Canada2020’s David McInnes has a tough time hiding his excitement when talking about the future of food in the country.
Over a two-day event in Ottawa, numerous speakers and delegates brought forward suggestions of how to shape the next agri-food policy agenda, as part of the Canada Food Brand project.
“There’s been a tremendous refocus on priorities, driven by the marketplace and society,” he says. “In the last several years, trust has come up a lot. “Sustainability has come up, but I think it is intensifying.”
That intensity is being driven in part by the realities of climate change, and the changing demands of consumers.
To him, and others at the event, that refocus creates opportunities. Investors are interested – and were in attendance – in putting up the dollars to support the long-term success of Canadian-branded food.
“We’ve seen an evolution. What does that mean for policy? What does that mean with how we compete? These are some of the ideas we’re looking at exploring,” he says.
Already Canada has a strong agri-food sector, ranking high in global measures of food safety performance.
Industry has the capacity to respond to the opportunities presented by challenges – such as climate change and changing consumer demands – facing it.
“The opportunity is, how do we document and leverage that response so that we can present Canada’s positive food brand to the Canadian consumer and to consumers abroad, so we can take advantage of what we’re doing, and so we can step up where we may not be doing enough,” says McInnes.
In the hunt for that leverage, Canada2020’s food brand project met with 300 stakeholders determined to find a different set of benchmarks to judge the performance of the industry, focusing on criteria based upon things like sustainability, which is measured by economic, environmental and social impacts.
In the absence of such criteria, organizations outside of Canada will make those judgments. In many instances, they already do. For example, there are third-party validators for responsible beef production practices, and companies measuring what is certified sustainable seafood.
This is part of the core of everything being done by the food brand project.
A policy agenda will emerge from all of this, with the next step scheduled to take place in Toronto in early December.