Overview of the Food and Beverage Processing Industry

  • The food and beverage processing industry is the second largest manufacturing industry in Canada in terms of value of production with sales of goods manufactured worth $117.8 billion in 2019; it accounts for 17% of total manufacturing sales and for 2% of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It’s the largest manufacturing employer and provides employment for 290,000 Canadians.
  • It supplies approximately 70% of all processed food and beverage products available in Canada and is the largest buyer of agricultural production.
  • Exports of processed food and beverage products stood at a record value of $38.9 billion in 2019, an increase of 7% over 2018; accounting for 33% of production value.
  • Canadian processed food and beverage products are exported to some 192 countries with a significant proportion exported to a few countries. In 2019, 86% of the total went to three major markets:
    • United States (72%)
    • China (8%)
    • Japan (6%)
  • During the last 5 years, exports of processed food and beverage products grew at an average annual rate of 6.9%. Meanwhile, imports grew at an annual rate of 3.9% during the same period reaching $35.0 billion in 2019. It resulted in a significant improvement in the trade balance. That is, from a negative balance of $1 billion in 2014 to a positive trade balance of $3.9 billion in 2019. Food manufacturing (excluding beverage) has maintained a positive trade balance over the last twenty years, which stood at $8.3 billion in 2019. Beverage manufacturing on the other hand, had a growing negative trade balance since 1997, which stood at $4.5 billion in 2019.
  • The largest food and beverage processing industry is meat product manufacturing which accounted for 25% of all manufacturing sales and $30 billion in 2019. Dairy product manufacturing is the second largest industry with sales of $14.8 billion, followed by other food manufacturing with sales of $12.6 billion. Other industries include:
    • Bakeries and tortilla manufacturing ($12.1 billion)
    • Beverage manufacturing ($11.9 billion)
    • Grain and oilseed milling ($10.6 billion)
    • Animal food manufacturing ($8.1 billion)
    • Fruit and vegetable preserving, and specialty food manufacturing ($8.1 billion)
    • Seafood product preparation and packaging ($5.6 billion)
    • Sugar and confectionery product manufacturing ($4.0 billion)
  • The food processing industry is the largest manufacturing industry in most provinces. Although food processing is important to the economies of all provinces, Ontario and Quebec account for most of the production with approximately 62% of sales, British Columbia and Alberta account for 22% and the remaining provinces, 16%.
  • Meat product manufacturing is the most significant food industry in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, beverage manufacturing is the most important sub-sector in British Columbia; grain and oilseed milling is the largest food industry in Saskatchewan; while seafood product preparation and packaging is the most significant in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
  • About 7,800 food and beverage processing establishments, with employees, exist in Canada: 91% of establishments have less than 100 employees, 8% have between 100 and 500 employees, while only about 1% of establishments have more than 500 employees.