Labour Productivity: Packaging, Labelling and Innovation – Institute of Food Processing Technology (IFPT), Conestoga College
Across the Province, Processors have often indicated that one of their key challenges was staying abreast of regulatory issues and labelling is just one component of that. As a fundamental element to ensure safe food production, distribution and consumer protection, packaging and labelling requires considerable and necessary diligence. It is without a doubt, a big job regardless of the size of the organization. Beyond the regulatory requirements though are also opportunities for branding and marketing and differentiating yourself from competitors. Packaging offers an opportunity to be creative and innovative!
This Special EMC GF2 (Growing Forward 2) Food and Beverage Sector Networking Event was at the request of interested Processors who wanted to connect with Food and Beverage Manufacturing peers, packagers, co-packagers, equipment providers and industry experts regarding the topic at hand. With a variety of companies present, it really presented the perfect forum to share the current regulatory state for Food Labelling in Canada, providing future requirement insight, while exploring branding and marketing possibilities and culminating with one Processor’s successful journey to date. Our session concluded with an overview of the IFPT (Institute of Food Processing Technology), Conestoga College and pilot plant tour kindly provided by our Host. It was without a doubt, a jam-packed morning full of discussion and networking and hopefully helped sew seeds of information required for future growth.
We are very thankful to our Host (IFPT) and to our Guest Speakers (NSF International Inc., Belmont Meats and Raining Communications Inc.) who so willingly shared their expertise and journeys with us. For those interested in our topic at hand, a summary of our discussion follows below:
NSF International Inc., Susan Van Ryswyck - Project Manager, Food and Label Compliance Food Labelling in Canada - www.nsfcanada.ca
We were very fortunate to have Susan Van Ryswyck, Project Manager, Food and Label Compliance, at NSF International Inc. join us for this special networking session. Susan was able to set the “foundation” for us when it came to Food Labelling in Canada. We walked through the Regulatory Landscape as it is now, learned about mandatory labelling requirements, had a quick peak at some of the resources available and then examined potential career opportunities.
When it comes to Regulatory matters, Manufacturers are quick to point out that compliance and staying abreast of them is one of their key challenges. Comments relating to complexity, lack of knowledge, tighter restrictions that may inhibit innovation, and staying ahead of the terminology or jargon (ie. Clean label) were just a few of the thoughts that came to mind when Processors were asked about this. These reasons really help underscore the importance of learning what is mandatory and what is coming down the pipes that we need to know about so that we can plan accordingly. Having industry experts such as Susan to reach out to and knowledge of available online tools can really help ease the burden in this regard.
Some of the key elements that Susan addressed in her presentation follow below:
Regulatory Landscape: We started our session by reviewing the concepts and terminology behind Legislation, Acts, Statutes, Regulations, Policies and Guidelines. There are a number of different Acts that a food, beverage, bio or ag processor may have to comply with depending on their product - some of the main ones are:
- Canadian Agricultural Products Act (CAPA)
- Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act
- Fish Inspection Act
- Health of Animals Act
- Food and Drugs Act
- Meat Inspection Act
- Safe Food for Canadians Act
- CFIA Modernization Act
The Acts (as above) govern Regulations including the Food and Drugs Regulations (one of the most important for those in the Food and Beverage Sector) and the Regulations in turn define enforcement of the Acts. There can also be Provincial and Municipal Regulations that need to be adhered to depending on your location and the nature of your product. Susan mentioned that there may also be other “unique” legislation that has an impact on the food and beverage elements of labelling and advertising – things not so commonly thought of - including:
- the Competition Act
- the Trade-Marks Act
- the Radio and TV Broadcasting Regulations under the Broadcasting Act
- the Weights and Measures Act and Regulations
Upcoming Regulatory changes include the Safe Food for Canadians Act which came into law in November 2012 and requires all manufacturers, importers and exporters to have a license, preventative food safety controls and traceability documents
Health Canada - http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca - establishes policies and regulations and standards relating to the health and safety and nutrition quality of food sold in Canada
CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) is responsible for enforcing Health Canada policies and regulations - http://www.inspection.gc.ca
Mandatory Food Label Information: We reviewed the necessary components of a label including the principal display panel and the key items required (product name, net quantity statement, ingredient listing, allergens, nutrition facts, etc.) and Susan underscored the fact that a label must be an accurate reflection of the ingredients
Nutrition Facts Table and Ingredient List Changes: Our Speaker provided parameters around the Nutrition Facts Table (there is a certain size to adhere to as well when it comes to producing a label on your product – this has been mandatory since 2004).
Other Labelling Changes:
- Amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations will be coming into force on December 14th, 2021 which will require changes to the nutrition facts table, serving size, and list of ingredients (ie. serving size will be more realistic, there will be new sugars information)
- CFIA’s Food Labelling Modernization initiative – including best before date labelling, etc. -(http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/labelling-modernization-initiative/eng/1370111174659/1370111346666)
- Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy – This is currently a Proposal at the moment and will be looking at eliminating transfats – also proposed
- CFIA has a great online Industry Labelling Tool (http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/eng/1383607266489/1383607344939)
- Health Canada Pages
Given our location at the IFPT and the open invitation for any students to join us, we finished this part of our session with thoughts on careers in Regulatory or Food and Label Compliance. Our Speaker mentioned that good “detective” skills would be a worthy asset, together with experience in the food sector and a keen interest in food law and regulatory matters. After a number of questions and comments from participants, Susan left us with one final thought and that was that we really need to be prepared for the upcoming labelling changes.
Belmont Meat Product Limited - Paul Roach, President www.belmontmeats.com
With Canadian Food Labelling Regulations fresh in mind, we were very pleased to have Paul Roach, President of Belmont Meat Production Limited join us to share their journey to date with respect to our topic at hand from a packaging, branding and marketing standpoint. It was particularly timely as well to hear that their company was just recently honoured with a SIAL SELECT award with their innovative packaging design!! Our heartiest congratulations to Belmont Meats on such a wonderful achievement!
Belmont Meats (founded in 1966) just recently celebrated their 50th Anniversary last year. They are now owned by Premium Brands and have a manufacturing facility located in Toronto. The company produces over 40 million lbs of approved beef, pork and poultry products annually and is CFIA and USDA recognized, HACCP, SQF and Halal Certified. Their general manufacturing processes include formulation, forming and finishing and Paul shared information on each of those key production stages.
They are very proud of the relationship they have built with their customers who include top retailers, club stores, leading restaurants and foodservice distributors. The bulk of their business is private label and that led to a good discussion on a number of items including food safety at the retailer level, the growing discount grocery business, listing fees, the availability of tools to promote product value at retailer level, and the importance of diversification and customization.
It was very exciting to hear Paul share that this year Belmont Meats launched 10 products including a new line-up of “medallions” together with a variety of premium and value burgers (pork, chicken, turkey). They have a large customer base and are leaders in customization offering value added, fresh, frozen, private label and branded product.
Paul showed photos of their new line of products which was developed in conjunction with Raining Communications Inc. There were some great questions that followed regarding their journey, product development and branding in general.
Raining Communications Inc. - Brian Hircock, President “Celebrate the Brand – thoughtful strategies for design in packaging” www.raininginc.com
Complimenting the presentation by Paul, it was a pleasure to have Brian Hircock, President of Raining Communications Inc. add to the discussion and to highlight the innovative ways in which Belmont Meats is rebranding themselves through their new product launches. He is also very engaged on the Board with PAC (Packaging Association of Canada).
Brian began his presentation by challenging us to open our minds around the concept of “meaningful differentiation”. He used Coca-Cola’s bottle as an example and drew attention to a company statement made regarding design in 1915:
“A bottle so distinct that it could be recognized by touch in the dark or when lying broken on the ground…” – Coca-Cola Bottle Design Brief 1915
- We talked about the importance of knowing competitors, examining key equities, and telling our story the best way possible.
Know the Competitive Set: This was quite interesting and our Speaker shared a variety of store photos that demonstrated how imperative it is to make products stand out on the shelf. In some places, there are so many items that if you are not visible to the consumer, you are not purchased. If everything looks the same, then we really need to differentiate ourselves. We were asked to think about what is required from our brand to stand out? What are our competitors doing? What can we do differently – how can we disrupt the category?
Examine Key Equities: Brian then addressed brand identifiers and necessary label requirements (as NSF International shared earlier) and how mixed messaging on a package can be confusing to the consumer. Using Belmont Meats Medallions as an example, he explained why their packaging was chosen as a Canadian 2017 SIAL SELECT Innovation Award Winner.
Tell a Story: The third component examined looked at the importance of telling our stories. This generated a good deal of discussion based on various products and distribution or retail channels. Brian mentioned the importance of connecting the consumer to the product and using as many forms as possible to share that information (digital, promotional, sales people, packaging etc.). We reviewed the importance of having a good strategy in place and keeping your process dynamic.
- It was extremely effective having examples from Belmont Meats and Brian did an excellent job at providing participants with “food for thought” around product packaging, labelling, branding and marketing.
IFPT (Institute of Food Processing Technology), Conestoga College - Luis Garcia, Chair http://www.conestogac.on.ca/ifpt
Our Host, Luis Garcia, Chair of the Institute Food Processing Technology, was our final Speaker for the morning and enthralled everyone in attendance with the amazing programs and attributes of the College. This is the only food processing training centre of its kind in Canada and they are always very interested in connecting with industry.
As far as programming goes, they have some really great Certifications available to students including:
Three full time programs:
- Food Processing Technician
- Food Safety and Quality Assurance
- Operations Leadership in Food Manufacturing
- Food Processing Supervisor
- Advanced Sanitation Practices
- Food Safety (in class and online)
- Process Operator – Food Manufacturing
- Food Processing Operations (Summer Experience for Students and Grads)
- Packaging Engineering
- Corporate Training
- Technology for Food
After our session concluded, Participants were invited to tour the IFPT. This is a state of the art learning environment equipped with an 8,000 square foot pilot plant, lab and shop support. The plant itself hosts vegetable processing, baking and beverage lines.
- Taste Your Future Campaign – www.tasteyourfuture.ca
- Food and Beverage Ontario Annual Conference – Trump Times
- Business growth and expansion plans
- Networking opportunities
- Exposure to IFPT and Tour
Very special thanks to our Host IFPT and our Guest Speakers from NSF International Inc., Belmont Meats and Raining Communications Inc. for sharing their expertise, insights and best practices with us, and to all of our Processors and Community Partners for participating!!
All the best as always!
Bren de Leeuw, Director - EMC Food, Beverage, Bio & Ag Program Canada
Excellence In Manufacturing Consortium - firstname.lastname@example.org - 519-372-6009