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A guide to food innovation in Canada

Innovation is at the core of evolution across industries, but in the food sector, being at the forefront can make all the difference.

What is food innovation?

Food innovation involves the development and implementation of new ideas, technologies and processes that aim to improve various aspects of the food industry. From sustainable agriculture to food technology and automation, advancements in the Canadian food industry are a hot topic of conversation among both consumers and producers.

Economic growth, improving food security, and addressing emerging challenges in the industry are just a few of the reasons embracing food innovation is vital for the industry in Canada.

Food innovation has historically been the answer to combatting existing challenges facing the industry but as time goes on, more producers are coming up with unique solutions to future problems and uncovering new opportunities to add value in the process.

How does food innovation contribute to the growth of the Canadian food industry?

Canada’s key food industry sectors – agriculture, aquaculture, food processing, food service, retail, and food technology – are all on a mission to drive product development, improve efficiencies, increase competitiveness, expand market opportunity, all in an effort to meet evolving consumer needs.

Functional foods, plant-based alternatives, clean products, and sustainable farming practices are some of the main innovations in the Canadian food industry that have not only benefited the consumer but have changed the way the industry operates.

Locally grown, made, or produced goods have created their own space in the market, and are transforming the way food is seen and purchased across the country, and giving a boost to small and mid-sized business from coast to coast.

What are the latest trends in food innovation?

The Canadian food industry is in a state of evolution. Consumer needs and demands have shifted in recent years to clean, functional, sustainable, and transparent products, focussing their attention on the businesses that make those products.

The COVID-19 pandemic completely transformed the food delivery system and influenced the adoption of technology to help businesses reach their customers in new and effective ways, a reactive approach that has shaped the future of technology in the industry.

As climate change continues to be a topic of concerns for many Canadians, and governments around the world, sustainability throughout the entire food chain is a growing necessity for producers and processors looking to stay competitive. And with the potential for regulatory reporting requirements across Canada coming soon, being transparent about impact and goal setting will be vital for those in the food industry.

Non-alcoholic beverages, personalized nutrition, and plant-based products continue to be popular among consumers as Canadians prioritize food that promotes a healthy lifestyle without preservatives or difficult-to-pronounce ingredients.

How is technology driving innovation in the Canadian food sector?

Technology has a key role to play in contributing to innovation in the Canadian food sector.

As food insecurity continues to be a significant issue facing many Canadians, advancements such as vertical farming or in-depth modelling of weather patterns to better predict and ideally, prevent or decrease the impact on crops, can have a lasting impact on consumers.

Supply chain disruptions can also be mitigated with the use of blockchain technology, data analytics and predictive modelling, and AI-powered inventory management.

Technology-driven risk management tools are another area of significance where technology can impact, allowing for business to focus on investments in risk mitigation strategies instead of reactionary measures.

Trends and consumer behaviour patterns can be assessed using predictive analytics to help processors and producers stay ahead of the curve, remain competitive, and grow business without needing to invest a significant amount of time and money on market research.

With the recent introduction of AI, the opportunities, and risks that come along with them, are seemingly endless. Harnessing the power of technology with human experience and insight presents a wide range of possibilities for innovation in the food industry.

What support and funding programs are available to food innovators?

There are several supports available for food innovators in Canada, including:

  • AgriInnovate and other Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) programs
  • The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program for small and medium-sized businesses
  • Seed, start-up, and scale-up funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada
  • Research and innovation funding through Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
  • Various funding programs through the Canadian Food Innovation Network

An MNP advisor can determine which funding programs and grants you may be eligible for and assist you throughout the application process and beyond.

What does the future look like for food innovation in Canada?

Many of the trends that exist today in the Canadian food industry will likely persist for the foreseeable future as more consumers look for products run by companies that operate with sustainability and transparency in the forefront.

Food security will continue to be an issue for many Canadians, but as technological advancements abound, so too will solutions for this growing issue.

Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) policies may soon be mandatory across Canada, as noted following new International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) guidelines on financial and climate data, which will have far reaching impacts on all industries. Growing calls from consumers for policies that recognize the importance of these issues, plus regulatory requirements, will put the food industry under the microscope and inspire change throughout.

Contact us

Matt MacDonald MBA

National Leader, Food & Beverage Processing

Matt is MNP’s National Leader of the Firm’s Food and Beverage Processing practice and a Business Advisor, Assurance and Accounting, in Mississauga. Matt proactively helps clients manage their business and set strategic goals for both their personal and professional futures. By leveraging his extensive experience working with family businesses and clients across multiple sectors, Matt helps his clients implement practical business advisory, tax, and accounting strategies, along with strong business fundamentals.

An active participant in the food and beverage processing industry and various associations across Canada, Matt brings more than 15 years of experience to his role as a trusted advisor.

Matt received an Honours Bachelor of Arts (BA) in political science and economics from McMaster University and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in executive leadership and finance from Liberty University.

Matt has extensive board experience in both the private and not-for-profit sectors, most recently serving as a national director for Make-A-Wish Canada. He sits on the Oakville Chamber of Commerce board of directors.