within the global plant-based food, feed and ingredients sector. Join Protein Industries Canada next week as we take another look at the Ernst and Young Report—its findings, what it means for Canada and how Canada should act on it.