Canadian omega-3s add value to foods worldwide
Kids in Ireland don’t know it’s in their bread. Greeks can’t taste it in their chocolate bars. Chinese families may not know their dinners were cooked with it.
Yet all these nutritious foods include omega-3 ingredients produced by Dartmouth-based Ocean Nutrition Canada (ONC).
“We provide omega-3 ingredients that our customers include in their products to add nutritional value,” says Don Habbick, ONC’s chief financial officer.
ONC began producing omega-3 oils for the global supplement market 12 years ago. In 2000, the company developed a breakthrough technology that transformed fish oil into a tasteless, odourless powder finer than flour that could withstand almost any food manufacturing process.
“We constantly innovate to develop products that better serve our customers,” Mr. Habbick says. “It’s always exciting to see what our team is working on.”
ONC operates the largest privately owned marine research and development facility in North America with 35 in-house scientists including 14 PhDs who work with ONC’s supply chain to improve the quality of the company’s fish oils.
ONC is the only omega-3 organization to receive USP dietary ingredient verification. However, Mr. Habbick says supplying customers in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia requires additional steps to ensure ONC’s products comply with local food and drug regulations.
“Providing local regulatory, technical and marketing is part of serving a global clientele,” he says.
GRAIN INSTITUTE MOVING FIELD CROPS UP THE FOOD CHAIN
How did a shortage of mung beans in China create a half-million ton export market for Canadian yellow peas?
“Mung beans are used to make vermicelli noodles,” explains Earl Geddes, executive director of the Canadian International Grains Institute (CIGI). “Canada doesn’t grow mung beans, so our researchers discovered how to extract and use yellow pea starch to make noodles.”
It was just the job for CIGI. A not-for-profit organization founded in 1972 – funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Wheat Board, other industry and government sectors – CIGI’s mission is to enhance global competitiveness of Canadian field crops.
Using a flour mill, pasta presses, cooking extruders and other food processing equipment in CIGI’s downtown Winnipeg office, researchers “fractionate” field crops into their component parts to make them more food-ready and broaden their usefulness.
“You can’t use raw lentils to make yogurt, but we discovered how to do so using red lentil flour,” Mr. Geddes explains.
None of CIGI’s innovative techniques are patented. What’s more, CIGI trains an average of 2,000 people each year from around the globe in the use of its methodologies. CIGI staff also work overseas helping countries resolve various food processing problems.
“Our objective is to sell more Canadian field crops at higher prices,” Mr. Geddes explains. “The more people use our technologies, the greater the demand for Canadian crops.”
Q&A AGRI-FOOD ECONOMICS With Peter G. Hall, Vice President, and Chief Economist, Export Development Canada How are major emerging markets influencing food supply and demand?
Collectively, tens of millions of Brazilians, Chinese and Indians are becoming middle-class income earners each year. Many other fast-growing emerging markets are also adding millions more citizens to the global middle-class cohort.
How does that affect food consumption?
When consumers enter the middle-class ranks, there is a discernible change in consumption patterns; they increase overall consumption and the quality of that consumption. And one of the first places they start is food. Among other things, meat consumption rises noticeably, putting significant additional pressure on food stocks.
How does that affect supplies?
Meat is food-intensive food, in that it takes a lot of food – that otherwise might have been consumed by humans – to bulk up meat. According to the USDA, it takes 7 kilos of grain to produce a single kilo of beef. This tenfold intensity of food usage ultimately implies an exponential increase in global demand.
How will the world meet these demands?
Technical breakthroughs on crop production could help, but they have long lead times. At present, global supplies are being augmented by increased usage of leading-edge farm equipment and by using fertilizer to boost production on more marginal lands.
What about Canada?
Canada is known for its advanced farm equipment, and we are an important producer of the essential ingredients of fertilizers. Both industries are seeing strong increases in exports and face bright, long-term possibilities.
The bottom line?
The global appetite for food, including higher-quality foods, is rising. This is good news for a ‘bread basket’ nation like Canada, and good news for our agricultural machinery and fertilizer industries too.
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