It’s hard to believe that another year at Protein Industries Canada is coming to an end. It seems that time continues to speed up, year after year. To think five years ago, in December of 2018, Protein Industries Canada was nothing more than myself and a laptop. Today we are 26 staff from Vancouver Island to Prince Edward Island and are accomplishing much more than when it was just me and that laptop.
This past year was momentous for Protein Industries Canada. First, we successfully wrapped up Fund I, finishing with 55 projects and nearly half a billion in investment. From those projects, we have seen new processes, products and services – including 437 new IP assets. From firsthand experience, I can say that the innovation that has come about over the past five years is significant. The products have improved tremendously as we continue to focus on taste and texture and work to meet ever-evolving consumer expectations. I truly believe our approach to value-chain innovation has been key in the progress of the sector. By bringing partners together we have been able to collaborate to create new ingredients and food products at a much quicker rate. It has also allowed companies flexibility in tying new feedstocks and ingredients. The results are a wider range of ingredients, coming from a wider range of crops, creating a more diversified suite of foods – from the meat aisle and bakery aisle, to snack foods and dairy replacements.
Second, in February, it was announced that we had been recapitalized by the Government of Canada for another five years. This not only meant that we at Protein Industries Canada could keep progressing on our mandate, but it was also a signal that the work of value-added processing and ingredient manufacturing was important to the Government of Canada. This recapitalization allowed us to keep progressing with our investments into technology, and in March we opened our first call for projects. Since that time, we have opened two additional calls, including a special call with Innovate UK – our first international R&D collaboration. Those calls resulted in more than a billion dollars in total projects. I think this is significant for two reasons: One, it shows that even with some challenging years, companies are still confident enough to make investments. Two, it demonstrates that the co-investment model into collaborative R&D works. While not all of those projects will be successful or receive co-investment, it is a significant indicator of the strength of the industry and the success of the program. From the projects that were successful in progressing through the program, one-third of partners in projects are new to the ecosystem — again a positive sign.
However, when we look to the broader ecosystem and economy, there are no doubt challenges. High interest rates, increased competition from other countries and China dumping pea protein in the United States are all realities facing our industry. And while it is easy to focus on the negative, we must remember that the foundations of the industry — a growing global population with a need for more protein and a shift in consumer values — remain true. Heading into 2024, I would say the tone is cautious optimism. While there may be turbulence in the short term, the expectation is that in the long term the industry will come out stronger and more stable.
For Protein Industries Canada, 2024 will see us continuing to advance our Technology Leadership, Artificial Intelligence and Capacity Building programs. We have started making announcements for Fund II, and I am very excited to see the results of these projects. In April we are excited to host the second Plant Forward with Pulse Canada and Plant-Based Foods of Canada. Throughout the year we will continue advocating for the industry – working to make progress on The Road to $25 Billion. It has become clear that in the short term, we are going to have to work domestically to find a solution to the investment capital challenge, and that is our current focus.
As we head into the holiday season, I hope you find time to spend with friends and family. Thank you all for your continued support of Protein Industries Canada and I look forward to connecting in 2024.