Grocery Innovations Canada – Thoughts from Carson Walsh

On October 17th and 18th The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers hosted Grocery Innovations Canada- a premier grocery and specialty food show. Carson Walsh a chocolate R&D and process improvement contractor, tells us about his experience navigating over 65,000 sq. ft. of grocery innovations.

There was certainly a lot to take in at the Grocery Innovations Canada exhibition. Not having attended a grocery show before, I was blown away by the diversity of products on display. Ranging all the way from the world’s largest food companies down to companies of just one person, to refrigeration services, wrappers, and checkout lane designs; this show had it all.

Out of all the products and services there, I was most impressed by the refrigeration services. It’s not often one thinks about refrigerators in food production and retailing, but it is a key component in food safety, and makes a significant piece of a company’s energy bill. With rising energy costs and pushed towards sustainability, innovation in temperature control systems is absolutely necessary, and it was really neat to see this happening at the exhibition.

But back to the food…

The current trend of healthful, smart choice sounding foods was out in full force. Actual nutritional benefits aside, companies of all sizes were showing off products with simpler ingredient lines and in smaller, lighter portions. From the large companies, I sampled a cinnamon apple Greek yogurt, and a cracker which only had 4 ingredients (after sampling I couldn’t help but mention that Triscuit only uses 3). On the small company side, there were some really good beet products from a pair of guys from the GTA, and a surprisingly delicious strawberry-jalapeno jam from a berry farm in Sault Ste Marie (on an entirely unrelated note, it was really cool to hear they were friends with 2014 Olympic Gold Medalists Team Jacobs).

If I were still in University and looking for a Co-op placement, or just looking for my first foray into the world of food, I would really like to have a chance to work at one of these small food producers. In my couple years working for large food companies, versatility and cross-functional knowledge have been two of the most important skills to have. Even though departments are split, you absolutely need a working knowledge of logistics, marketing, food safety, product quality, working with people, and process operations, to name a few. Spending time at a small food company drives this learning, as one would likely have a chance to work at all ends of the business.

GIC was a really neat opportunity; I’m glad I had the chance to get a look outside of my little food bubble, and most notably meet a lot of small food producers in Ontario. I’m always amazed at just how big and important food production is to Ontario, and I am excited to see that trend continue into the future.

Get ready for your future in food!

Over the next several months, Food and Beverage Ontario will be providing free career mentorship and virtual career fairs through our partners, FoodGrads and Food Processing Skills Canada. Tell us you’re interested by filling in the form.

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