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Across Atlantic Canada food and beverage has always been an integral part of who we are as a region – not only defining our heritage and culture but as a focal point for coming together. In recent years, a global food revolution has begun to change the way we look at food and, in particular, how it’s made. This has led to a renewed interest in growing the food and beverage sector in Atlantic Canada. With an abundance of natural resources, growers and processors are looking to develop value-added products with global appeal. This shift has raised the importance of food within our research and development community with more of Atlantic Canada’s research institutions including food and beverage into their research priorities.
In a region where seafood has dominated the food and beverage focus for many years, A number of academic institutions including Holland College ( including Canada’s Smartest Kitchen), UPEI, St FX, CCNB, Dalhousie, Acadia and other Springboard Atlantic members are focusing on food. As well, the four Atlantic provinces and the federal government are pushing food and beverage growth through the Atlantic Growth Strategy.
“A couple early wins have generated a lot of momentum in food and beverage for the region,” says Shawn MacDougall, Research Development Officer at Holland College. “For so long Atlantic Canada has just been pushing out the same exports like lobster or potatoes and now with new innovations and a renewed focus on bringing the region’s capacities together we are realizing the opportunity to be leaders in food and beverage innovation.”
This innovation is focusing on key new trends like servicing new diets fads like Keto or developing enhanced omega beverages.
This increased food production also means increased food waste which has led to continued research into bio-related industries such as energy and pharma. Jared Christensen, Industry Liaison for CCNB says that this food waste management focus is allowing our region to truly utilizing all the materials we have to their fullest potential and creating value-add products that could make a huge difference in society.
Jolene MacEachern, Manager, Industry Liaison and Innovation (Agriculture/Aquaculture) with Dalhousie University says that while the department of agriculture has always been focused on food innovation, the increased priority has, in part, come from the global demand for local food that’s coming from consumers.
“At the end of the day the consumer is driving trends in food and beverage,” says MacEachern. “And those trends lead to industry partners looking for research solutions. These trends are coming because consumers are being conscientious about where their food comes from, what they’re eating and the production practices that are going in to these foods.”
“For the last 50 years research had been focused on growing practices and getting the most per acre but there is a bit of shift to look at how do we make food of a higher quality, more functional, or with a longer shelf life and then inserting technology into food like genetic modifications or the use of technology to increase sustainability,” says MacEachern.