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The pandemic: A catalyst for the bio-food industry?

Words of wisdom | May 17 2021

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many of the weakest points of our societal structures in Québec. In the bio-food sector, one particular gap was quickly spotlighted: our lack of autonomy in terms of local food production. As a result, a number of programs were implemented by the various levels of government to stimulate this sector and increase production within our territory. Communication campaigns aimed at the general public were also launched to raise awareness of the importance of “eating local”. These circumstances are very favourable to emerging businesses, including urban farms and food processing businesses, but where do you start when all of the doors are thrown open at once? 

A multitude of growth opportunities

The desire to increase our food autonomy may have grown, in part, out of the upheaval that we have been experiencing since the spring of 2020, but industry leaders are well aware that our dependence on imports can still cost us dearly, because there is no permanent shelter against a potential economic crisis or major fluctuations in exchange rates. In light of this, financial assistance and support programs have been implemented to galvanize the efforts of businesses in the food sector. 

Emerging consumption trends also create favourable circumstances for new players in the industry. In addition to a desire to purchase locally-made products, consumers are demanding more and more organic and non-GMO products, along with fruits and vegetables grown via urban agriculture, for those who live in metropolitan areas. Finally, distribution channels are more varied than ever before, because the pandemic has accelerated some of the changes that were already on the horizon. For example, we are witnessing an explosion of online food ordering, both for grocery products and for packaged meal services – companies with which producers can easily reach agreements. 

Bio-food issues that must be considered 

The multiplication of opportunities is very exciting and promising for the industry. However, faced with a multitude of business opportunities, many entrepreneurs don’t know which way to turn. If they attempt to accelerate their growth too rapidly, the risk of failure is all too real. 
Consider the example of an entrepreneur who signs a large contract, and for the first time, faces the challenge of producing in large volumes. They may have to quadruple their production in a very short period of time, but their premises are too small or manpower is lacking, and the growth opportunity could lead to ruin.  

According to Ada Panduro, Director of Commercialization of Innovations for the Bio-food Industry at PME MTL, the key to a successful rapid expansion is to surround yourself with the right resources. As it happens, there is already an entire ecosystem of support for bio-food entrepreneurs. Organizations like the CIBÎM or Arrivage, to name only a couple, are available to help prepare entrepreneurs for market opportunities and guide them through their evolution. 

Ada points out that the pandemic has accelerated consumption trends and the diversification of distribution and commercialization channels in the bio-food sector. This has led to major challenges for producers and processors, which have been forced to quickly modify their business models in order to adapt to the new reality. Market opportunities abound, and they are being seized by entrepreneurs who have learned how to properly prepare and surround themselves with the right partners. 

Finally, Ada reminds us that Montréal entrepreneurs always have the option of taking advantage of the guidance and support services the she and her colleagues at PME MTL make available to them. 


This article was written with the help of Ada Panduro, Director, Commercialization of Innovations, Bio-food, at PME MTL. 

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