SIAL Canada Hosts Food Innovation Virtual Event


MONTREAL — Last week, SIAL Canada, the largest food innovation trade show in North America, hosted a virtual event to analyze and discuss current trends in the food industry as well as the future of food innovation.

The half-day event featured a number of industry professionals, including Jean-Philippe Gervais, vice-president and chief economist at Farm Credit Canada (FCC); Dana McCauley, Chief Experience Officer at the Canadian Food Innovation Network; Isabelle Marquis, food marketing and communications specialist; Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, professor in Food Distribution and Policy at Dalhousie University; Cher Mereweather, founder and CEO of Provision Coalition Inc.; Dan Clapson, The Globe and Mail restaurant critic for the Canadian Prairies and co-founder of Eat North; Francis Parisien, SMB leader at NielsenIQ Canada; and Martin Lavoie, CEO of Group Export Agri-Food.

The event kicked off with an overview of the economic performance of the Canadian food industry led by Jean-Philippe Gervais. His presentation reviewed the economic trends and variables that determine the investment context for innovation, competitive pressures along the agri-food supply chain and consumer food purchasing decisions. Specifically, Gervais identified six trends that will continue to shape Canada’s agri-food supply chain in the nearby future, including pent-up demand, food inflation, agricultural commodity pricing, expansion of food processing, labour shortages and rebounding foodservice sales.

“We have significant challenges in finding labour. If we’re not able to find long-lasting solutions that support profitability, we’ll see higher wages in the supply chain as businesses are competing to bring in labour,” said Gervais. “I think this is one of the largest and most significant challenges in the industry going forward.”

To achieve economic stability, Gervais said innovation is key. Businesses must focus on promoting the sector to attract new labour, leveraging technology and coordinating with other businesses in the supply chain to minimize inflationary pressures.

“The outlook is extremely positive for the entire agri-food supply chain,” said Gervais. “We have a few challenges ahead of us, but we need to make sure we speak about the sector in a positive way.”

Following Gervais’ presentation, Dana McCauley and Isabella Marquis discussed three long-term macro trends in food innovation: convenience, health and wellness and sustainability.

“We decided to concentrate on these three macro trends as they are the ones that have had a truly outsized effect on all aspects of food business over the last two decades,” says Marquis.

In essence, McCauley and Marquis report that food innovation trends are more intertwined than ever before, driving brands to work with multiple aspects and striving for improvements.

“We must acknowledge that it’s a very complex topic, and as I like to say to many of the manufacturers that I had the pleasure to work with, don’t try to be perfect. Be real and authentic,” says Marquis. “More than ever, consumers are willing to jump in the wagon and be a part of that journey with companies and with brands.”

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