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2021 #SIALConnectCanada Highlights


On September 21, the 2021 #SIALConnectCanada virtual conference featured eight of Canada’s most respected agri-food industry professionals sharing expertise on the future of food innovation. SUSTA's Canadian consultant, Argyle Public Relationship, gathered some interesting highlights and key takeaways from the sessions, which are shared below.

Economic Outlook for the Food Industry
Jean-Phillipe Gervais, Vice-President and Chief Economist, Farm Credit Canada

Jean-Phillipe Gervais highlighted six trends that will impact the economic outlook of the food industry in Canada, including:

  • A positive trend for economic recovery is expected in the second half of 2021 and beginning of 2022. The saving rate of Canadians has increased 12% since pre-pandemic rates pushing for pent-up demand to be released.
  • In August 2021, food inflation was 2.7% and is continuing to accelerate. Despite this, there is no significant concern with regards to future inflation.
  • There has been a substantial price increase of ag commodities since 2019-2020.
  • Food processing sales are predicted to trend up in Canada for the remainder of 2021. This is heavily impacted by the value of the Canadian Dollar.
  • Job vacancies in the food manufacturing industry are 24-26% higher than a year ago, and almost 100% higher than what they were 5 years ago. This will continue to be an issue when trying to meet the growth of food processing structures.
  • With the reopening of the economy, a rebound in food services is predicted with numbers expected to rise until the end of the year.

Twenty Years of Innovation: Looking back to the past to understand the present and prepare for the future
Dana McCauley, Isabelle Marquis, co-presidents of the SIAL Innovation Awards Jury

Dana McCauley and Isabelle Marquis spoke on the major trends impacting the Canadian food business over the last two decades. Some key points include:

  • Convenience, sustainability and adding a ‘fun’ lens to products should be top-of-mind trends for the food industry
  • Since the early 2000s, convenience has shifted to a more individualistic mindset (e.g., “What will I eat?” vs. “What will the family eat?”
  • Sustainability is a multilayered trend with the millennial mom being one of the most interested demographics as they extend lifestyle to their children
  • Stick to light and fun when marketing your products. It has proven to be more effective with consumers when compared to technical messaging.
  • To have a strong innovation strategy, companies need to take into consideration that trends are more intertwined than ever, for example, convenience tends to come at a cost to sustainability.

What's Next? The Future of Food Innovation Moderator: Dana McCauley, co-president of the SIAL Innovation Awards Jury
Panelists: Isabelle Marquis, Co-president of the SIAL Innovation Awards Jury; Cher Mereweather, President 7 CEO, Provision Coalition; Sylvain Charlebois, Professor and Director, Agri-Food Analytics Lab, Dalhousie University; Dan Clapson, Creative Director, Eat North

The panel focused on the shift towards a sustainable and healthy future of food. Post-pandemic trends show that people are looking to make healthier choices and want partners for a better lifestyle. The shift towards purpose-driven business was discussed as animal welfare, environment and health and wellness play a huge part in consumer choices today. The group also discussed a shift in more sustainable packaging is expected within the sector as well.

Understand and Anticipate Consumers’ Health Imperatives Francis Parisien, Leader SMB, Nielsen IQ Canada

The pandemic caused a shift in consumer behaviour across Canada in making healthy choices. In this presentation, Francis Parisien outlined recent statistics in consumer trends in Canada. Key stats include:

  • 70% of Canadians are actively working to become healthier or maintain current health
  • Since the pandemic:
    • 62% of Canadians say they eat healthier than they used to
    • 71% of Canadians said they were paying attention to how much exercise they were getting
    • Over one-third of Canadians are trying to reduce their sugar and salt intake
  • The top five claims Canadians are open to paying more for: all natural, reduced sugar or sugar-free, no artificial preservatives, no artificial colours, reduced sodium
  • Since 2018, Canadians’ perceptions of private labels have shown improvement, the top reason for purchase is pricing