Recently I was fortunate to spend five days in Toronto, Canada as a speaker at the Canadian Food Summit – amongst some very esteemed colleagues.
The Canadian Food Summit was a platform to launch the new Canadian Food Strategy and was themed ‘From Strategy to Action’. It is reminiscent of South Australia in the late 1990’s. The strategy contains about 400 actions (not sure how that will be achieved!), but interestingly, it is based around five key elements; industry prosperity, healthy food, food safety, household food security and environmental sustainability.
The agri foods industry in Canada is not dissimilar to Australia. There is a report that has been written, but not publicly available; 2013 – An overview of the Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food System. It is a comprehensive analysis of the Canadian agri-food industry which is an important industry to Canada, employing 1 in 8 Canadians (2.1 million people).
Food SA was featured as part of the ‘Implementing a National Food Strategy: International Best Practices and Lessons Learned on Engaging Private and Public Sector Organizations to Take Action’ session. Fellow presenters included James Withers from Scotland Food and Drink, Paul Kelly from Food and Drink Industry Ireland and Maarten Schans from the Ministry of Economic Affairs in the Netherlands.
Whilst Food SA is a state based organisation, the Canadians recognised the work done in South Australia over that past 15 years. Interestingly there are remarkable similarities between the food industries in South Australia/Australia, Scotland, Ireland and Canada. Their industry models are also thought-provoking and both Food SA and South Australia have a lot to learn, particularly from the industry led Scotland model which has produced excellent results. Scotland has developed an industry led food plan where industry committed to activities and targets – all were met in advance and they have revised them up!
Looking into the Canadian market place, the supermarkets are really fascinating. I went to a small supermarket chain, Longo’s and there were many self-serve and attended areas for people to grab their lunch and either eat in or take away. There were about six varieties of soup (and that was popular in -5 degrees!) as well as sandwich bars, salad bars and these took up about 25% of the store. The supermarket presentation was very upmarket and it was certainly well patronised.
I also visited Loblaws, a chain that has many stores across Canada. They have ‘shops within shops’ and a strong presence in all categories. In the fruit and vegetable area they had a signboard ‘Tomato Talk’ which was a really strong tool to promote the different tomatoes from Ontario.
There is a culinary tourism organisation Ontario Culinary doing great things plus an organisation Foodland Ontario that supports local food promoting, amongst other things, seasonality and recipes with seasonal, local food. They use phrases such as ‘Fresh Ontario Food is closer than you think’ and ‘Buying Ontario food is good for you and good for Ontario’. A local food fund of $30 million was set up as a three year investment fund to support innovative projects and a local procurement strategy where Ministries must consider local food when purchasing food for less than $25,000 (Canadian and Australian dollar are on parity at the moment). I noted when eating in restaurants, the lack of identification of provenance. The food was often local, but not referred to specifically in menus.
Guest blog by Catherine Barnett
Catherine Barnett is CEO of Food SA.