Canadian Food Business Winter 19/20

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Âť The science of food and beverage WINTER 2019-20

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Crickets are the first frontier in eco-friendly protein


Nutraceuticals How to enter the market



Kathleen A. Merrigan




participated in one of the famous Terra Madre Slow Food meetings in Italy years ago. At the opening ceremony, Indigenous peoples from around the world formed a procession through the venue, donning traditional wear and carrying objects of significance to their communities. It was beautiful and exciting but more importantly, it was a poignant reminder of the wisdom of Indigenous knowledge. Every year, I become more convinced that if we are to meet the challenges of extreme climate change and transform food systems so that they are resilient and equitable, we must listen to Indigenous communities, stand with them and include them in decision making on land that they have sustained for thousands of years. Many people are excited about the potential for innovation in agtech and I count myself among them. Yet in our rush to Silicon-Valley-ify our food system, we have overlooked the urgency to better understand, honour, safeguard, preserve and transmit traditional knowledge. I suspect that in the United States, more money was poured into the MIT Food Computer, which turned out to be a hoax, than was invested in preservation of landraces curated by Indigenous peoples and understanding their protocols against overharvesting of species. Three current events suggest a new opportunity to elevate and amplify Indigenous voices to help us achieve more sustainable food systems. First, at least as far back as the 1992 UN Convention on Biological Diversity, governments have recognized Indigenous peoples’ knowledge of, and contributions to, the protection of biodiversity. The full promise of that Convention has yet to be realized, as scant resources have been devoted to its implementation. That may be changing: In September 2019 at the UN Climate Action Summit, Emmanuel Farber, CEO of Danone – citing pressure from Generation Z consumers – announced that 19 giant companies have pledged to work together to protect biodiversity. This is great! Second, soil is in the headlines. Native Americans have long championed three sister planting and other practices that build healthy soil, but until recently, soil building was not on the policy agenda in any significant way. Now, even American presidential candidates are advocating for regenerative agriculture and elevating the importance of soil health, while at the same time public and private sector leaders are working to establish carbon markets to reward soil sequestration. Exciting! Third, there is a new focus among sustainable agriculture advocates on strategies to address food justice, entrenched inequalities and social inclusion. At the same time, the

American Indian Agricultural Fund, established by settlement monies from resolution of the class-action lawsuit Keepseagle v. Vilsack over historic USDA discrimination, is distributing its first round of grants to help Native American farmers and ranchers. Terrific! I will now say something that I have never said before: The more meetings, the better! It is time for all of us to find ways to raise Indigenous voices and confront issues of food sovereignty. There are some good recent efforts to note. In 2018, the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN held its first High Level Expert Seminar on Indigenous Food Systems, Building on Traditional Knowledge to Achieve Zero Hunger. Last fall in Japan, Slow Food hosted Indigenous leaders from 27 countries to discuss the contributions of traditional knowledge to sustainable food systems, climate change and world hunger. Following up on this, Slow Food will host an Indigenous Peoples Terra Madre for the Americans in Mexico in February 2020. For our part, the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University collaborated with the University of Hawaii and FoodTank to host a FoodTank Summit on the “Wisdom of Indigenous Foodways” this January in Tempe, Arizona. Topics included the importance of local agriculturally derived knowledge, seed sovereignty, wild foods and contemporary Indigenous gastronomy. For more information, visit our website: Biodiversity, healthy soils and food justice – all topics on the agenda for which Indigenous peoples have insights and can teach traditional wisdom to academics like me, along with business leaders, politicians and sustainable agriculture advocates. A recent interview with Kathleen Merrigan can be found at: Dr. Kathleen Merrigan is the executive director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University (ASU). She came to ASU after four years as Executive Director of Sustainability at George Washington University, and from 2009-2013, Dr. Merrigan served as U.S. Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a $150-billion, 110,000-employee institution. As Deputy Secretary, Dr. Merrigan created and led the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative to support local food systems, was a key architect of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, and made history as the first woman to chair the Ministerial Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.



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BUG By Jana Manolakos

The answer to feeding the world may be hopping around your backyard enough food to feed the planet’s rapidly expanding population has experts worried. Simply put, with more people on the planet, more agriculture is needed to grow enough food – and that, in turn, plays havoc with the environment. But for some, there’s a solution right in their own backyards where insects are hopping to the rescue, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional protein sources. In 2013, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) released a report, “Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security,” warning that without insects in the human food chain, the planet may be in big trouble. The report says that currently 1 billion people are chronically hungry and it cautions that by 2050, with the world’s population climbing to 9.7 billion people, current food production will need to double. A majority of people in many parts of the world already consume insects, with some 1,900 species on the menu including beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps and ants. Entomophagy, a technical term describing the practice of eating insects, is also gaining traction in Europe and in the U.S., largely driven by concerns over personal health and climate change.





en·to·moph·a·gy /ˌen(t)əˈmäfəjē/ Noun the practice of eating insects, especially by people.

But in Canada, where growing conditions support a variety of other meat alternatives like beans and peas, consumers are still reluctant to consider insects. That may be changing, says British Columbia’s Patricia Chuey, a registered dietitian and award-winning food communications expert. “As we become increasingly aware of environmental protection and food sustainability, many are looking at ways to get equivalent protein in our diet while using fewer resources,” she explains.

Gaining a foothold in Canada’s food chain



Although the industry is still in its infancy, major grocers like Loblaws are helping insects gain a foothold in Canada’s food chain. Last March, Loblaws introduced cricket powder to its line of President’s Choice foods. Loblaws VP of Product Development and Innovation, Kathlyne Ross says, “By making products like cricket powder widely available in our grocery stores, we are giving Canadians the option to not only try something new, but to also make a conscious decision on what they eat and how it impacts the environment.” In sourcing its cricket powder, Loblaws joined forces with Norwood-based Entomo Farms, which launched eight years ago and is one of the oldest and largest cricket farms in North America. It also recently sold a minority stake in its company to Maple Leaf Foods, yet another sign that six-legged protein is on its way. According to Jarrod Goldin, Entomo Farm’s CEO and a company founder, the market is fuelled by the LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) consumer, the fastestgrowing food consumer segment in North America. He says these consumers are defined by their understanding of the impact that food has on their health, their longevity and the planet. Crickets, like other insects, contain fibres, such as chitin, that are different from the dietary fibre found in foods like fruits and vegetables. Fibre serves as a microbial food source, and some fibre types promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics. Some studies have shown that consuming crickets can help support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, and that eating crickets is not only safe at high doses but may also reduce inflammation in the body. Other studies point to crickets offering more digestible mineral content – like iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium – than even sirloin beef. Goldin suggests that some insect species may even offer eight times the antioxidants found in oranges. He’s a big

proponent of research, and his company regularly engages the scientific community. Entomo is currently collaborating in a multi-year study with Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario. Funded by an Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) and NSERC grant, the study aims to determine optimal storage and a “best before” date of Entomo’s cricket powder product. In its first year, the research found that the powder did not show any significant signs of deterioration. Goldin believes this may have something to do with certain protein peptides found in crickets and suggests the powder may be useful as a natural means of extending the shelf life of other foods.

A star of sustainable agriculture

According to the FAO, crickets need 12 times less feed than cattle, four times less feed than sheep and half as much feed as pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein. They require significantly less water than cattle rearing and they emit less greenhouse gases and ammonia than conventional livestock. That makes this mini-livestock a star of sustainable agriculture. Entomo Farms consists of three 20,000-sq.ft. retrofitted chicken barns, each holding cardboard cricket “condos” that house approximately 35 million crickets. With a total cricket count of over 100 million, Goldin believes his farm may be the largest in the world. Plus, he notes, “from an animal welfare perspective, there’s no cruelty associated with how the insects are kept or the husbandry itself.” And there’s another benefit to farming these little critters: “frass,” a mix of feces and cricket exoskeletons. The crickets in each of the three barns produce about 6,000 pounds of frass per month. For Goldin, it’s a gold mine for a supercharged fertilizer that some studies show can produce exponentially higher harvests. He recalls a study out of Trent University looking at dose responses on hayfields that found the ideal amount of natural frass fertilizer increased their yield by 400 percent. While many insect-based products source their crickets out of South Korea and Thailand, more crickets entering the Canadian market are coming from growers closer to home. Toronto-based Fit Cricket gets its supply from a farm south of the border. It’s one of only a handful of companies that sell insect-based food products. Company owner Angela Kelly says she prefers her supplier over others because of the taste of their crickets, a common species known as Acheta domesticus. She agrees with Chuey, who says that “consumers will initially be more accepting of insect-based flours and protein


Whether the bugs come from Thailand or from a farm in B.C., regulations governing insects in Canada are still in the early stage of development. “There’s been a really inconsistent response between regulators in the various parts of the world relating to whether insects or certain types of insects are salable.”

It becomes more complex when unusual powders for use in such foods as baked or novel insects are introduced, he goods and smoothies, before embracing explains, because under the Food and eating dried insects straight up.” Drugs Act and Regulations, all novel foods In fact, Kelly refers to crickets and must be assessed by Health Canada before cricket powder as the “gateway bug” they can be sold in our country. – it’s an ideal starter to a cornucopia For Kelly and Fit Cricket, Canadians of edible insects, she says, which – Glenford Jameson, Toronto-based have to move beyond the “ick” factor and her customers have compared to the lawyer specializing in food law teacher, embrace the health value: “With all of taste of roasted sunflower seeds or Michigan State University that great taste, nutritional profile and chickpeas. Fit Cricket works out of a environmental standpoint, I think people food incubator’s space that recently are willing to give this a chance.” opened in downtown Toronto; it’s run by District Ventures Kitchens, whose founder is Arlene Dickinson, the well-known businesswoman and Dragon’s Den Crickets products sold in Canada star (interviewed in the Winter 2018/19 BioLab Business). Bite Snacks Whether the bugs come from Thailand or from a farm in CrikNutrition B.C., regulations governing insects in Canada are still in the Fit Cricket Nutrition early stage of development. Glenford Jameson, a TorontoGubgub based lawyer who specializes in food law and teaches at Inspro Foods Landish Näak Tottem Nutrition uKa Protéine Yes Crickets

New Frontiers in Meat Alternatives

From fast food chains to grocery stores, consumer interest in plant-based protein options is leading to a boom in alternative meats. Long-established vegetarian brands – like Yves Veggie Cuisine, which has been around for over 20 years – are facing stiffer competition from newer alternatives, some of which, like Beyond Burger, are almost indistinguishable from the real thing. In the dairy industry, non-dairy alternatives are also experiencing growth. In response to these market forces and consumer concerns, industry leaders are rolling out a range of products and ingredients using different plant-based proteins like soy and pea, “mini-livestock” like insects and lab-grown meats cultured from animal or fungal cells.

Cultured meat

On August 5, 2013, the world’s first lab-grown burger was cooked and eaten at a news conference in London to some culinary acclaim for its texture and robust flavour. Scientists


Michigan State University, explains, “There's been a really inconsistent response between regulators in the various parts of the world relating to whether insects or certain types of insects are salable.” Because entomophagy is relatively new to Canadian consumers, regulators are being careful to ensure health safety. “There are certain insects or breeds that are very well known and I think we’re comfortable with,” says Jameson. “There are also millions of insects that may not have that history of safe use.” He says that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is primarily concerned with ensuring edible insects do not present a risk to Canadians in terms of how rearing and processing facilities control against microbiological pathogens.



from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, led by professor Mark Post, had taken stem cells from a cow and grown them into strips of muscle, which they then combined to make a burger. In 2017, the Good Food Institute released a map for “clean” or cultured meat, which it says allows consumers to maintain their dietary preferences for animal meat while removing many of the harmful aspects of current meat production. Cellular agriculture, it says, requires far less land and water than conventional meat, will produce exponentially less climate change and eliminates the severe environmental repercussions of animal waste and contamination via runoff.

Edible insects

Crickets, mealworms, grasshoppers and other insects have been touted as “superfoods” for a few years now – high in protein, they have low environmental impact and can be farmed almost anywhere. The consumption of edible insects has a long history in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in eating edible insects in Europe and North America. Consequently, a growing number of edible insect products have become available to Canadians, such as dried whole insects, insect powder and insect-containing snacks (e.g., chips, crackers and cookies). More research into human consumption of insects is needed to understand the potential health benefits.



With its roots in the hot, humid climate of India’s rainforest, jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, reaching 80 pounds and up to 36 inches long and 20 inches in diameter. The nobby exterior of the fruit is green or yellow when ripe, while the interior consists of large edible bulbs of yellow, bananaflavored flesh that can be cooked in curries, fried or even made into jam. Jackfruit is low in fat and saturated fat. The fibrous flesh has similarities in texture to meat; however, it isn’t a source of protein, so shouldn’t be a direct meat replacement. It’s a source of important micronutrients, such as vitamin C, for immune function, and potassium for maintaining blood pressure and muscle function.


Mycoprotein is a unique and nutritious protein that is high in fibre, low in saturated fat and contains no cholesterol. Its principal ingredient is fusarium venenatum, one of the largest groups within the fungi family, which also includes truffles and morels. It is one of a genus of filamentous fungi, meaning it is comprised of a web of finely spun strands. Mycoprotein was

created in the 1980s and is produced through fermentation of biological feedstock. Fungi contain approximately 40 percent protein, are high in fiber, have limited carbohydrates and contain no cholesterol.


In his blog, renowned chef Jamie Oliver describes seitan as having “a solid, firm texture” useful for “faux meat” products such as mince, burgers and kebabs. Unlike other vegan, soybased, protein-filled substitutes like tofu and tempeh, seitan is made from the development of gluten in the wheat dough. According to Oliver, “The nutritional profile of seitan depends on the other ingredients within each product. In the case of seitan burgers, this is often wheat flour, pea or soy protein, and flavourings.”

Soy, pea and chickpea

Widely used in meat-free burgers and protein powders, this alternative is the most popular among consumers – and has been for years. Rich in protein, soybeans can be used to make food products such as tofu, soy milk and various dairy and meat substitutes. Soybean is an herbicide-tolerant crop, which significantly limits the need to plow fields to remove weeds.


Since 2010, researchers like biologist Ronald Osinga from Wageningen University in the Netherlands have postulated that large-scale cultivation of sea lettuce can help reduce acidification of the oceans – and help solve the global food supply problem. Osinga and his colleagues calculated that a “marine garden” of 180,000 km2 could provide enough protein for the entire world population. A sea lettuce bed of such gigantic proportions would raise the pH (acidity level) of the Mediterranean Sea by one tenth. Seaweed is high in protein and contains important micronutrients – especially iodine, which contributes to the normal production of thyroid hormones and thyroid function.


By some reports, the global nutraceuticals market is expected to be worth more than US$550 billion by 2025


How to Enter the Nutraceuticals Market



By Dr. Michael I. Lindinger, PhD, President, The Nutraceutical Alliance


nutraceuticals market provides nutritional-type products that have healing effects, therapeutic effects (“ceutical effects”) or that support health in ways beyond the effects attributed to nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, water and foods. Nutraceuticals can be topical or oral, and are used both to treat and to prevent various conditions of unwellness. People love nutraceuticals because: 1. They are natural; 2. They are a drug alternative; 3. They have traditionally not been connected to big pharma (but that is changing rapidly); 4. People get the sense that they are doing something helpful to keep or make their body well. First, let’s talk about “natural.” Many people wrongly equate “natural” and/ or “organic” with terms like safe, good, beneficial, non-toxic – but these are misconceptions. Most – yes, most – natural products have the potential to be very harmful. One must learn which are beneficial, and in what quantities; processing a natural substance has a large influence on function and safety, so if you are thinking of getting into nutraceuticals, be careful and be insured. The global nutraceuticals market is sizable already (more than US$383 billion in 2017, expected to grow to over US$560 billion by 2023, according to, and it’s expected to double in sequential five-year periods. How can newcomers enter the market? There are already thousands of products in the marketplace, but there are not really very many different types of products, i.e. there are a lot of “knockoffs” or copycat products. The only way a newcomer can compete if they are interested in producing similar products is by ensuring better quality and/or a lower price for the consumer, coupled with excellent marketing. As is generally true, however, you get what you pay for; high-quality products will cost more, but many consumers are not willing to pay for quality. Low-quality products often lack physiologically meaningful effects (i.e., they do not work as intended) – but if a consumer believes it may help, then sometimes it might, through a placebo effect. Thousands of excellent nutraceutical ingredients are available, but evidence-based scientific research is important because it shows (not “proves,” because the result is specific to

the conditions of the research) that an ingredient may work, how it may work, if it works on the intended target (human or animal) and if it is safe in the target species at the levels where beneficial effects occur. Is it safe both in the short-term (acute safety) and in the long-term (chronic safety)? A company providing nutraceutical products needs to be able to demonstrate both function and safety. It is for this reason that many companies opt for the route of contracting manufacturers that provide a line of generic nutraceutical products sold to different companies under different labels, letting these companies vie with each other for market share. The winner is the contract manufacturer, and the contract manufacturer with the greatest number of innovative products with unique selling points will be the biggest winner.

According to, the global nutraceuticals market is sizable already (more than US$383 billion in 2017, expected to grow to over US$560 billion by 2023).



Where to start

So, is there a way to get into the marketplace with a product that is safe, that works and that is truly unique, while protecting that product for the period of time needed to carve out your share of the market? The answer is yes. There are three main ways: 1. Contract manufacturers (most good ones have inhouse design and regulatory teams); a company may have the ability to obtain an exclusive license (costly) for unique product(s) for a fixed period of time. 2. Do it yourself – which some try, but there are usually areas in the pipeline between “concept” and “consumer” for which expertise is lacking. For example, if there is good evidence that the product works, how do you determine if it is safe in the way that regulators require? Or does it need to have regulatory approval prior to going to market? If regulatory approval is needed, then how is regulatory approval obtained? Will you be able to make the claims that you want to make? (The answer to that question is usually “no,” so other marketing strategies need to be created.) 3. Partner with a contract research organization (CRO) that helps companies and individuals with conceptto-consumer (C2C) product development. This type of approach can be performed completely by the CRO, but more often is a partnership on one or more levels. For example, the

CRO is approached by a company with an idea to use a specific ingredient, or combination of ingredients, to exert a specific effect; it is the company’s idea, but they need help to answer one or more of the following questions: Does it work for the intended species, using the intended route of administration? How much is needed for it to work in the way it is intended to work? Is it safe? Is it innovative enough to carve out a niche? Is there a high likelihood of obtaining regulatory approval? And so on. Partnering with a CRO for C2C product development helps to ensure that the formulation is safe, effective and innovative, with enough unique selling points to have a high potential of retail success; it ensures a high success potential for regulatory approval (if needed); and, it ensures that the formulation can be adequately protected (patent or trade secret). Your partners should have the scientific and regulatory expertise to navigate all of the above.

Launching on a large scale

variability, year-to-year variability and so on. Ideally, your company will want to source from at least two suppliers – it is always important to have backups when upscaling production. Your quality assurance department may determine that it is best to blend batches of like ingredients, producing a large enough quantity for a three- to six-month product run. Nutraceutical ingredients are biological products, and thus degrade or decompose over time; therefore, highquality storage facilities are needed to keep products out of the light, at the correct humidity and temperature. The same is true for the finished product, and regulators like to see stability (shelf life) data for ingredients and products. Many producers of nutraceutical products are trying to fly under the regulatory radar. There is a decent amount of industry self-reporting (such as, a company reports a competitor to Health Canada or the FDA, especially when there are quality concerns), but for a legitimate company that is interested in people/animal health and plans to be in business for the long-term, it is best to take a regulatory approach from the beginning. This starts with using evidence-based research to support ingredient selection, product design (which ingredients, in what proportions, to achieve the intended effect), product effect(s) and product safety. In Canada, most nutraceutical products for humans must be registered as Natural Health Products, and for animals they must be registered as Veterinary Health Products. There are still thousands of products on the market that are not registered. How do you know if a product is registered? Read the label. Near the bottom of one of the labels it will state that it is registered, and there also will be a notification number that identifies that product within the Health Canada databases.

One of the biggest challenges is sourcing adequate quantities of highquality ingredients, and ensuring that these ingredients are, indeed, of suitable quality.

In your corporate boardroom, the decision has been made to go large into the nutraceuticals market. The company has success with a small starter line of products. Going large brings big challenges because it is not simply the process of producing more product. One of the biggest challenges is sourcing adequate quantities of high-quality ingredients, and ensuring that these ingredients are, indeed, of suitable quality. The quality assurance department will need to test each incoming shipment to ensure it meets criteria for bioactives and absence of contaminants – both of these can be highly variable, even from the same supplier. One supplier may source ingredients from more than one producer, resulting in variability; there is also seasonal





Invest wisely in C2C product development and you will be rewarded with a product for the long-term, that helps many people and/ or animals, and that you can stand behind and be proud of. The Nutraceutical Alliance has been helping people and companies with C2C product design for more than eight years and stands behind dozens of successful products, with evidence-based research supporting their function and safety.

According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), nutraceuticals fall into two categories: Functional foods are foods enhanced with bioactive ingredients and which have demonstrated health benefits, such as probiotic yogurt, or breads and pasta with added pea fibre. How enhanced functional food attributes are developed:


• increasing vitamin and/or mineral levels, beyond mandatory requirements (for example, fortified soy beverages and fruit juice with calcium) • addition of bioactive ingredients (for example, margarine with phytosterols, muffins with betaglucan, yogurts with probiotics and drinks with herb blends) • enhancement with bioactive components through plant breeding, genetic modification, processing or special livestock feeding techniques (for example, eggs, milk and meat with omega-3; canola oil high in carotenoids; and strawberries with enhanced levels of ellagic acid)


WINTER 2019–20

• Saputo developed a high-protein Milk2Go sports drink • Biscuits Leclerc’s Preventia biscuits are enhanced with red wine and inulin from chicory • Acadian Seaplants incorporates unique sea plants into foods, nutraceuticals and cosmetics

Natural health products are extracts derived from natural sources and which have demonstrated health benefits, such as omega-3 capsules or beta-glucan supplements. Examples of natural health products:

• components extracted or purified from plants (e.g., betaglucan from oats, antioxidants from blueberries, isoflavonoids from soy, sterols from wood pulp, essential fatty acids from marine or vegetable oil, and soluble fibre from fenugreek) • products ground, dried, powdered or pressed from plant materials (e.g., echinacea, fenugreek, valerian and ginseng) • products produced, extracted or purified from animals or micro-organisms (e.g., elk velvet [used to treat arthritis], essential fatty acids, enzymes, carotenoids and probiotics) • products produced, extracted or purified from marine sources (e.g., glucosamine, chitosan, algae, seaweed, kelp and fish oils) • vitamin and mineral supplements


• Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre pioneered the extraction of anthocyanins from berries and red wine • Nutra Canada specializes in fruit and vegetable extracts • Greenfield Naturals concentrates protein and fibre from byproducts of corn-ethanol • Valeant Pharmaceuticals (formerly C.V. Technologies) developed Cold-FX using North American ginseng More than 750 Canadian companies specialize in functional foods and natural health products, garnering more than $11 billion in revenues in 2011 (according to the most recent data). For detailed information on specific products offered by individual companies, including an alphabetical list of Canadian suppliers, visit the AAFC Functional Foods and Natural Health Products Database of Suppliers: Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)









By Omar Subedar




the year 2021, Muslims will outnumber Chinese in Canada, according to a projection from Statistics Canada based on current growth rates. Despite the statistics, though, most companies allocate far fewer marketing dollars on reaching the Muslim consumer, if any at all. It may have something to do with a single word that means a lot to Muslims, but very little to anyone outside the community: halal.

Can my business self-regulate and be certified halal? Realistically, there’s only so much you can train employees, especially those not familiar with halal. There’s a high risk of human error, especially when there’s turnover in the company. How much money are you willing to spend on repeated training and mitigating any public relations risks that can occur due to improper management of halal standards?

What does it mean for a product to be halal? Very simply, halal means “permissible.” Something that is halal is allowed by the Muslim religion based on guidelines set out in the sacred texts, specifically the Qur’an. Within the food market, halal is used to refer to what Muslims are allowed to consume; however, it’s more than just food, it’s a complete lifestyle. Everything that is allowed for a Muslim to do is halal, and every single industry can have a halal component to it. For the Muslim consumer, it means a lot of time spent scouring food labels. Ultimately, many mainstream products are passed over by Muslim consumers because they have no way of knowing if they are halal, and they prefer to err on the side of caution. It’s not so different for how things used to be for consumers with allergies and non-religious dietary restrictions. Today, many mainstream food packages bear labels like “school safe,” “nut-free” and “gluten-free.” These certifications make it possible for consumers to choose products with confidence. What few people realize is that halal certification is also available, and it can open up your product to a market with a 10 per cent growth rate.

The simplest solution is to engage the help of a certifying agency. But who? There are no government regulations for halal, meaning anyone can set up a halal certification body. Prior to 2004, there were two halal certifying bodies in Canada. Today there are many, and that just adds to the challenge for both consumers and businesses. Further compounding the issue is the dynamic nature of the food industry. New products and new processes are developed all the time, and it is not always immediately apparent whether or not they are halal. This requires research, conversation and deep knowledge of the subject. In the end, there should be no guesswork either for your business or for the consumer. The best choice is an agency that does more than simply inspect once and award a label. In other words, don’t go for a company that is just after a paycheque. Better to hire an agency, such as the Halal Monitoring Authority, that evaluates your entire operation as a partner, is connected to the community you want to reach and has their utmost trust. Remember, your company will be intimately associated with the agency you choose.

How do I know if my product is halal? For a product to be certified halal, there must be strict adherence to an established but evolving set of guidelines. First, you need to look for the presence of things that are not halal for Muslims to consume – are they found within the food or in the manufacturing process of the item? For example, when it comes to CPG, any animal and alcohol content within the product must be scrutinized, as these are the two main categories of impermissible ingredients. Regarding the animal content, the only time Muslims can consume it is after it has gone through a proper procedure. Once those aspects are ruled out, an inspection of the manufacturing process follows. You can have products which are completely fine from the ingredient standpoint, but the equipment used or the manufacturing process itself may not be halal. For example, in a processing facility, there must be a complete sanitization to remove remnants of the previous production run. Furthermore, the product cannot be stored near a non-halal product to eliminate the risk of mislabelling or cross-contamination before packaging.

Is halal certification really worth the effort? There’s huge value in the growing numbers of the halal demographic. At the moment, there may be a lot of people that are not buying your product because it’s not meeting their requirements. If you want the confidence of those consumers, the investment you’ll need to make is minimal relative to the potential returns. Don’t forget, making your product inclusive for Muslims does not exclude it from other markets. Have you ever eaten a kosher pickle? It’s really not so different. The Muslim community is only growing in Canada; it’s not going anywhere, and with the spending power being much more than it ever was before, it just makes sense for a company to look at halal certification, and a certification the community trusts.

Omar Subedar is the COO of Halal Monitoring Authority Canada, an Islamic scholar and a practicing imam. HMA Canada was formed in 2004 and has certified more than 130 restaurants, products and food industry businesses. Subedar formed the HMA after uncovering mislabelling, fraud and other findings of misconduct within existing labelling and certifying processes. Learn more at


DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences has launched one of the dairy industry’s most flexible enzyme ranges for fermented dairy products that are low in sugar, high in fiber and lactose-free. Designed for today’s major dairy trends, the series enables targeted innovation through an all-in-one addition. Using Nurica, manufacturers can fine-tune the sugar, fiber and lactose content of their dairy products to benefit consumers who are lactose intolerant or seeking healthier dairy choices.

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PURE WATER SYSTEMS ENSURE ACCURATE CANNABIS TESTING When analyzing cannabis and CBD products for purity, ultrapure water is the basis for safe and economical analytics, reducing interference and ensuring accurate measurements of cannabinoids and terpenes. The arium laboratory-grade water purification systems offer application-oriented operating designs for faster workflows and greater reliably. The flexible system integrates and easily adapts into different laboratory environments.

THE RIGHT INTERLEAVING SYSTEM CAN IMPACT YOUR BOTTOM LINE From burgers to pasta, the right food interleaving system can improve production, shelf life, food safety and consumer appeal. Systems like Pacproinc’s 300 series of ProLeavers are built for high-volume, speed, accuracy and reliability, and can interface with existing packaging machinery. The ProLeaver 9300 saves space while providing a single bottom sheet or full-wrap interleaving and can be outfitted with a remote monitoring and diagnostic system (RMDS). The ProLeaver 20300 features 200 rows per minute, four lanes of paper, the ability to run paper or plastic film and multiple stacking options. The ProLeaver 26300 is the most compact standalone paper feeder in the world, but can interleave up to 26-inch-wide paper or up to six lanes of narrower paper.




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