Bakers Journal

Editor’s Letter May 2009

April 29, 2009
By Brian Hartz

As almost every other manufacturing industry … witnessed a decline in production … the business of making food continued to grow, and was second only to the pharmaceutical industry in overall production growth.

Is this country’s food manufacturing industry recession-proof? In essence, yes, according to an intriguing report released in March by the Conference Board of Canada.

“Demand for everyday products such as food is not particularly sensitive to economic conditions, so the food manufacturing industry in Canada is expected to come through the economic turmoil without suffering too much,” economist Valerie Poulin, the report’s author, said in a press release. The report, titled “Canadian Industrial Outlook: Canada’s Food Manufacturing Industry – Winter 2009,” is available for download at

Now, to head off any complaints about being a mouthpiece for government ivory-tower types, allow me to say that it’s not much of a stretch to conclude that the food manufacturing industry has a much better chance of surviving this recession than, say, the automobile manufacturing industry, which is teetering on the brink of collapse. Food and beverages, as the report says, “are the single largest component of retail sales. And with the exception of full-service restaurants, the performance of most food-related businesses is largely independent of economic conditions.”

Indeed, as almost every other manufacturing industry in Canada witnessed a decline in production during the first 11 months of 2008, the business of making food continued to grow, and was second only to the pharmaceutical industry in overall production growth. Bakeries and tortilla makers, which the government lumps together for statistical purposes, have done well enough over the past few years to warrant special attention in the section of the report on industry trends, in which Poulin writes, “Although low-carbohydrate diets had challenged this segment recently, a transition to diets that focus on better carbs … has returned bakery products to the place they used to have in the grocery basket.”

Poulin also states that the performance of bakeries and tortilla makers has buoyed the overall industry in recent years: Production in this sector increased by an impressive 19 per cent in 2006-07. And with real output in the industry expected to decline by only 0.8 per cent in 2009 before rebounding to increase by an average of 2.3 per cent annually between 2010 and 2013, bakers can take a bow; you are the backbone of the food business, and should be justifiably proud of the work you do.

However, here at the Journal we want to go beyond the numbers and find out which products are really helping the bakery business grow. Poulin’s report mentions cereal bars and snack crackers as strong performers – and we’ve seen and heard anecdotal evidence of 2009 being the year of single-serving, comfort-food desserts like cookies, cupcakes and hand-held cakes and pies – but let us know what’s been a strong seller for you by dropping an e-mail to and we’ll try to include your comments in next month’s issue, whose theme is “What’s Driving Industry Growth?”

Getting back to this month, however, we welcome a new columnist, registered dietitian Jane Dummer, whom you might recognize from an article on sodium reduction in the December 2008 issue. Jane is an expert on nutrition and food safety, two areas of the food industry that, in our opinion, warrant regular examination.

Jane will be with us every other month as she shares The Final Proof column with Stephanie Ortenzi, a food service marketing writer with 15 years of experience as a fine dining chef, who wrote this month’s feature article on wheat prices. We are excited and fortunate to have them both as part of Bakers Journal.

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