FOOD for THOUGHT: U.S. Agriculture Products Find a Place at the Table
By: Pereina Choudhury
Food, glorious food. It’s the universal language, crossing boundaries and cultures; a uniting force served up as an expression of love. It’s central to most family and friends’ gatherings. It even brings colleagues together (team Harbinger is having another potluck in February). Food relationships can also be complicated. Some people eat to live. Others live to eat. Bottom line, we can’t live without food. We also can’t live without the abundance of food grown elsewhere. We, at Harbinger, live to promote food. It’s in our DNA (DELICIOUS can be NUTRITIOUS APPROACH).
We only need look, really look, at the centre of our plates to see that the harmonious mingling of ingredients is a culmination of worldwide agricultural efforts, though most notably by U.S. farmers. Can you imagine for a moment what our grocery stores, our meals, would look like without U.S.-grown food, especially fresh produce? I perish the thought.
Oh, Canada makes all food even more glorious. Its rich cultural diversity planted the seeds that continue to allow our country’s dynamic food scene to flourish. From Ethiopian to Italian, Vietnamese to French, Indian to Mediterranean, Canadians are spoiled for choice when it comes to dining out or shopping a variety of ingredients to cook at home. However, the many flavourful dishes we enjoy are often reliant on U.S. imports. Did you know the U.S. shipped more than $20 billion worth of agricultural products to Canada in 2018?
Now, we can agree that buying local is preferred. It is. We enjoy the local bounty during peak periods, which is often too short for many crops. Sigh. I’m salivating as I think about Ontario’s juicy peach season. In reality, we have to dig into roots further afield to satisfy the needs of the 37 million mouths to feed across a land with agricultural limitations.
So, when local is unavailable, it’s nice to know our closest neighbours help fill our grocery baskets. When you think of it, U.S. commodities are often as ‘local as it gets’ for Canadians. Whether its produce, baked goods, condiments or dried fruits, U.S. products enhance our meal experience and complement our local bounty. But that’s not typically top-of-mind for Canadians as they do their weekly (or mid-week) shops. Perception and understanding are essential to driving positive growth for U.S. products north of the border.
While functional benefits are important to the message and reason to believe, we work closely with many of our clients on education objectives. It’s not that consumers aren’t aware of what grapes, prunes, strawberries and oils are. However, understanding the agricultural journey, conveying clear and accurate nutritional claims (that comply with local health and nutrition guidelines), engaging trusted experts and influencers to help introduce, convince and inspire usage, as well as perfecting the when, where and why to try and buy – are all key to winning with Canadian consumers and earning that share of plate.
What has proven most successful? Cultivating relationships. Sharing stories. And, above all, empowering Canadian consumers with knowledge that will help them make informed food choices, for themselves and their families, in their everyday lives. Having the knowledge to reach for the right ingredients can be powerful and even life changing for many.
We also like to remind Canadians that they can take comfort in knowing that the U.S. agricultural industry adheres to the same strict food safety standards as those observed in Canada. As importantly, U.S. growers are respectful of Canadian farmers, ensuring that their market supply complements, rather than competes with, Canada’s local growing seasons and encouraging Canadians to support their local farms.
So, as our farmlands lay dormant during the winter months, I’m thankful to the many farmers, local and abroad, who provide me with year-round access to fresh vegetables, fruits and berries, especially in the dead of winter. If you’re looking to grow your food business in Canada too, but don’t know where to begin, planting the first seed starts with giving us a call. Let’s chat!
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