Canada's 'better for you' food and beverage sector presents big opportunity for investors
Steve Campbell is a corporate communications, writer and media publicity consultant who specializes in publicizing and promoting food ingredients, products and technologies. He can be reached at [email protected]
When Grant Ferrier, CEO of Nutrition Capital Network (NCN) was reviewing applications for the San Francisco investor meeting in the fall of 2016, something caught his eye. Mazza Innovation of Vancouver had a unique process for extracting bioactives from botanical sources that eliminated the need for solvents. Ferrier saw big potential in the company, but also realized he may have tapped a vein for new opportunities in Canada.
“Canada sort of quietly goes along doing all this great research and producing these really high quality products and technologies in the nutrition and natural health product sectors,” said Ferrier. “There’s a lot of hidden gems for investors.”
Ferrier partnered with Natural Products Canada (NPC), a national not-for-profit working to increase Canada’s activity in the sector. Together, they decided to shine a spotlight on these Canadian opportunities through NCN’s highly effective investor meeting, which offers presentations from pre-screened companies, as well as valuable insights and networking with a prestigious group of strategic investors, VCs and family offices.
“Our first meeting in 2017 was a great success,” said Shelley King, CEO of NPC. “I think investors were surprised at the quality of the companies and the level of development and technology that had gone into the products.”
The second official Canadian meeting will take place in Toronto June 27-28, and has an equally impressive line-up of companies seeking investment and other strategic partners. For instance, one company has a branded functional drink that can reduce 70% of plaque associated with dental disease. Another has clinically backed protein-based products for kids and adults. There is also a supplement to improve brain performance, organic cricket protein snacks and drinks, and a prebiotic soda with only 5g of naturally occurring sugars.
Like Mazza Innovation, many of the companies in Canada are grounded in publicly funded research and a solid system of entrepreneur-friendly support programs to take the products from the R&D phase into marketing and sales. For example, the multi-million-dollar Protein Industries Canada initiative was designed to leverage Canada’s expertise in plant-based proteins like peas, canola and lentils.
Canada, cannabis and the consumer
Another national opportunity is the upcoming decriminalization of cannabis in Canada. When fully implemented over the next year or so, this could make Canada one of the leading jurisdictions for developing products that contain cannabidiol (CBD), the compound from cannabis that is associated with health benefits such as anti-inflammation and pain relief, without the psychotropic effect of THC.
For example, Phivida Holdings, which specializes in CBD-infused products, trades publicly on the Canadian Securities Exchange. Its founder, John-David Belfontaine, will share the company’s story as part of a special NCN panel discussion on the investment opportunities that present themselves as legalization becomes official in Canada later this year.
“Investors and acquisitive companies are paying attention to what’s happening in Canada,” said King. “We’re hearing about companies with really great products and excellent management that are undervalued in the market.”
Companies like UNFI Canada, Whipstitch Capital, GreenSpace and others will among those sharing their thoughts on the sector at the meeting, and paying careful attention to the pitches from the Canadian businesses.
The upcoming Nutrition Capital Network-Natural Products Canada Investor Meeting will be held in Toronto June 27–28. Investors can register at www.naturalproductscanada.com/investor-meeting.