Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – We are seeing a big shift in the food industry as owners find innovative ways to sell their products and get more out of them as consumers look for more options and transparency in how their food is produced.

Terry Andryo, who is with ATB Financial, spends a lot of time listening to people who work in the agriculture and agri-food industry about how they have dealt with the pandemic.

Andryo uses breweries as an example who were innovative at the beginning of the pandemic by adding another alcohol-based product to their product list to meet consumer demand.

“We’ve seen the big shift with hand sanitizer like every brewery is producing alcohol, they shifted in a time of need, and they’re continuing it,” Andryo said.

They didn’t stop at hand-sanitizer either, with some companies like Partake Brewing, Sexy AF, and Village Brewing getting in on the non-alcohol scene, which Andryo says has seen big-time growth because of the pandemic.

“Certainly, you’re spending a lot more time at home and a lot more time isolated, so you’re putting on potential pounds. The shift to non-sugar, non-alcohol is starting to be something that’s certainly not going to go away.”

He says the increase in low-calorie beer and spirits and zero alcohol in beverages did take him by surprise.

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Waste Reduction

Andryo says that in recent years, we have seen a shift in the food industry to reduce waste, which only continues to grow.

“We see vodka being made out of milk solids, so something that normally gets poured down the drain is now being repurposed into something that’s consumable.”

He points to a company in Europe called Discarded Spirits that takes old wasted fruit and vegetables and turns them into spirits as a perfect example of this type of innovation.

Food Security drives change

The word ‘food security’ has taken on new meaning for many who had never really given it a second thought before.

One such example is when the meatpacking plants were dealing with COVID outbreaks and were forced to either idle and – or reduce their shifts created an opportunity for smaller abattoirs and butcheries, changing the way people ordered meat in the process.

He says people are no longer feel limited to just buying ‘X’ number of cuts and putting them in the freezer.

“I’m just going to go to my local butcher and get kind of on-demand of what I want because now I’ve got a relationship with people at Red Deer Lake Meats. I can go down there buy the cut fresh or aged, and eat it when I want to rather than packing my freezer full.”

For the time being, this line of thinking will also mean continued growth for farmers’ markets and direct to the consumer from the farm business models, according to Andryo.

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Make it a relationship

Andryo says buying food should never be just a transaction. It should be a relationship.

“Make it something that you can make a little bit longer-lasting, get an understanding, go to farmers you know.”

He urges people, where possible, to go right to the source and get the information they need as farmers are not scared to talk about what they produce, answer questions, and provide tours if they are able.

Andryo stresses it’s critical people don’t make observations from the outside and get all sides of the story regarding the food they enjoy.

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