The Future of Food Processing in Canada. Dr. David Sparling discusses the food processing industry in Canada. From Ivey Business.
It is interesting to note that, despite significant improvements in agricultural production, this figure has remained almost unchanged since 1971. In contrast, employment in the restaurant business expanded by an astounding 122% during the same period, from about 200 000 in 1971 to 444 900 in 1986. The third-largest sector, retail, has a work force of 230 500, followed by manufacturing with 220 200 and wholesale with 61 800.
In some provinces, employment exceeds the 13.4% national figure: in Sask 26%of the labour force is engaged in agribusiness, in PEI 25%, in Nfld 19%, in Man 17%, in NB 15.8%, in NS 14.6% and in Alta 13.9%. Only Qué (12.5%), Ont (12.2%) and BC (11.6%) fall below the national average.
The food and beverage industries consist of 17 sectors: MEAT-PROCESSING INDUSTRY, with 535 plants in operation in 1985; poultry-processing industry, 96; fish products industry, 390; DAIRY INDUSTRY, 394; CONFECTIONERY INDUSTRY, 121; SUGAR INDUSTRY, 9; FRUIT AND VEGETABLE INDUSTRY, 222; BAKING INDUSTRY, 1473; biscuit industry, 31; miscellaneous food industries, 356; VEGETABLE OIL INDUSTRY, 11; feed industries, 554; flour and breakfast cereal industry, 58; SOFT-DRINK INDUSTRY, 187; DISTILLING INDUSTRY, 30; BREWING INDUSTRY, 41; WINE INDUSTRY, 46.
This industrial complex is one of the world's most modern and efficient food and beverage production systems. Statistics Canada data show that, in 1996, Canadians spent only 9.8% of personal disposable income on food and nonalcoholic beverages consumed at or away from home; in 1983, 20.1%; in 1981, 21.2%. The proportions of personal income for food and beverage purchases at stores for home consumption suggest a similar trend: from 14.5% in 1977 to 14% in 1983.
Food purchases in restaurants average about 4% of disposable income between 1971 and 1983. The cost of eating was lower in the US (16.1%), France (18.9%) and Switzerland (19.9%). Other developed countries spend considerably more, eg, West Germany, 23.7%, Japan, 24.8%, Italy, 29.1%, and Greece, 35.6%. It has been estimated that consumers in most Soviet Bloc countries spend more than 35% of income on food and beverages.
In contrast, Canadian food and beverage industries have had some of the lowest levels of profitability of all Canadian industries. There has been a steady decline in recent years; however, in 1986, after-tax profit per dollar of sales was 4.6%, a noticeable increase from the decreases of 2.25% in 1980 and 2.63% in 1978. Despite low profits, the food and beverage industries continue to invest heavily in building new plants, expanding and modernizing existing facilities, and purchasing newer, more efficient process and packaging systems.
Paradoxically, food- and beverage-processing companies are high-risk operations in environmental terms because of the wastes they produce. Unlike industrial wastes polluted with toxic chemicals, effluents from food operations are a problem because of their high nutritional value. If such wastes are released untreated to surface waters, a rapid and unacceptable growth of ALGAE and bacteria may occur. In the case of algae, such development depletes the oxygen supply, destroying fish populations.
As a result, Environment Canada strictly enforces a set of effluent guidelines for every type of food- and beverage-processing operation; several provinces have even more demanding food-industry waste guidelines. The food and beverage industries are among the most highly regulated industries in Canada, affected by regulations administered by several federal and provincial departments (see FOOD LEGISLATION).
The industry employs the most modern processing and packaging techniques. For example, thermal processing of foods and beverages in cans, glass and other forms of rigid packaging permits products to be stored at room temperature for several years without deterioration in product flavour or nutritional quality. Other methods of food preservation used in Canada include freezing, freeze-drying, drying, pasteurization, pickling and fermentation.
Canadian companies are often leaders in North America in introducing new processing and packaging methods. A recent example is the use of the retortable pouch (the so-called soft tin can) for the production of shelf-stable products. Aseptic packaging of milk and fruit juices in laminated (paper and plastic) containers, a technique developed in Europe, first appeared in Canada in 1965 and was well established by the late 1980s.
One other sophisticated processing technique, food irradiation, is now being used in North America, and Canadian researchers at ATOMIC ENERGY OF CANADA LTD have been prime movers in developing this completely safe approach to food preservation. In 1987 there were over 145 irradiation installations in the world, more than 66% developed and built by AECL. Most of the systems are used to produce sterile medical and drug supplies and packaging materials, but there are 10 which are employed full time and some 30 others part time for food preservation. In 1983 the Health Protection Branch initiated a proposal that irradiation be reclassified as a food-processing method, rather than as an additive.
Most sectors of the food and beverage industries are represented by a national association, often supported by provincial counterparts. A major function of these associations is to gain industry consensus on issues affecting their sector and to consult with governments on these problems. They also act as information clearing houses.
Author ROBERT F. BARRATT
Links to Other Sites
George Weston Limited
The website for George Weston Limited, one of North America’s largest food processing and distribution companies. Provides corporate news and information as well as a link to The W. Garfield Weston Foundation website.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
See the latest news about food saftey issues in Canada from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Breakfast sandwiches constrict blood flow within hours of eating
A news story about the ill effects of fast food breakfast meals. From thestar.com.
Food Safety Network
An extensive online information source about food safety for the general public. From the Food Safety Network (FSN) at the University of Guelph.
Canadian Food Firsts
This Canadian Geographic website features more that 100 years of Canadian culinary claims to fame.
The online home of TMX Group, which owns and operates the Toronto Stock Exchange and the TSX Venture Exchange. For real-time and historical market data, sector profiles, and financial information about listed companies, click on listed company directory on left side of page or enter stock symbol in the search box.
McCain Foods Limited
The website for McCain Foods Limited, the world’s largest producer of frozen potato products. Also produces green vegetables, desserts and other quality food products.
Canadian Culinary Federation
See what’s cooking at the CCFCC, Canada’s largest professional association of culinarians. Many tantalizing tidbits of information about the Canadian Culinary Institute, Culinary Team Canada, career opportunities, and even a few gourmet recipes.
Public Health Agency of Canada
Check this site for the latest news about current health issues. Covers chronic disease prevention, public health emergencies, infectious disease outbreaks, and other topics related to health hazards.
See colourful online articles about farm to fork food safety issues of concern to consumers. From "Food Quality", a US magazine.
Glossary: Water Treatment
A bilingual listing of terms related to sources and processing of water. From the Government of Québec website.
What is Listeria?
A fact sheet about Listeria bacteria and Listeriosis. Covers causes, symptoms, risk factors, and related public health issues. A Government of Ontario website.
Consumers Council of Canada
The website for the Consumers Council of Canada, an organization that "works collaboratively with consumers, business, and government in support of consumers' rights and responsibilities."
Glossary: Meat Processing Regulation and Inspection
A glossary of terms related to regulation and inspection of meat processing operations. From the Ministry of the Attorney General, Province of Ontario.
Vegetable Oil Industry of Canada
The website for the Vegetable Oil Industry of Canada, an industry group representing oilseed growers, processors, suppliers, and related sectors across Canada.
Is there too much salt in food?
A news article about the amount of salt contained in processed food consumed by Canadians. From healthzone.ca.
Health Consequences with High Fructose Corn Syrup Consumption
An article about health risks associated with the consumption of high fructose corn syrup. From the website for the University of British Columbia.
Cancer cells slurp up fructose, U.S. study finds
A brief article about some types of cancer cells that show a preference for fructose, a food additive sweetener found in many processed foods. From the healthzone.ca website.
A profile of Tong Louie, an esteemed Vancouver entrepreneur and philanthropist. From the UBC Faculty of Land and Food Systems.
Search the Reuters website for the latest news and reports about specific Canadian companies and business sectors.
'Myth busting' McCain gives oven chips a makeover
An article about new products produced by McCain Foods in response to demands for healthier processed food choices. From foodmanufacture.co.uk.
Foodservice and Hospitality
The website for Foodservice and Hospitality magazine. See online articles and other special features, recipes, and more.