The Future of Food Manufacturing Post COVID-19

June 18, 2020 Bren de LeeuwBC Lower Mainland 391 Views

In light of current conditions, EMC has transitioned peer networking Events to Webinars until there is a solid road to recovery established. 

EMC Food, Beverage, Bio and Ag Sector Processors and Community Partners from across Canada had the chance to gain insight from Brad McKay, former CEO of Healthcare Food Services on “The Future of Food Manufacturing Post COVID-19 – the Long View”!  From our humble beginnings as hunter and gatherers to a world we are not yet familiar with full of robotics, AI, drone opportunities, and sustainability initiatives our Guest Speaker painted vivid possibilities that led to engaged discussion and a thirst for more opportunities to build on this topic!

There’s no doubt about it, when you cast a glance to the future and you consider what the possibilities might be, images of cartoons long ago like “The Jetson’s” seem to come to mind quite quickly!  Definitely ahead of their time, but most likely not ours!  Considering our Sector, with the world’s population expected to grow by 2 billion people as 2050 approaches, we will need new and innovative means of safely producing, manufacturing, and delivering food in a manner that is still environmentally sustainable.

The COVID19 pandemic has created alternative means of working and has accelerated others already in progress.  Our very Special Guest Speaker, Brad McKay, former CEO of Healthcare Food Services, shared his insight and perspective on food manufacturing over the next 30 years and provided us with a glimpse into a world where by 2050 our society, our eating habits, and our means of acquiring food will be quite different and manufacturing likely not recognizable as it currently is!

Brad shared his thoughts on:

  • Manufacturing related technologies available today
  • Technologies we have not yet thought of, or commercialized, and the
  • Potential impact on our ability to manufacture an ever-increasing amount of nourishing food without destroying the planet!
    Companies of all sectors and from small and large communities dotted across Canada were eager to listen to thoughts on the future of the industry and of course, there were a number of questions that surfaced during the presentation all lending to a very interesting discussion!

The stage was set with a quotation from Winston Churchill who stated:

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see…”

Thus, we started by casting a glance to the past and our humble beginnings as hunters and gatherers and worked our way up through man’s evolution, the development of new food products, subsequent means of production, inventions to present day manufacturing processes.

With a better understanding of the evolution of man and his food requirements, we stepped back and turned to look at the future.  Brad reviewed some of the possible scenarios – many of which are already being done and then Companies online were encouraged to participate in the following two queries (the answers were copied by screen shot so may not be 100% accurate but definitely paint a picture of peer thoughts on these subjects):

What food delivery channels do you believe will be the future of how we consume food ? (Max 5)














Retail Grocery - shop in store

Online Grocery – click and collect

Online Grocery – delivered to home

Online Grocery via Foodservice distributor -delivered to home

Prepared Meals - delivered to home

Prepared Meals & Grocery – delivered to home 

Meal Kits - delivered to home

Restaurant – eat in

Restaurant -take out

Restaurant –delivered to home

Restaurant & Groceries  -delivered to home

Grocery Neighbour –shop from the truck

Other –please specify


What food manufacturing approaches do you think will have the greatest impact on the planet? (Max 5)

















Plant based protein 

Cultured meat

Cultured dairy protein

Vertical farms

Renewable energy – wind

Renewable energy – solar

Energy conservation 

Reduced water usage

Zero water usage

Shorter Supply Chains

Reduced Carbon emissions

Zero Carbon emissions

Living Factories

Green Roofs

Green Interiors

Other – please specify



Brad suggested that in the next 30 years, food will become individual, portable and sustainable (nutrition) – perhaps by 2371 we may even have food replicators just like those Jetson’s!  He passionately stated that the future of food in his opinion is definitely bright, digital and sustainable!


Over the course of the last ten years, the Food Sector grew faster than the economy.  We currently produce twice the amount of food that we consume and we are well-positioned to become a world superpower in food.  Brad mentioned that by 2080, we could very well be #1 in exports.

When it comes to growing digitally, there are any number of possibilities as our product offerings become that much more diversified, our focus becomes more national vs global, and fragmentation occurs between us and customers.  We can expect digital solutions that may include:

  • Shorter production runs and greater variety
  • An increase in speed
  • Resiliency
  • Rising costs
  • Change of work may occur – perhaps we continue to work remotely or have a 4-day work week
  • Implementation of robots and cobots
  • Drone deliveries
  • Self-driving delivery vehicles
  • Iot
  • Blockchain
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Growth and success will depend on speed, nimbleness, responsiveness

We reviewed different potential product development, chatted about sustainability including energy (wind, solar, smart glass), discussed companies striving to become carbon neutral, the importance of engaging with colleges, and learning from experiences such as COVID-19 has so far provided.

Raw Materials  - Non-Animal and Integrated
Energy – from Renewables
Water – Zero water usage
Carbon – Zero emissions

After an exceptional and thought-provoking presentation and a stimulating Q&A opportunity by our online participants, Brad concluded his presentation by reiterating his belief that the Future of the Food Industry in the next 30 years will be much different and will be bright, digital and sustainable!

Thank you Brad for opening up our minds on future sectoral possibilities!

This Special Food, Beverage, Bio and Ag Processors Online Webinar was recorded, and for anyone interested in the content, the webinar recording link is following in the table below – simply paste the hyperlink into the web browser and it should work fine.  If there are any problems in that regard, just let me know.

Webinar Recording

Webinar – Future of Food Manufacturing Post COVID-19 - 09-Jun-20

On behalf of our EMC Members, Guests and Community Partners, very special thanks to Brad McKay for sharing his Future of Manufacturing Post COVID-19 perspectives!

All the best as always!


Bren de Leeuw

Vice President – Community Partnerships & Stakeholder Relations
Excellence In Manufacturing Consortium - - 519-372-6009