The whole process of getting food to mouth is becoming much more complex, especially for those delivering the raw product.
In fact, a first-class bun fight is breaking out between the more traditional purveyors of foodstuffs and the growing contingent of new-wave food sellers, the ones that offer such selling points as "organic", "Omega 3" and "no additives", along with super convenience.
The new-wavers are slowly winning the fight because, increasingly, they’re on the side of consumer righteousness and the new motherhood... apple pie, yes, but only if it improves wellness and extends the average lifespan.
Soon, discriminating consumers are simply not going to put anything in their mouths unless convinced they’ll be the better for it. It’s already happening, with realities such as the shocking rate of obesity, particularly among children, spurring caring consumers in a new direction.
This shift in eating habits is the main reason a new visioning process into the future of Ontario’s agri-food industry launched in Casselman June 4 is likely to be redundant.
This latest effort is under the auspices of the Premier’s Summit Advisory Committee, an overseeing body of accomplished Ontario agricultural leaders common in all such exercises.
Like many such processes which have gone before it, this one involves a series of meetings held in different parts of the province, with stakeholders - mostly by invitation - urged to submit their viewpoints.
Here at The AgriNews where - maybe it’s the humid weather - we can get a tad cynical, we wonder about the point of the effort. In various shapes and forms, such exercises have been conducted many times before, usually with minimal follow up.
And they tend to reinforce the food production and delivery status quo, what has been done for decades, rather than look into the future.
At The AgriNews, we’ve seen the future, and it’s not looking pretty for Canadian food producers, processors and marketers. Another traditional visioning process may just sidetrack the agri-food industry in getting where it needs to go to compete in the new food environment.
We saw the future when we attended the first international Agri-Food Innovation Forum held in Toronto June 19-21 which brought together, both as presenters and delegates, food, nutrition and health experts from across Canada and from other parts of the world.
With the theme "Food, a Healthy Value Proposition", the forum focused on the increasing linkages between agriculture, food and human health.
In a written welcome statement, Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Andy Mitchell said federal researchers and marketers "understand the importance of meeting the growing consumer demand for healthy and nutritious foods."
And OMAF Minister Steve Peters joined in with the comment that today’s Canadian agri-food industry "recognizes that today’s innovation creates tomorrow’s competitive edge."
But after spending two days immersed in forum workshops, we wondered if they and other industy leaders in this country really understand the extent of the revolution - more like a rebellion in many ways - underway by those of us who consume food to survive.
Taking our lead from the two ministers, we came away with our own insightful statements:
"This country’s producers and processors better get with the program. It seems from the forum that countries like Finland, Holland and Japan are years ahead of Canada in delivering to consumers the high convenience, health-enhancing products they want."
And: "In 5-10 years, any processor who can’t guarantee a food product is good for human health and will leave consumers better off won’t be selling much product."
The days of recreational eating are just about over. The conference made it clear with such workshop topics as "Chronic Disease Prevention with Food" and "Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods".
Except on weekends when more leisure time allows it, the tradition of three squares a day is also winding up. On weekdays, busy consumers will want regular, quick health and energy boosts to keep them going while keeping them trim, not just a clued-in minority... everybody.
Be there or be square, producers and processors! And we don’t mean date square... unless it improves wellness and extends the average lifespan.