Plant protein sector asks feds for regulatory changes

Federal government officials say they are “fired up” about the opportunities presented by plant-based protein, but the industry says modernizing the regulatory system will be key to realizing those opportunities. | File photo

If Canada wants to meet its goals and potential for being one of the globe’s plant protein powerhouses, it needs to fix its regulatory system.

That was the message from Protein Industries Canada’s Bill Greuel during a session with International Trade Minister Mary Ng and Export Development Canada’s Peter Hall.

“We do not have a regulatory system that’s keeping pace,” warned Greuel to Ng, who is an enthusiastic supporter of the sector.

“We need to send a signal that Canada is a hub for innovation in the plant-based food sector.”

Ng and Hall said plant-based protein offers Canada a chance to bound ahead in exports as world demand grows and production capacity lags.

Many countries will want a cut of the estimated $250 billion market by 2035, but Canada has competitive advantages that give it an edge.

“The race to own the podium is on,” said Ng.

“Canada and our agrifood and agritech sectors can absolutely lead.”

Ng said companies like Winnipeg’s Merit Functional Foods and Saskatoon’s Three Farmers show Canadian companies rising to the challenge and opportunity.

“Moving from local stores to global shelves in Singapore and Japan, your sites on Mexico and Australia,” said Ng, describing the Saskatoon specialty ingredients company’s development.

“By leveraging Canada’s free trade agreements and seizing the market opportunities that are ahead, I think you are well on your way of owning the plant-based foodie podium.”

Hall said he is stunned by the amount of consumer demand growth in Asia, particularly in China. Tens of millions of people are joining the middle class every year, and their demand for high value and processed foods is surging.

Canada, with its people, resources and stable society, is ideally situated to supply that growing market.

“I couldn’t be more fired up about this kind of opportunity because quite frankly I can go to a number of different industries and not find anything like the rates of growth that we are seeing here,” said Hall.

Greuel shared their enthusiasm and optimistic view, as well as the goal of Canada supplying 10 percent of the 2035 market of $250 billion.

“At Protein Industries Canada we’re working to secure our share of that market,” said Greuel.

That involves his organization, one of the federally established “superclusters,” helping fund numerous companies that are developing plant protein products, processes and production.

Right now processing and production aren’t increasing at a fast enough rate to capture all the opportunities, he said, so there’s lots of room to grow.

However, while Canada officially supports boosting plant protein and other types of industrial innovation, the current regulatory system doesn’t adequately encourage and protect innovation, he said.

Modernizing the regulatory system will be key to Canada realizing its goals and opportunities, he said.

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