The pandemic has caused big disruptions to the food system, leading to problems such as food shortages, but it’s also opened up some business opportunities, says a University of Guelph expert in food supply chains.
Prof. Simon Somogyi, the Arrell Chair in the Business of Food, researches aspects of the agri-food marketing system and food consumer behaviour.
He says one area of the food industry that has seen a boost in sales since the pandemic forced most Canadians into their homes is meal kit delivery services. Businesses like Hello Fresh and GoodFood, which are relatively new to Canada, have seen big jumps in sales because the shutdowns have given many households an opportunity to try these new services, he said.
“I think that post-COVID-19, many of those ‘trial-ers’ will become longer-term adopters.”
Another area of food production that could see big changes from the pandemic is production of fresh produce. Somogyi said that because of our short growing season, Canada is forced to import roughly 65 per cent of its fresh fruit and vegetables.
“But we could be producing more here, and one of the ways we could do that is through greenhouses,” he said, noting Canada has not adopted greenhouse growing the way some other countries have.
Many current greenhouses have been built for the cannabis industry, a sector that has now taken a downturn in the last year, leaving them empty.
“If we put more money into research and development to create breeds of fruits and vegetables that grow better in greenhouses, we could be producing more here, at a lower price,” he said.
Somogyi studies agri-food value chain management and agribusiness marketing management and is a professor in the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management.
He is available for interviews.
Prof. Simon Simogyi