Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (I.D.E.A)

The Changing Face of the Food and Beverage Industry

The food and beverage processing industry is the largest manufacturing sector in Manitoba, directly employing over 12,650 Manitobans and also is the manufacturing employer in the province. Yet, according to Food Processing Skills Canada, 7 in 10 food manufacturers in Canada are facing recruitment and retention challenges.

Based on growth projections, over 56,000 positions will need to be filled in the next three years, and in Manitoba alone, business as usual will require nearly 1,500 positions to be filled before accounting for any growth and disruptions caused by COVID.

This is a staggering challenge and opportunity for the sector to position itself as an employer of choice for a population that found solace in baking, cooking and growing food during the pandemic. As borders open and immigration restarts, millions of newcomers, many of them with rich food traditions and experience in the food industry, will be looking for jobs. What are we doing to make sure they want to work within the industry? What are we doing to ensure that our workplaces are safe, welcoming, and provide pathways for advancement?

The food and beverage processing sector must adapt and embracing equity, diversity and inclusion within the boardroom and production floor alike is a significant starting point. The moral imperative for diversity has been clear for decades, with more and more consumers being hyper-aware of this need for diversity and representation, but it is now apparent that diversity is at the heart of prosperity, competitiveness, and the future growth of most industries.

Canada is a country of immigrants built on the foundation of settlement and forced displacement of Indigenous populations. The twin demands of truth and reconciliation and embracing newcomers can not only help businesses address the growing labour shortage, but it can also help ensure they are well positioned to innovate, solve novel problems, and attract top tier talent.

Diversity in culture, perspective, gender, and race is highly correlated with innovation and increased profitability. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity on executive teams are 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability.

Industries like tourism and hospitality, are still recovering and the need to foster more inclusive communities is seen by many as foundational to the recovery of the global economy in the coming decade.

And for the food industry specifically, the rising interest in global and ethnic foods also present our industry a huge opportunity to innovate traditional consumer packaged good categories and offer novel solutions to problems like climate change by reaching into the rich history of traditional, sustainable foods from around the world.

Every business is unique and at a different point in their journey when it comes to equity, diversity and inclusion. For some, you have a small workforce and don’t know where to start. For others, you may have policies and procedures in place already and are on a journey of continuous improvement.