Food Science and Technology in Canada

Significance of the Food Industry in Canada

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  • The food and beverage processing industry is the largest manufacturing industry in Canada in terms of value of production with shipments worth $97.3 billion; it accounts for 16% of total manufacturing shipments and for 2% of the national GDP. It’s the largest manufacturing employer and provides employment for 297,000 Canadians.
  • It supplies approximately 75% of all processed food and beverage products available in Canada and is the largest buyer of agricultural production, using approximately 35% of its output. It is also the largest manufacturing employer in rural areas across Canada.
  • Exports of processed food and beverage products stood at $24.6 billion in 2012, an increase of 5.6% over 2011; accounting for 25% of production value, from 2008 to 2012 the exports grew at an annual average rate of 3.6%.
  • Canadian processed food and beverage products are exported to some 185 countries with a significant proportion exported to a few countries. In 2012, almost 88% of the total went to six major markets: United States (67%), China (9%), Japan (7%), Russia (3%), Mexico (2% each) and South Korea (1%). Until 2009, the balance of trade in processed food and beverage products had been positive since 1995 and peaked at $5 billion in 2004. With the rise in the Canadian dollar, it has declined annually between 2004 and 2009 when the balance of trade reflected a record deficit of $1.9 billion. In 2011, the balance of trade returned to a positive value, at $0.2 billion but in 2012 it returned to a deficit of $0.4billion.
  • The largest food processing industry is meat product manufacturing which accounted for 24% of all shipments or $24.3 billion in sales in 2012. Dairy product manufacturing is the second largest industry with sales of $14.7 billion, followed by beverage manufacturing with sales of $10.1 billion. Other industries include: grain and oilseed milling ($10B), bakeries and tortilla manufacturing ($7.9B), fruit and vegetable preserving and specialty food manufacturing ($7.4B), animal food manufacturing ($7.2B), sugar and confectionery product manufacturing ($4.1B), seafood product preparation and packaging ($4.5B) and other food manufacturing ($7.9B).
  • The food processing industry is the largest manufacturing industry in each province. Although food processing is important to the economies of all provinces, Ontario and Quebec account for most of the production with approximately 63% of sales, the Western provinces account for 29% and the Atlantic provinces for about 7%. Meat is the most significant food industry in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec; grain and oilseed milling is the largest food industry in Saskatchewan; while seafood is the most important in New-Brunswick, Nova-Scotia and Newfoundland.
  • The food and beverage processing industry invests about $2 billion annually in capital expenditures, with about 80% of the total invested in machinery and equipment.
  • Approximately 60% of food and beverage manufacturing sales are accounted for by domestically owned firms.
  • About 6,000 food and beverage processing establishments exist in Canada. Establishments with less than 100 employees account for 89%; 10% have between 100 and 500 employees; while only 1% of establishments have more than 500 employees.
  • The largest 50 food processing firms, in terms of sales, account for approximately 60% of value of food manufacturing shipments, while the largest 4 beverage firms account for about 63% of beverage shipments.

Includes only establishments with employees. Statistics Canada Business Register, June 2012.


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