Food, Beverage, Bio & Ag Sector: 2019 In Review

December 15, 2019 Bren de LeeuwFood & Beverage 186 Views

To all of our Manufacturers, Community Partners and Service Providers in the Food, Beverage, Bio and Ag Sector, we wish you the very, very best for a most joyous holiday season! 

What an exciting year it has been!  We have had the best ever Peer Networking experiences not only at our Food and Beverage Sector Events and EMC’s National Advantage Through Excellence – Future of Manufacturing Conference but also via our engagement and participation in a variety of Workshops, Summits and Tradeshows throughout 2019!  And so, as one year closes and another begins, it’s the perfect time to reflect on everything that has made these past twelve months extra-special! 

EMC Food & Beverage Sector Networking Events:

This year’s EMC Food and Beverage Sector Events kicked off with an excellent best practice session on Talent Attraction and Retention with Burnbrae Farms Ltd. in Lyn, Ontario. 

Talent Attraction and Retention is one of the biggest issues facing Manufacturers in all Sectors.  With the topic in mind, experiences and thoughts around recruitment, training, committee development and employee engagement ensued.  We learned a great deal from our Host and their current practices and really appreciated how diligently they work to engage their Teams and foster ongoing training and development in their people. 

Burnbrae Farms has some great programs in place including an in-depth orientation for new employees.  We also really enjoyed learning about their initiatives to engage Retirees in mentoring and training activities.  Following our in-depth discussion and roundtable networking, we took part in a plant tour of their egg grading facility!

Food, Beverage, Bio and Ag Processors were then invited to take part in a very Special Peer Networking Event that focused on Growth and it would be a session that those in attendance will long remember (not only because it began with Latte’s and Expresso’s)! 

Generally speaking, Business Growth is necessary for survival and of course has its ups and downs.  When you are simultaneously implementing an ERP system and a foundational food safety program, the challenges of growth can be pretty daunting at times!   Reunion Island Coffee provided us with an absolutely fabulous down-to-earth presentation sharing their journey in detail outlining challenges faced and how they overcame those as well as potential next steps all in the spirit of efficiency and growth.  This was followed by a plant tour that highlighted some of their gains such as investment in capital equipment, storage reorganization, visual management systems and so forth. 

A few words of wisdom from our Host included:

  • Make sure that you define your risks well or this could cost you more in the end.  There is a massive architecture behind an implementation of this nature which can never be underestimated.
  • Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know what you don’t know and find consultants who best fit your organization, objectives and Team to ensure that your goals are met.
  • Accuracy both in reporting and in inventory is tremendously important as even a tiny error can affect the system in multiple ways.  Good records are imperative in order for the ERP system to function properly.

After this very special session, I received an email from a participant that so perfectly sums up the value and importance that peer discussion provides:  

“I would like to express my gratitude for the time that you spent yesterday to share the journey of Reunion Island Coffee.  With our company beginning the journey of growth, you’ve highlighted so many things for me that even if I can only remember a tiny fraction of it, I will be miles ahead.  I can see so many similarities between our companies, at least where you used to be and where we are now. I certainly hope to be able to tap into your experiences in the future and hopefully I can return some value to you at some point...”

Our final session explored the topic of “Talent Review and Building Performance” at Wholesome Kids Catering in Markham, with insight from Maple Lodge Farms of Brampton.  When we think about the current challenges in attracting candidates to our industry, and our future needs to grow, talent review becomes a critical component to aid us in planning for the years to come.

It’s important to have a solid foundation when looking at Talent Review and to develop competencies and behaviours that align with the future growth of the company.  Maple Lodge Farms developed a system which includes a complete Talent Evaluation and Review program and a Personal Development Plan.  They utilized a green belt process to decide on core competencies and behaviours.

Our Host from Wholesome Kids Catering began by sharing information on the concept of Organizational Transformation and our need to be open to our Team’s ideas.  We talked about today’s environment being VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) and our inability to move as fast as needed.  She introduced us to Jim Hemerling who is all about transformations and we watched a very interesting You-Tube Ted Talk relating to this – Five Ways to Lead in an Era of Constant Change.

This was a great session and there was considerable dialogue and exchange of business cards to continue the conversation!  Our Host also provided us with a wonderful facility tour!

Again very, very special thanks to our Hosts and Presenters – who make these peer learning opportunities so memorable and who are so generous with their time and talent sharing experiences and best practices!

Advantage Through Excellence – Future of Manufacturing Conference:

One of the highlights for me this year was our EMC National Advantage Through Excellence – Future of Manufacturing Conference which was held in Vaughan, Ontario on October 8th through 10th, 2019!  What an amazing three days with companies from across Canada participating - Newfoundland through British Columbia! 

It was absolutely awesome to have had such a wonderful representation from the Food and Beverage Sector taking part in the Conference – through Presentations, Panel Discussions, Bear Pit Challenges, Tour Hosts and as Participants!!  On behalf of our entire Team at EMC, we are very grateful to our Presenters from this Sector for sharing their thoughts, experiences and practices – we cannot thank you enough for your input in this regard!

  • Molson Coors – Doug Dittburner
  • Panelist:  Energy Impact on Advanced Manufacturing
  • Tour Host
  • Maple Lodge Farms – Kristi Barnes and Vanessa White
  • Presentation:  Driving Performance Through Inclusion
  • Siemens Canada – Mark Girard
  • Presentation:  The Value of Digitizing Food and Beverage Processes
  • Tour Host
  • Organigram Inc. – Jeff Purcell
  • Panelist:  Skills and Innovation
  • Healthcare Food Services - Brad McKay (former CEO)
  • Presentation:  Future of Food Manufacturing

One of the most exciting moments at this years’ Event was the presentation of our EMC Manufacturing Excellence Awards.  There were a number of categories based on Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation; Export Development and Growth; Operational Excellence; and the Future State of Manufacturing.  Recognition was also made for Outstanding Manufacturers; Skills Development and Training; and Sustainability.

I was absolutely thrilled to be part of the Awards Presentation and delighted to honour some wonderful companies in our Food, Beverage, Bio and Ag Sector and on behalf of all of us at EMC and your Industry Peers – we offer our 2019 Award Recipients our most heartiest congratulations!

Organigram Inc. – Moncton, NB

Outstanding EMC Member Contribution

Greenfield Ethanol – Chatham, ON


Maple Lodge Farms – Brampton, ON

Operational Excellence

Siemens Canada – Concord, ON

Future State of Manufacturing

Bio-Ag Consultants – Wellesley, ON

Outstanding Manufacturer

Factors Group – Coquitlam, BC

Outstanding Manufacturer
Operational Excellence

Partner and Event Participation:

In addition to this years’ National Conference and our Food & Beverage Sector Networking Events, we also participated in a number of interesting Forums, Summits, Trade Shows and Sectoral related activities.  Each of these sessions provided us with an opportunity not only to broaden our knowledge but to share and build on supportive programs and services available for Manufacturers.   

  • FBO Inclusive Leadership Forum
  • EDCO (Economic Development Council of Ontario) Conference 2019
  • Restaurants Canada Show
  • 7th Annual Food and Drink Summit
  • Strategy Institute 15th Annual North American Food Safety Summit
  • SIAL
  • Bakery Showcase
  • GIC (Grocery Innovations Conference)
  • Strategy Institute 10th Annual North American Food Regulatory and Quality Assurance Summit
  • York Region – Making Business Sense of Your Environmental Footprint

A New Year and New Opportunities to Grow!

Looking ahead, 2020 promises to be a very, very exciting year and I am absolutely delighted to be working with some great Hosts who are sharing experiences and best practices on:  Building a World Class Food Safety Program; Developing and Fostering a Culture of Engagement; Future of Food Manufacturing; and Environmental Monitoring (Controls, Risk Assessments, Recalls, Etc.)!   Hope you can join us for these special Networking sessions and of course there will be lots more information to come as the year unfolds!

Over the course of almost 18 years, I have had the pleasure of travelling from Kincardine to countless Regions of Ontario and now in the BC Lower Mainland visiting Processors and Suppliers.  Year over year I continue to be amazed at the depth and breadth of products produced and marvel at the innovative ideas that surface every single day in every aspect of our industry and I wave the flag relentlessly encouraging youth to look at a career in our marvellous sector! 

It humbles me to no end when I think of how many wonderful people I have met along the way – Processors, Service Providers and Community Partners – all ready to assist in our Sector’s growth!  Every plant visit and meeting with those supporting our Food and Beverage industry is welcomed and your genuine interest and your time are always appreciated!

As I look back over the year, I thank you all for wonderful memories, the amazing learning opportunities, and the chance to connect with you and your peers!  On behalf of all of us at EMC, our sincerest thanks for your involvement in our networking events and programs!

Wishing you a most heartfelt holiday season filled with much peace and joy and long-lasting memories and the very, very, very best for the coming New Year!!

Happy Holidays my Friends!


Bren de Leeuw, National Director - EMC Food, Beverage, Bio & Ag Program
Excellence In Manufacturing Consortium - - 519-372-6009