As Baking Association of Canada (BAC) president Paul Hetherington put it to me: “Everyone’s looking around, saying, ‘Well, we’re still here.’ There isn’t the sense of doom and gloom of a year ago.”
But the economy (see page 34) is only one of many issues to keep on your radar this year. Here are 12 others to monitor.
- Sodium. Unfairly or not, a federal task force has pegged bakery products as the food group contributing the most sodium to Canadians’ diets. The BAC will be holding meetings across the country in 2010 to discuss sodium reduction as they work to formulate an industry response to Health Canada’s proposed voluntary targets.
- Sustainability. One of 2009’s biggest buzzwords. With consumers increasingly conscious of businesses’ carbon footprints, will bakeries that aren’t going “green” suffer the consequences?
- Trans fats. They’ve been outright banned in some Canadian cities and provinces; the U.S. is cracking down as well – California’s ban went into effect Jan. 1.
- Harmonized Sales Tax. In November, a debate over HST incited an all-out war of words in the Ontario legislature and then a walkout by the Opposition. With two of Canada’s biggest economies – Ontario and British Columbia – set to join Quebec, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in blending GST and PST, look for grocery stores to enjoy another banner year as customers shy away from an extra eight per cent in sales tax payable at restaurants, cafés and bakeries for meals $4 and up.
- Food safety. There was nothing on the scale of the Maple Leaf listeria crisis of 2008, but 2009 was still an awful year for food safety as recalls of such staples as peanut butter dominated business headlines.
- Employment. Despite signs of recovery in other sectors of the economy, job losses continue to pile up, especially among small businesses. Conversely, culinary school enrolments are running high, with intense interest in baking and pastry arts. Will there be enough jobs for these students?
- Clean labels. Simply put, a “clean” label is one whose ingredients can be pronounced without a degree in food science or nutrition – and it’s something your patrons will be demanding. “We have had customers call here asking what kinds of guar gum we’re using in our bread,” says Andrea Damon Gibson of Fred’s Bread in North York, Ont.
- Artisan baking. A contentious topic, to be sure. Opinions on what it is – and isn’t – are myriad, depending on whom you ask.
- New ingredients and flavours. Look for flatbreads and breads made with ancient grains such as chia and quinoa to be sold in greater quantities in 2010 as demand for exotic ingredients and flavours picks up.
- Card fees. Ottawa has proposed a voluntary code of conduct for credit- and debit-card companies intended to “level the playing field” for consumers and small businesses. The move was fuelled by complaints from the Retail Council of Canada, which estimates that credit-card fees cost merchants about $4.5 billion a year. It also comes as Visa and MasterCard prepare to enter the lucrative debit-card market.
- Gluten-free products. It’s become more than a niche market, but with consumer research indicating a certain level of fad-ness to the GF diet, can its growth be sustained?
- Competitions. Team Canada is preparing for the Louis Lesaffre Cup in September, and hopefully the Bakery World Cup in 2012, but there is a yearning for more competitions in our industry that needs to be addressed.