Will the New Canada's Food Guide Change Foodservice Menus & the Way Canadians Eat?
By Dwayne Reno
On January 22, the Canadian government launched the new Canada Food Guide. However, the new Food Guide has been stirring up debates among Canadian food brands and professionals long before the recent relaunch. Some brands are concerned that they will soon be left off Canadian dinner plates while others believe that these changes are long overdue and could not have come at a better time. In this month's blog, I would like to look at the new Food Guide and its potential for change as more Canadians start to adhere to the new recommendations.
What's All the Fuss About?
The new Food Guild was relaunched on January 22, 2019, and includes the Canadian health minister’s recommendation on how Canadians should experience food, HERE. Now, let’s take a look at some of these new recommendations.
The new Canada’s food guide recommends that Canadians should:
• eat plenty of vegetables and fruits,
• eat protein foods (lots of beans, nuts, seeds and some meats/dairy products),
• choose whole grain foods, and
• make water your drink of choice.
The new Canada’s Food Guide also encourages Canadians to:
• cook more often,
• enjoy food (eat slower and saver your food),
• be mindful of food labels,
• limit foods high in sodium, sugar and saturated fats,
• eat meals with others.
One of the biggest changes in this Food Guide is the emphasis on eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables over previous years, and the tone down emphasis on eating meat. Another change from previous years is drinking water instead of fruit juices as a better choice for Canadians, especially children. Lastly, like meat, dairy no longer has its own category and is not as heavily promoted as in previous Food Guides. However, these new recommendations have been met with mixed reactions depending on who you are speaking too.
Following the launch of the new Canada's food guide, Plant Based Foods of Canada, a company comprised of food companies that make and market plant-based products issued this statement. "The changes we're seeing in the updated Canada Food Guide reflect a broader societal trend towards greater consumption of plant-based foods that promises to continue in the years to come," explains Beena Goldenberg, CEO, Hain Celestial Canada.
"Public health research shows that the key to better eating is changing the food environment, which means not just educating people about what they should eat but also ensuring that great tasting plant-based goods are widely available, convenient and affordable. Plant-Based Foods of Canada is well positioned to work with government and key stakeholders to make that happen."
Some of the members of Plant Based Foods of Canada are Danone, Conagra Brands and Beyond Meat Canada.
On the other hand Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC), the largest trade association representing food, beverage and consumer goods manufacturers in Canada issued the below statement in a recent press release. "Canadians should be limiting their intake of nutrients of concern, such as sodium, sugar and saturated fats," explains Michi Furuya Chang, Registered Dietitian and FCPC's Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Regulatory Affairs. "However, categorizing food as 'highly processed' unfairly vilifies food that can be part of a healthy diet and that many Canadians rely upon as a convenient, affordable, safe and nutritious option."
Members of Food & Consumer Products of Canada include food industry giants such as Campbells, Dole and General Mills.
Will Consumer Expectations Change Based on the New Food Guild Recommendations?
Consumer expectations have already started to change, these changes are also behind the shift toward food transparency and clean labels we're witnessing today. Very recently Chipotle announced a new series of television ads that would educate consumers about the brand's commitment to serving "real food." The ads are shot by famed documentarian Errol Morris, and features Chipotle employees and farming partners, HERE. With the food industry already undergoing changes in consumer habits, the last thing some of these brands need is a government-driven change that will further impact their bottom line.
In a recent press release titled Milk Products are a Key Part of a Healthy, Balanced Diet, Isabelle Neiderer, Director, Nutrition & Researcher at Dairy Farmers of Canada made the following statement, "while the food guide has changed, milk products continue to play a valuable role in helping Canadians make healthy-eating decisions on a daily basis." She went on to say, "the scientific evidence supporting the nutritional benefits of milk products in the promotion of bone health and prevention of chronic diseases, for instance, is stronger than ever, and new evidence continues to accumulate." She also stated that "current and emerging scientific evidence does not support a continued focus on lower fat milk products as it reveals that milk products that contain more fat are not associated with harmful health effects and could even provide benefits."
This response comes as a preemptive measure since dairy products, long favoured by the Canadian government will no longer carry its own category in the new Food Guide and must now share the protein category with other protein-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans). The loss of its own food category will be huge for the Canadian dairy industry, which has already started to lose profits due to the emergence of milk alternatives and looming trade deals.
Recently a very popular brand of ice cream bars produced by Unilever unveiled its new dairy free and plant-based chocolate ice cream bars, HERE. Furthermore, Ben & Jerry's announced the launch of 2 new non-dairy ice cream products made with almond milk instead of the traditional cow's milk, HERE. The dairy-free market will continue to grow becoming a real threat for the Canadian dairy industry which has more than just CETA and the USMCA trade agreements to worry about.
As the new Food Guide begins to take hold, Canadians will want to see these recommendations reflected in the processed foods they consume as well as in their favourite restaurant dishes. Recent studies have shown that restaurants have begun to adopt health-conscious food trends as a way to increase foot traffic and increase profits. A recent report by Technomic stated that:
"The foodservice landscape will become more competitive when it comes to tastier, more innovative healthy menu offerings," says Maia Chang, senior research analyst at Technomic. "This means that more brands will face additional pressure to differentiate through transparency and preparation techniques, as well as brand and sourcing stories."
Foodservice Operators are Adapting to Changing Consumer needs
David Segal, co-founder and of Mad Radish and founder of DAVIDsTEA, released a statement expressing his approval for the changes to the Food Guide saying that he feels Canadian businesses need to adapt to meet consumer’s changing needs.
"Diet is the most important health issue of our time," explains Segal. "Canada's new food guide offers forward-thinking recommendations that will help Canadians eat better, every day. But trying to find a meal that meets those guidelines when you're grabbing a quick bite on the go is really, really hard - that's something that we need to come together and work to change."
Two years ago, David opened Mad Radish, a chain of salad shops with an ingredient-focused, chef-driven menu chock-full of veggies, grains and proteins - many of which are plant-based. Today, Mad Radish has locations in Ottawa and Toronto - with plans in place for a national roll-out.
Another example of foodservice operators adapting to consumer's changing taste includes a popular U.S. bagel house which has recently added dairy free, plant-based cream cheese to its menu. The change is expected to give current customers more choice and help the popular bagel chain reach a new audience of consumers as the dairy-free word continues to spread, HERE.
A Great Starting Point
The new Canada’s Food Guide is in no way perfect, I’m not a consumer of (unfermented) Soy products which are still listed as a health recommendation by the food guide. This comes as no surprise since Canada is one of the largest exporters of soybeans which generates profits for our government. However, I do see the new Food Guide as a great starting point to inject some much-needed balance into the traditional Canadain diet.
Lastly, take this into consideration before making any changes to your menu or fridge at home, if any of the new recommendations in the Food Guide rubs you the wrong way do some research on the topic and never forget “you are what you eat.”
Until next time your customers want to know why they should spend money at your restaurant, bar or cafe so give them the goods!
Dwayne Reno CEO & Founder
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