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CIFST appears before Standing Senate Committee 26 May 2015

Dr. Allan Paulson's Presentation
to the
Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry

26 May 2015
Ottawa, ON  

Recently, CIFST was invited to appear before the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry to provide insight and commentary regarding its study on international market access priorities for the Canadian agricultural and agri-food sector.  Specifically, the Senate committee asked CIFST to comment on International market access priorities within the context of:

  • the expectations and concerns of stakeholders from the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector;
  • sustainable improvements to the production capabilities of the supply chain;
  • diversity, food security and traceability; and
  • the competitiveness and profitability of Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector (including producers and processors).

On May 26, 2015, Dr. Allan Paulson, who was President of CIFST at that time, appeared before the committee on behalf of CIFST.  Below are Dr. Paulson's remarks, as  well as link to the audio webcast, which includes his presentation and the Question and Answer segment that followed.

To listen to Dr. Paulson's presentation and the Q & A, click on this link and select "audio webcast": 


Dr. Allan Paulson's Presentation
to the
Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry
25 May, 2015
Ottawa, ON

CIFST was founded in 1951. It's the only organization that links food science professionals across the country and across sectors, industry, government and academia. The mission of the institute is to promote food science and technology as a means to ensure a safe, nutritious, wholesome and varied food supply.

We have about 1,100 members per year. About 60 to 65 per cent are from industry, mainly processors and suppliers. We have a very high student component, 20 to 25 per cent who are undergrad students to Ph.D. We have about 10 per cent academics and about 5 per cent from government, so we have the full spectrum.

I'd like to just talk briefly about some of the opportunities and challenges for the food processing sector, primarily with respect to export, first of all the opportunities.

As we all know, we have a growing, worldwide demand for food, and not just food in general but safe, high quality and high value added food. The world population, as we're all aware, is predicted to reach about 9 billion people by the year 2050. Between the years 2007 and 2050, it's predicted that total world food consumption will increase by about 70 per cent it will be 70 per cent higher in 2050 than in 2007 and nearly half of that will be from China alone with their increasing middle class. That's one opportunity.

Another opportunity is demographic. Most people in this room are similar in age to me, more or less, and there's a huge expanding market for food for the elderly that hasn't really been tapped into yet. However, it has been estimated that by 2030, 20 per cent of North America's population and 25 per cent of Europeans will be 65 years of age and over. It's estimated that of the 9 billion people in 2050, about 2 billion will be seniors.

As we get older, we lose sensory acuity, such as vision, hearing, taste, smell, et cetera. We lose cognitive acuity. We get physically weaker, we have difficulty swallowing, and the nutritional requirements change, so this creates a real opportunity for developing foods to meet this growing demographic.

At the same time, we have an epidemic of diet related, chronic, non communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and some forms of cancer. This is another opportunity for foods and food products that will meet the needs of people with those diseases.

Related to that, the global demand for health and wellness products is booming. Presently, it's at about $750 billion U.S. and rising. Canada is actually quite strong in this market. We have about 300 companies taking part, so I can see taking advantage of that opportunity will be something we'll be able to do.

We have an increased demand for ethnic foods, at least domestically. About 17 per cent of households shop at ethnic stores and that hasn't been fully tapped into.

One thing we're at the cusp of is personalized nutrition. This is based on nutrigenomics. This is where parts of our diet are personalized due to our genetic makeup. If anyone wants examples, I can provide some later.

We also have a very strong R&D capacity in the country. We have many food researchers and research institutions across the full spectrum. We have academia, government and tech centres as well as pilot plants. We actually have a lot of resources for food research.

One of the challenges has to do with the makeup of the sector. The food processing industry, as you know, is very large, but the majority of the companies are small. In 2009, about 84 per cent of the food processing sector was made up of companies with less than 50 employees, but these represented only about 17 per cent of sales. By contrast, the four largest companies made up about 42 per cent of sales.

The small and medium sized enterprises are often limited in their ability to access funds for research and development and expansion, and if they want to make health claims if they're in the health food market, for instance the cost of clinical trials is very high. They're also vulnerable to the realities of the food industry, where about 90 per cent of new products fail for one reason or another. If you're a larger company, you can bear that, but if you're a small company, that's a major hit.

Secondly, the sector itself is quite fragmented. There's no single unifying body. They have no check off system for accessing granting programs that require matching funds, such as GF2, and they also don't have a single list of R&D priorities because those priorities change depending upon the size of the companies.

Finally, there are research and development challenges across the sector. We really do have a lot of potential for R&D capacity, but it's not being optimized. We have excellent researchers. We have excellent resources, but they're spread out across the country. The research culture isn't really geared to multi sectoral research. We don't have a culture or a history of, for example, scientists working with health professionals working with lawyers, et cetera. That's something that we're going to have to change if we want to take advantage of these opportunities that have come up.

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