The future of alternative proteins is in Canada

tractor driving in field towards farm

Canada is one of the world’s agricultural powers, ranking as the fifth-largest exporter of agri-food and seafood in the world in 2020. Canada is also a centre of innovation, public support, and financing for the foods of the future – all of which was on display at Future FoodTech Alternative Proteins 2022, held in New York in June.

Plant proteins in Canada

“You’re learning about the best-kept secret in the global plant protein space, which is Canada,” said Bill Greuel, CEO of Protein Industries Canada (PIC), in opening a Breakfast Briefing with Canadian industry leaders and innovators, Collaborating with Canada’s Innovative Ecosystem to Create the Next Generation of Products.

Protein Industries Canada is a Government of Canada-created, industry-led, not-for-profit organization that manages $500 million in innovation investments, with member companies across Canada and around the world, to grow the plant-based food sector in Canada.

“When we think about Canada's natural advantage, it's our production base, its our low-carbon agriculture footprint, the sustainability of the crops. We produce the innovation that we can support in Canada, and this integrated supply chain where we have food manufacturers that can work directly with growers and iterate faster from the innovation perspective,” said Greuel.

Building secure, sustainable supply chains in Canada

Panelists discussed Canada’s foundational advantages in agrifood, which include ample land, high-quality food and food security.

Blair Bullus is President of Wamame Foods, is developing the world’s first wagyu beef alternative made completely from plants, combining Japanese food quality and Canadian innovation.

“We're working with major suppliers right now out of Canada that are able to supply this consistent and stable supply of our ingredients that we need. And so that allows us to kind of take on larger projects that we wouldn't necessarily be able to do, especially with the disruptions in supply chain right now. We don't have to source these products from overseas.”

Blair Knippel concurred that Canada offers access to sustainable and affordable production. He is the Canadian CFO of T Base 4 Investments, owned by Oscar-winning film director James Cameron and his wife Suzy Amis Cameron.

“If you want to have an opportunity to work to create food security and low cost production, you need to be close to where the growers are. And I think that that Canada obviously has a natural advantage to that,” said Knippel.

In addition to food security and low-cost production, Canada offers companies and entrepreneurs a global reputation for ingredient quality and overall environmental sustainability.

“We know that when we're using western Canadian crops, they are the most sustainable crops that we're able to use – from a transportation perspective, from a production perspective. We're getting a lower carbon footprint, so we don't necessarily need to advertise just how great our products are being low carbon, we know that they're low carbon, just because of where they're sourced from,” said Bullus.

Jasmine Byrne is President of Big Mountain Foods, a female owned and family run company, that produces allergen-free, clean-label, plant-based products. Big Mountain Foods recently commissioned a 70,000 square foot facility in Vancouver to make soy-free tofu, and has significant supply chain relationships within Canada.

“Canada's known for being the utmost highest standard, making people trust the Canada brand,’ said Byrne.

Ample support for innovation

Another crucial advantage for Canada in the alternative proteins industry is its innovative ecosystem, which incorporates funding, public and private research capabilities, and a collaborative culture.

“If you're getting a 50% offset from the Government of Canada, it really helps to kind of de-risk that investment. What we were able to do is we and from an international perspective we're able to actually bring in some international partners into our collaboration,” said Bullus.

Chris Bryson, Founder and CEO, New School Foods, won the Gone in 60 Seconds: Start-Up Showcase competition held at the conference for his company’s plant-based seafood alternatives. He said that the Canadian innovation ecosystem is invaluable for an early-stage company that is looking to do new applications – such as plant-based fish – that emulate the characteristics of animal proteins.

“If you're thinking about starting a start-up, coming to Canada makes a lot of sense. So that's been massive for us. And I think also when we talk to other investors, and they recognize that there's this benefit, and there's that Canadian government support. It's encouraging, so it's been amazing,” said Bryson.

The potential for Canada in this industry is summarized in a new report from Natural Products Canada. Game Changers: Canadian Opportunities in Alternative Protein provides a snapshot of the vibrant investment, research and innovation ecosystem already existing in Canada.

Protein Industries Canada and Invest in Canada were country partners at Future FoodTech Alternative Proteins 2022. Invest in Canada works directly with global companies to unlock investment opportunities and facilitate expansion in Canada, bringing together industry, community and government partners to provide seamless services to investors.

Learn more about agriculture in Canada.