The Food Professor

Ottawa's price gouging investigation, supply chain task force report and special guest Jane Dummer

Episode Summary

Highlights from this episode: Ottawa's price gouging investigation, supply chain task force report and special guest Jane Dummer. We open the show with a discussion about the Thanksgiving Holiday - best gravy ever, and Sylvain's love for the hot new trend, butter boards! On a more serious and helpful level, Sylvain has joined joined the BOD of Second Harvest with our season one guest Lori Nikkel. Why and what is ahead for Second Harvest?

Episode Notes

Highlights from this episode:  Ottawa's price gouging investigation, supply chain task force report and special guest Jane Dummer 

We open the show with a discussion about the Thanksgiving Holiday - best gravy ever, and Sylvain's love for the hot new trend, butter boards!  On a more serious and helpful level, Sylvain has joined joined the BOD of Second Harvest with our season one guest Lori Nikkel.  Why and what is ahead for Second Harvest?

A reminder to the listeners that we’ll be together live podcasting from the Coffee Association of Canada’s annual conference, The Road Ahead, November 14th - will put a link in the show notes  - run, don’t walk to get your tickets today

I’m just back from Las Vegas and the big NACS show and share my experiences - a look at the convenience store industry and I had the opportunity to speak with S1 guest and friend of the show Cara Keating from Pepsico - former president of the Canadian business  - now chief customer officer of Frito Lay North America - a graduate btw of University of Saskatchewan so we know she is hard working in addition to being super smart - and breaking news will be a guest on the show later in the season

Big report just out from the federal government  - National Supply Chain Task Force - I know the lab supported the report, you are thanked specifically in the report, a whole cast of characters testified - RCC, CFIG, Sobeys, tell the listeners about the report and perhaps a summary of its findings - it would seem when it comes to the supply chain actors the total is not greater than the sum of its parts


Loblaw driverless trucks signal the beginning of a new age - you see a more interesting road ahead for the food industry - say more….


Alright lets get to our great interview with Jane Dummer and hear what she has to say about the state of food innovation in North America



…and so Canada’s three big supermarket chains will face a parliamentary inquiry into whether they have been exploiting surging inflation to boost their profits, adding a fresh chapter to the big grocers’ protracted public relations struggle.


The House of Commons agriculture committee voted unanimously in favour of a motion to summon grocery executives to Parliament Hill to explain why “large chains are making profits” while shoppers face the worst food retail inflation in four decades .




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About Jane

Jane founded her consulting company in 1996 with the mission to develop client focused solutions from the pod to plate. A well-respected thought leader in the food industry with credentials as a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Science degree from University of Guelph (Canada’s leading food university), Jane is the Real Deal. Jane and her team’s education, expertise and industry knowledge maximize their capacity to strategize, innovate and communicate customized solutions to accelerate business growth from the pod to plate. With over 60 successful projects, Jane and her team partner with North American food and beverage companies in the agriculture, nutrition and health sectors to build creative solutions that deliver results. A speaker, author and writer, Jane is a frequent guest and commentator in the media circuit with over 250 insightful interviews, presentations, articles and blogs.


Here are my social links:


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About Us

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is a Professor in food distribution and policy in the Faculties of Management and Agriculture at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He is also the Senior Director of the Agri-food Analytics Lab, also located at Dalhousie University. Before joining Dalhousie, he was affiliated with the University of Guelph’s Arrell Food Institute, which he co-founded. Known as “The Food Professor”, his current research interest lies in the broad area of food distribution, security and safety. Google Scholar ranks him as one of the world's most cited scholars in food supply chain management, food value chains and traceability.

He has authored five books on global food systems, his most recent one published in 2017 by Wiley-Blackwell entitled “Food Safety, Risk Intelligence and Benchmarking”. He has also published over 500 peer-reviewed journal articles in several academic publications. Furthermore, his research has been featured in several newspapers and media groups, including The Lancet, The Economist, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BBC, NBC, ABC, Fox News, Foreign Affairs, the Globe & Mail, the National Post and the Toronto Star.

Dr. Charlebois sits on a few company boards, and supports many organizations as a special advisor, including some publicly traded companies. Charlebois is also a member of the Scientific Council of the Business Scientific Institute, based in Luxemburg. Dr. Charlebois is a member of the Global Food Traceability Centre’s Advisory Board based in Washington DC, and a member of the National Scientific Committee of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in Ottawa.

Michael LeBlanc  is the Founder & President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company Inc and a Senior Advisor to Retail Council of Canada as part of his advisory and consulting practice.   He brings 25+ years of brand/retail/marketing & eCommerce leadership experience, and has been on the front lines of retail industry change for his entire career.  Michael is the producer and host of a network of leading podcasts including Canada’s top retail industry podcast,       The Voice of Retail, plus  Global E-Commerce Tech Talks  ,      The Food Professor  with Dr. Sylvain Charlebois and now in its second season, Conversations with CommerceNext!  You can learn more about Michael   here  or on     LinkedIn. 

Be sure and check out Michael's latest venture for fun and influencer riches - Last Request Barbecue,  his YouTube BBQ cooking channel!

Episode Transcription

Michael LeBlanc  00:05

Welcome to The Food Professor Podcast Season 3, Episode 3. I'm Michael LeBlanc.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:10

And I'm The Food Professor, Sylvain Charlebois.

Michael LeBlanc  00:13

How was your Thanksgiving? My wife Paula makes a gravy with a bit of hot sauce and dark soy sauce. Basically, I drink it as a beverage. Now I'd imagine knowing what I know about you and the family. You made up a nice butter board for the family as a treat before the turkey. If I got that, have I got that right?

Sylvain Charlebois  00:33

Not exactly, no.  Butter, butter is quite expensive Michael these days. But that butter board trend, my goodness. I thought pumpkin spice was it. You know the most ridiculous trend out there? I guess now we have a new winner. The butter board, the butter, (crossover talk), 

Michael LeBlanc   00:39

The butter board. 

Sylvain Charlebois   00:40

Yeah, but we actually did eat turkey on Sunday. And last night we had a duck. Oh, yes, duck, 

Michael LeBlanc   00:49


Sylvain Charlebois  00:50

Duck is one of my favourite meats. Now you've ha-, have you had duck recently?

Michael LeBlanc  01:06

I've actually made it for my YouTube show coming up next week's episode with Jack Daniels and some zesty spice on the rotisserie. 

Sylvain Charlebois   01:09


Michael LeBlanc   01:10

I was actually. So, you bring, you bring up duck. The, the folks at, at the, in the duck industry. I think mine was a King Cole Duck. It had some challenges earlier in the year. But (crossover talk), 

Sylvain Charlebois   01:18

With the avian flu, (crossover talk), 

Michael LeBlanc   01:22

Are you feeling better about where they are now?

Sylvain Charlebois  01:27

Not really. I was actually surprised. So, I asked my son to go get a turkey at the store. There was plenty of turkey. But there were only two ducks left. So, we bought both. I think inventory is on the low side of things as a result of the avian flu. And prices are up because of the avian flu as well. So, and, and, and the avian flu is actually back in the country. So, we are expecting prices to tighten up again for the holidays. But I mean the duck is, the duck was great. And now I can actually still smell duck because it's a very fatty meat, right? And it's actually in our slow cooker the leftovers. Last night the leftovers are in the slow cooker right now. We'll probably eat duck again tonight because we don't want to waste die or anything, right, (crossover talk),

Michael LeBlanc  02:15

That's right. That's right. So, for the listeners, we got a great episode coming up. A very special guest, Jane Dummer, a top food consultant working in North America, talking about food trends, and what holds the industry, (crossover talk), bringing food innovation. Now you are on a panel with Jane at the SIAL show in Montreal. That's where I met her as well. How long have you known Jane for?

Sylvain Charlebois  02:34

Oh, I've known her for many years, I think for at least six or seven years. And we've, we've been seeing each other at different events and she's just great. I think she has an, she just has a unique approach to dietet-, dietetics. And I was so happy that she accepted our invitation to join us today.

Michael LeBlanc  02:52

Now a reminder to the listeners you and I will be together live podcasting from the Coffee Association of Canada's Annual Conference, The Road Ahead November 14 here in Toronto. I will put a link in the show notes run, don't walk to get your tickets today. It's going to be a great show. You're speaking as well. But there's a whole cast of great industry experts and (crossover talk), we will be live podcasting and doing a bunch of stuff. Yeah, so looking forward to seeing you.

Sylvain Charlebois  03:14

The speaking agenda, I guess this fall is just packed for me. I don't know about you. But like I’m, I’m starting after Thanksgiving. I'm starting my very busy travelling season. Tomorrow, I'm actually speaking at an Aquaculture, Fisheries and Seafood Conference. But it's going to be right here in Halifax. So, I'm looking forward to that one. Next week, I'm actually in Toronto at U of T. I'm a guest, I'm a guest speaker for the medicine school there. And yeah, there's a lot of every, every week I'll be on the plane now, which is, 

Michael LeBlanc  03:37


Sylvain Charlebois   08:38

Which is great because you get to, you get to the real stories in the industry. You can't stay in a classroom in your office and, and, and you think you know what's going on, you gotta get out there and talk to people dealing with the real issues. So, I'm looking forward to a very busy season. And to finish everything off, of course, is our 13th edition of Canada's Food Price Report on December 7, so we're already getting requests for, for our report. Can you imagine, oh my God, (crossover talk).

Michael LeBlanc  04:14

I imagine it's going to be, it's popular. I mean, you, you get a lot of requests on an ord-, let's say an ordinary year, I imagine this year with so much activity and buzz around food price inflation and deflation. It's gonna be a very active, active season. So, that report once again comes out in December, what was the date again?

Sylvain Charlebois  04:33

December 7th, yeah. So yeah. And so of course, this report is written in partnership with University of Guelph, University of Saskatchewan, and, and UBC as well. So, we're actually, we're starting our meetings next week. So, I'm meeting with UBC, U Sask. and Guelph as well. And so, we're going to be forecasting and last year if you remember, Michael, in December, we were, we were considered as alarmists at 7%,

Michael LeBlanc   04:53

That's right. 

Sylvain Charlebois   04:54

And here we are at 9.8. So, you know, so we were, we missed the target. But I mean, last December, would you have predicted a 10% inflation rate?

Michael LeBlanc  05:15

Well, (crossover talk), 

Sylvain Charlebois   05:17

Very few people did. 

Michael LeBlanc  05:20

I mean, as, as the listeners know, frequent listeners know, that report, work on that report begins all year long. 

Sylvain Charlebois   05:24


Michael LeBlanc   05:25

You know, for many, many months, and of course, putting that report together, you wouldn't have known of the Ukraine war, which has a significant effect on food prices around the world. So, you know, that's a pretty big outlier.

Sylvain Charlebois  05:33

And (crossover talk), this morning Michael, a bushel of wheat is, it’s almost at $10 US again, (crossover talk). So, you can see that right now. Because the northern hemisphere is finishing off its harvest. And the market is pricing in deficits all over the place, including wheat. And so that's why we're quite concerned about, about, four specific regions, the Middle East, northeast Africa, they're going to be, they're going to be struggling, because there's not going to be enough food, unfortunately. We're going to be fine in North America. But unfortunately, some regions around the world will be impacted by what has happened this year.

Michael LeBlanc  06:15

Let's catch up on one thing, you've joined the Board of Directors of Second Harvest (inaudible) with Lori Nikkel. Now, tell me about what, what's ahead for Second Harvest and, and what your role is there. And what kind of conversations are you having at the board level?

Sylvain Charlebois  06:30

Yeah. So, I was appointed, probably about three weeks ago and had a meeting in Toronto. I was in Toronto to meet with the staff there. I mean, Second Harvest is just doing some fantastic work. It's the largest food rescuing agency in the country. So, they are able to really capture negative externalities, I guess, at each level of the supply chain, so they get surpluses, they repurpose them, and they transform them into meals for, for, for the needy. So, they've been doing some fantastic work over the last several decades. And Lori Nikkel, who, we've, we've had on our show, two years ago, she invited me to be part of the board and I said absolutely, of course. And I, we do work with Food Banks Canada, and so we help them with some data. But the Second Harvest I mean, I couldn't, I just couldn't say no to a board position and the board there is amazing. I mean, it's such a dedicated board. And I'll be doing my, my, my premier as a board member during Second Harvest as AGM on November 1.

Michael LeBlanc  07:42

We'll say hi to Karen White-Boswell the Vice Chair she, 

Sylvain Charlebois    07:45

That's right, yes, 

Michael LeBlanc 07:48

She and I know each other from Sobeys, she's at Sobeys and we did a bit of work together chitin and chitin and when I was chit and chattin with Mike Medline and about sustainability and some other things. So, do say hello for me.

Sylvain Charlebois  07:59

I certainly will. And, and, and frankly I'll be, I'll be talking to my fellow board members and I may actually be tempted to invite a couple to our show if you don't mind Mike, 

Michael LeBlanc  08:12

Very exciting, very exciting.

Sylvain Charlebois    08:15

Oh, yes. 

Michael LeBlanc 08:17

So, you talk about travel, I was doing some travel myself. I'm just back from Las Vegas and as you hear Jane Dummer and I actually, (inaudible), 

Sylvain Charlebois   08:22


Michael LeBlanc  08:23

The same event. So, the big NACS show, Sylvain, you got to believe this show, see it to believe it.  I mean it's the National Association of Convenience Stores, it happens every two years. So, it happens every year, but they do a smaller regional one and then they do this big national one, of course they had a break with COVID. You know, my head was on a 360-degree pivot bevel, (crossover talk),

Sylvain Charlebois  08:42

I saw the pictures. I mean the picture (crossover talk), it selves, oh yeah.

Michael LeBlanc  08:46

Just incredible and (inaudible), lots of it you know they, they have a you know as the convenience stores they have the kind of you know, what are the top issues, swipe fees as they call them in the United States. But you know, fees from, from the big, from the big credit card companies are a top issue. They're talking about, you know, how do we up our game in terms of the food quality to make it a destination and, and interestingly, they, they talk about this kind of a); connected consumer but b); this renaissance in a way, which is what I didn't expect to hear I thought they'd be, you know what, peop-, less people are going to work so you know, we're really struggling but they while they've lost some momentum in the breakfast day part.

Sylvain Charlebois   08:56


Michael LeBlanc  08:57

They've captured it later on because what they're finding is people are saying hey, I need a break from the home office. I'm going to go; I want to go sit and have a coffee or maybe a nice snack in a place that's comfortable. So, they're really trying to up their game as operators. So, that was super interesting and even more super interesting. I had the opportunity to talk to a friend of ours, friend of the show, Season 1, (crossover talk), Cara Keating, 

Sylvain Charlebois   09:20

Cara Keating, yeah.

Michael LeBlanc   09:23

She was the former president of a Canadian business. She's now the Chief Customer Officer of Frito-Lay North America. 

Sylvain Charlebois    09:28


Michael LeBlanc   09:29

A graduate and she's a graduate by the way of U of Saskatchewan. So she, (crossover talk), we know she is hard working in addition to being talented and, and super smart. So, (inaudible), maybe, maybe we'll get lucky and, and get Cara, back on the show later on in the season to talk about her new gig and, and what she's doing. Anyway, she says hello. 

Sylvain Charlebois   09:54


Michael LeBlanc    09:55

I just want to make sure and say hello, (crossover talk),

Sylvain Charlebois  10:12

She was great to the Canadian Division. So, she navigated through this awful, stop sell that she did very well. I mean, so I'm not surprised that she's, she's been promoted and doing bigger and better things in the US.

Michael LeBlanc  10:27

Yeah, (crossover talk). Well, North America who mandates North America, (crossover talk), 

Sylvain Charlebois   10:31

North America, that's right, yeah. 

Michael LeBlanc  10:37

Yeah, yeah. But she's based in Plano. And by the way, I keep saying I interviewed her. If it wasn't for this show, I have my Remarkable Retail podcast where we interviewed her and her counterpart on the beverage side. So, tune into that, 

Sylvain Charlebois   10:44


Michael LeBlanc  10:45

Podcast every now and then we talked to food players. Now, let's jump into some stuff. A big food, big report, speaking of which, a big report out from the federal government, the National Supply Chain Task Force. 

Sylvain Charlebois   10:56


Michael LeBlanc    10:57

I know, the last support of the report, and you are thanked actually specifically in the report. And then there's a whole cast of characters who testified, you know, a long, long list RCC, CFIG, Sobeys. Now tell the listeners about the report. And perhaps a quick summary of the findings. When I read through this report and summary, it seems like, you know, when it comes to supply chain, you know, the total is not greater than the sum of its parts. But what's your interpretation of, of the report? And, and it’s, and its findings?

Sylvain Charlebois  11:20

Yes, absolutely. So, back in, in Montreal at SIAL, I ran into Jean Gattuso, who's the co-chair of the task force? And what is the rumbling? What I was hearing is that the task force wasn't really much about food. But Jean actually told me that he was going to co-chair and so obviously, he's the former president of Lassonde. So, obviously, food was going to be a big issue. 

Michael LeBlanc   11:18


Sylvain Charlebois   11:19

It was in scope of the, of the study, of the taskforce work, and they invited us to testify, and that happened probably sometime mid-July, I guess. So, I had a chat with, with him and his team and provided them with some insight, in factori-, in fact, actually some of the recommendations that are, that are, on the list there. Well, we actually did talk about it for sure. I suspect that others have actually recommended, say, a supply chain bureau a, a, a (inaudible) sort of agency to look at supply chain resiliency. I mean, I think Canada is not supply chain focused, I mean, and we need to because of the vat-, vastness of our country.

Michael LeBlanc   11:49

Sure, sure. 

Sylvain Charlebois    11:51

I mean we, it's, a lot of things can happen due to climate change and, and different issues. And, and because of, of, of the fact that our supply chains aren't necessarily resilient. Our reputation is affected abroad, like I was in the US, in Florida over the winter talking about supply chain and logistics in Canada. We're not, we're not taken very seriously, at all. And so those are the things that we need to address as a nation, I think, and I thought that the report itself does a pretty good job of addressing some of the issues, recognizing that they are shortcomings and we need to actually, we need to become more strategic about supply chains in general.

Michael LeBlanc  13:18

So, would it be fair to say you, you're I don't know if happy is the right word. But, but you were, you thought the report added a lot to the discussion. And what do you think the next steps are when people put out a report like this, not people, but the government puts out a report like this?

Sylvain Charlebois  13:34

(Inaudible), the so the, the one thing I think from a policy perspective, we need some direction. And that's mentioned in the report. The other issue, of course, is labour. And that's also mentioned in the, in the report, we need. We need universities and colleges to, to, to develop programs around supply chains. I would actually say that there's only one university in this country that actually has looked at supply chains, has, and has committed to supply chains or supply chain education. And that's the University of Manitoba, 

Michael LeBlanc   13:50

Centre of the country. 

Sylvain Charlebois   13:53

It's in the middle of the country. And so of course, they'll think about it, but when you go to the east, like us or out west, they don't necessarily, they take supply chains for granted. But my good friend Barry Prentice over at U of M, in Winnipeg, they've done a fabulous job really getting kids, students to think more about supply chains and some of the know-how that has come out of that program has been amazing. And I think other universities like Guelph, like Dal, like U Sask. Or even UBC our partners should also think about supply chains as well.

Michael LeBlanc  14:40

Well, I'll put a link. I'll put a link in the show notes for the listeners to have a read it's a good report I read, I read it through and some of it's eye opening, some of its like, you know, makes just total sense and they come up with some recommendations, (crossover talk), 

Sylvain Charlebois  14:53

What I like about it, it's the, the, the report is efficient, it's not that long, (crossover talk),

Michael LeBlanc  14:58

Our government report is only Like 50 pages, including an appendix,

Sylvain Charlebois  15:01

Which is very short, 

Michael LeBlanc   15:04

Yeah, right. 

Sylvain Charlebois    15:06

Because typically a task force will actually come in with like 300 pages or something.

Michael LeBlanc   15:09

Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Sylvain Charlebois   15:11

It was very short, very sustained, very focused. And that's very Jean Gattuso, by the way. I mean, Jean Gattuso, built a company that generates over a million, (crossover talk). 

Michael LeBlanc   15:17

Yeah, fantastic. 

Sylvain Charlebois   15:19

Lassonde is, I mean they acquired the businesses in the US. And Lassonde has done very well under his leadership and, and the task force I think benefited greatly from his leadership as well.

Michael LeBlanc  15:31

Let's talk about the other part of the supply chain, the very last mile. You wrote an interesting op-ed piece around the Loblaws of driverless trucks. A signal of the beginning of a new age. Do you see a, 

Sylvain Charlebois   15:40


Michael LeBlanc   15:41

An interesting road ahead for the food industry? Say more, say more. 

Sylvain Charlebois  15:49

I think this is your first pun of the season, isn't it?

Michael LeBlanc  15:51

I know, I know, it's been a very pun-free season. I'm (crossover talk), off my game, I have to, I have to get my game back up again. So, to say more about your thoughts around, I mean, you know, Loblaws is not the first to have driverless trucks. I mean, I was in a driverless car in Las Vegas. Kroger's has been doing driverless cars for,

Sylvain Charlebois    16:02


Michael LeBlanc   16:03

Walmart, Domino's Pizza, they're actually cooking the pizza on the road as it comes to you. 

Sylvain Charlebois   06:07

That's right, (crossover talk). 

Michael LeBlanc   06:12

So, you know, they're not breaking new ground necessarily, in the industry, but certainly here in Canada. What, what are you thinking about this, this news? 

Sylvain Charlebois  16:22

I think it's inevitable, I think it's a good step. And, and frankly, I think what Loblaws is doing is to capitalize on, on the middle mile, and much more so because of the distances that we have to cover. And I think if you're, if you're, if you are to think, I certainly would want your point of view on this one. But my take on this is that if you build a competitive advantage around the middle mile in Canada. You'll be able to not only optimize the supply chains, but you'll also be able to build a competitive advantage over your competitors. I mean, a lot of focus has been on the last mile, which is the most costly, I think every company gets that. But I think Loblaws is doing a fantastic job with Gatik and its partnership to actually build some middle mile capacity. What, what are your thoughts? Because you're, you're in retail, you're in distribution as well, 

Michael LeBlanc   17:15


Sylvain Charlebois   17:16

Beyond food. So, what, what's your take when you actually heard that?

Michael LeBlanc  17:23

Well, again, it's, it's not the first in the industry, and, and we're seeing it in places like Phoenix and, and Las Vegas. You know, obviously, when you put those two together, no, you know, whether is very, very different than those places. There's a lot of intersecting technologies, AI, that all have to come into play. You know, there's a, there's an obviously a need to get the food to the people at that last mile. Online grocery picked up during the COVID era, it's you know, it's a small, it's still a relatively small percentage, but it's very expensive, most grocers don't like it from one way because it's, it's not very profitable. And,

Sylvain Charlebois   17:52


Michael LeBlanc   17:53

As, as you often say, grocery isn't a high-profit business anyway, people are reluctant to pay for home delivery. So, there's a lot of moving parts literally, so to speak, I think it's, you know, I think it's barely scratching the surface. I mean, I think, as you say, the middle mile or even the long haul, automated delivery, you know, these large trucks on the highways, they just go from point to point. So, it's very interesting. I've been in a driverless car in Las Vegas, it's a very unusual experience to actually sit in one. And it's an unusual experience to have one and a empty car roll up to your front door. And so there's a novelty factor. 

Sylvain Charlebois   18:05

Oh, yeah. 

Michael LeBlanc   18:07

Factor to it in the short to medium term. So, I think, you know, we've been talking about this on this podcast for literally years, three seasons about how there's just a lack of people to do many of these jobs and, and the industry. Jane says it in our, in her interview that the automation, 

Sylvain Charlebois   18:14


Michael LeBlanc    18:15

Needs to be a part of this, if you're going to, you know scratch out a few dollars a margin out of home delivery, which is, you know, just a very expensive thing. I mean you've got approaches, like if you if you think about Sobeys Voila, we've introduced, we've interviewed Sarah Joyce, who, you know, they got the most AI Driven Distribution Centre, but at the end of the day, it is people driving trucks to doorsteps so they, you know, they're, they're, they're focused on the middle. So, it's a fascinating and one to watch area of, of food delivery and groceries. It's, you know, bleeding edge expensive. 

Sylvain Charlebois   19:19

Oh, yeah.

Michael LeBlanc    19:21

It's, it's years and years and years before we see fleets of these things on the roads, like, you know, it's back to this whole drone delivery, you know, nonsense, 

Sylvain Charlebois   19:26

That's right. 

Michael LeBlanc   19:27

You know, so anyway, it's super interesting it needs to happen. But it's, (crossover talk), a waste of money. 

Sylvain Charlebois  19:37

One thing when, when, when my piece actually came out in the Globe, last week, I got emails about machines stealing jobs once again, (crossover talk), you can't believe it, (crossover talk), 

Michael LeBlanc   19:43

Yeah, yeah. 

Sylvain Charlebois   19:45

That rhetoric is not going away. Yeah,

Michael LeBlanc  19:48

It's a tough one. That's a tough one to beat. You know, it's interesting, it doesn't work, you know, Amazon, (crossover talk), had a little, (crossover talk)

Sylvain Charlebois  19:59

36,000 truckers in Canada.

Michael LeBlanc  20:01

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Like it's just bananas, 

Sylvain Charlebois   20:03

We're stealing from who? 

Michael LeBlanc   20:06

Right, there's not a lot of people who want those jobs. And it says that back to the distribut-, to the report, right. And the supply chain it's like the shortage of people who want those jobs. So, I don't know, it's interesting, but it doesn't always work, right? So, Amazon, who's a very forward-thinking entity in terms of robotics, just cancelled their Scout Program. Did you remember the little Scout, there was a little sidewalk, 

Sylvain Charlebois   20:20


Michael LeBlanc   20:21

Robots, cute little things. 

Sylvain Charlebois  20:25


Michael LeBlanc    20:26

Well, they just, they just stopped the program, because they said it wasn't working. It was-, It wasn't solving a need, you know, 

Sylvain Charlebois 20:32


Michael LeBlanc  20:33

You know, rolling down the sidewalk, and it was safe, but people didn't like it or whatever. So, these things all don't work. And so, let's not get too carried away. But I think it's a necessary, you know, necessary move towards automation. So, all right, so we talked a lot about that. That's super interesting. We'll keep a close eye on that and, 

Sylvain Charlebois   20:45


Michael LeBlanc  20:46

Focus on that industry on the, on the podcast to share their vision. Now, let's get to our great interview with Jane Dummer, and hear what she has to say about the state of Food Innovation in North America. Let's listen in now.

Sylvain Charlebois  21:06

All right, we have a special guest this week for the podcast. It's someone that I've known for years now, through SIAL and other events. Her name is Jane Dummer. And she is a registered dietitian. And Jane has been involved with SIAL, the big show, since 2017. Welcome to the program, Jane.

Jane Dummer  21:31

Thank you so much. Sylvain, it's great to be here. I am really excited to chat, food, nutrition, SIAL and anything else you want to throw at me.

Sylvain Charlebois  21:41

Yeah. So, I know that you've been travelling, you're back with your luggage as you've been to different places, different shows of late. So, for the audience who may not know of your work, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a, a, dietitian, and what's your role at SIAL etcetera?

Jane Dummer  22:00

Sure. So, before we started recording, I said, I'm a golfer. And I'm really excited to say my game has improved this season. So, that's one thing the audience can know about me. 

Michael LeBlanc   22:07


Jane Dummer   22:08

Just doing that it’s enjoyable.

Sylvain Charlebois  22:10


Jane Dummer   22:11

I’m enjoying the autumn colours. We've had a really nice season, so far. So, that's one point. But yeah, so to get to a background about me. I founded the consulting company that I'm running right now over two decades ago. And our mission is to create client focused solutions from the pod to the plate. So, as you mentioned, I am a dietitian, with again, over two decades of industry experience, and I started my career off with industry. So, that makes me kind of unique in the, in the realm of dieticians, in Canada, and my experience has shown me that having the credentials as a health professional plus all the experience in the industry, clients really gravitate towards that. And they really appreciate the value that I bring to their, to their industry. And why I became a dietitian, I actually loved biology. So, I had, it goes back to that cliché story. I had an amazing biology, biology teacher in high school. And he turned me on to nutrition, basically, and, and it was, that was it. I really didn't, you know, want a career in dietetics. I just really enjoyed biology, biochem, nutrition and also food, I enjoyed food. So, that's really what got me, got me into and, and I lived close to the University of Guelph, and Guelph had an amazing program for agriculture, nutrition food, and it just made sense to go to that university.

Sylvain Charlebois  23:50

I was there for seven years, and I don't think we've ever met in Guelph, which is odd, (crossover talk), 

Jane Dummer    23:54

No, no. 

Sylvain Charlebois   23:55

Knowing that you actually lived there. Yeah. 

Jane Dummer   23:59

Yeah. So it was, (crossover talk), 

Sylvain Charlegois   24:02

It is a beautiful University, and the focus is very much about food and, and they have a great nutrition program at Guelph for sure.

Jane Dummer  24:07

They do, they do. And I was really happy when I got out of my internship that I had, that I had a solid science background as well as a clinical background. So, and right now consumer hel-, focus on health and wellness is at an all-time high. And I, and so it really lends to, you know, the background that I have and my team has and the industry experience. So, when I first came into the industry, better for you was more talk than implementation. And now we're seeing it implemented at all levels from the Pod to the Plate.

Sylvain Charlebois  24:44

I think I know the answer to the next question. Well, I will ask you anyway. So, what's your unique approach to nutrition and dietetics compared to other nutritionists, we meet out there, what's your unique approach to your discipline?

Jane Dummer  24:59

Yeah, so my approach to nutrition really comes from a global or a macro-perspective. And so, you know, I've never been a huge fan of, of, of one size fits all. And so really looking at what fits someone's personal lifestyle, what fits their health states. And that comes into play when I'm working with my clients, and especially this younger generation. So, Gen Z's and millennials, they really want their food to match their overall lifestyle, their values. And so, when we're looking at health it's not only healthy for me, but healthy for the planet. And I've been looking at nutrition from a macro-perspective since I began. So, I feel that it's, it's really come into its own, it's really an exciting time that, again, health and wellness is at an all-time high. And so certainly from you know, based on my work, and what my clients have told me, you know, working with other, other people in the field, they really liked that I've worked at all levels of the process. So, I've worked with, you know, commodity groups on the farm, and I've worked with retailers putting together food safety programs for the retailer, Read's retailing group. So, they just really appreciate that I understand the food value chain, I understand the farm to the fork or as as my tagline is from Pod to Plate.

Sylvain Charlebois  26:31

Yeah, I know, actually, over the summer, I saw that you were on farms in different places. And yeah, you're, you're, you cover both ends of the food continuum, and very much. That seems to be unique for, for you compared to other (inaudible) other nutritionists we meet out there. I'd like to know your perspective of the food industry as it is right now. That would be specific to North America. So, what's your read right now of the state of the industry? Right now, in terms of from, from, from, from a food innovation perspective?

Jane Dummer  27:12

Yeah, so as I, as I mentioned, the focus on health and wellness, I've never seen it at a, a, this all-time high. So, definitely looking at health and wellness being part of the mix. And so, if companies, processors don't have that focus, you know, they need that focus. And so, it's not only for us as humans, but for the planet. So, I've, I've really seen this grow over the past five years of the focus on health and wellness. Certainly, we have a concern with the economy and world events, the pandemic, you know, shone a light on how the food value, the supply chain could certainly be improved. So, I'd like to see a little bit more tech innovation, for sure. I'd like to see a little bit more investment in Canada. 

Jane Dummer   27:39

And I had the opportunity recently to interview Barry Callebaut, Americas, President Steve Woolley, and they've just invested in a manufacturing plant in the town of Brantford within Ontario. And when I was speaking with Steve, he said that, you know, we have not invested in North America, not just Canada but North America since 2008. And they have chosen, you know, Southern Ontario to put this, put the state of art factory in and it's going to be their footprint for the next 10 years. So, right now it's going to be up and running in 2024, a capacity of about 50,000 tons. But it's projected, you know to be, to be any extensions within North America are going to go into that plant and what again, makes me really excited is the first phase is focused on, better-for-you. So, sugar free, high protein and other specialty chocolate products. So, that’s, that's one really exciting piece that I have seen in the past. 

Jane Dummer    28:36

You know, I actually attended the ground-breaking at the end of September in Brantford. So, that level is exciting to see that investment in Canada. I'd like to see more of that for sure. In our country. And getting back to the automation in the food industry has been really slow to automate. And we saw a real move towards automation or at least eCommerce during the pandemic. But attending the IBIE show, so the International Baking Industry Show back in September. I saw a lot of automated solutions and robotics and with our tight labour market, you know, that's a nice solution to have in place.

Michael LeBlanc  30:05

Jane, let's, let's, let's narrow the lens down, you've given us a kind of a good overview of some structural issues and structural opportunities in the food industry. Let's narrow the lens down to your practice and your consulting work. So, often, I'm sure you find yourself in front of food executives, whether different parts of the food chain that you've articulated you work on. What are the challenges that you run into typically? You know, what are the top three things you say? Listen, as an organization, you need to get your head around the following things if we're going to be successful in this work that we do together, or you, as an organization, need to do these things to be successful? What, what comes to mind when I ask you that question?

Jane Dummer  30:23

The number one thing would be research. So, before they're going to re-direct, re-invent, invent, certainly do your, your consumer research. And I'm thinking more about B2C, I work both in B2B and B2B. But when I think about B2C, that research. So, you know, we maybe are looking at getting into the better-for-you space. And like, do we really need another meat alternative burger on the market or a nugget on the market? Let's do the research. 

Michael LeBlanc  30:44


Jane Dummer   30:45

So, it's really important to look at that research. So, not only, you know, stats coming from the big research companies, but what I do with my, my team is we do what I call primary research. And so we do interviews with key stakeholders in the industry. And so they may be, again, the executives, they may be health professionals, they may be exec-, executive directors of the different associations related to that food sector. And so, my company offers those, those interviews and those surveys, and, and again, because of my two decades in the industry, I'm able to really filter out and fine tune that information for my clients.

Michael LeBlanc  32:04

You know, we, Sylvain and I, talked to a lot of food innovators, between our work with SIAL and Canadian Grand Prix and, and often we ask them, what's their, you know, how do they innovate? Where do they start anything from whiteboard on like, now, you brought into companies and they say, listen, we're launching the following product not to pick on the, you know, protein-based burgers. But when we're launching a protein burger, you say, hold on, hold on. Why do you think there's room in the market for that? Or do you, are you brought in? Or do you like to be brought in at the, you know, we've got an array of things that we could launch? What do you think we should launch? Is that a good description of, of a process? Or is that the idealized, (crossover talk),

Jane Dummer  32:41

The ideal processes? Yeah, for me to come in at the beginning, and not for me to come in? I'm not, ideally, I don't want to be the closer and have to get them out of a mess. I'd like to come in as the opener and you know, they've said to me, okay, we launched this, and we're losing, you know, well, we never really had, 

Michael LeBlanc   33:03

It doesn't work, (crossover talk), 

Jane Dummer   33:06

It didn't work. We didn't have the consumer response. And now like, you know, let's pull a rabbit out of the hat. Ideally, I want to come in as the opener and, and say, okay, like, what, you know, what are the better-for-you innovations you have in mind? Where do you want to go with this? What is your c-, c-, current consumer base? Because if they have that brand recognition already, it's, it's pretty ea-, it's pretty easy to make a transition. But if they don't even have that brand recognition, then yeah, so I want to come in at the beginning, do the needs assessment, do the needs assessment with them, with the clients, with the target market? And you know, sometimes we even have to switch target markets, because, you know, they think that this is their target market. However, it isn't. And so, to answer your question, yes, I want to come in from the beginning.

Michael LeBlanc  33:55

Well, I guess (inaudible) as l was listening to you, it's this triangular-, the triangularization of what they're good at. What you see is opportunity and with your expertise, and then what, you know what the customers want, like the customer being the buyers, the distributors, kind of thing, right? You put those three things together, which kind of brings me in a little big, roundabout way to talk about SIAL. You and I actually met I think, Sylvain, you were on panel with me, right at the SIAL in Montreal, (crossover talk),

Sylvain Charlebois  34:23

I was, 

Michael LeBlanc   34:24


Sylvain Charlebois   34:25

Earlier this year on supply chains. And, and I think all three of us chatted, right next to our booth. Yeah. 

Michael LeBlanc   34:30


Sylvain Charlebois   34:31

That's when you met Jane for the first time. 

Jane Dummer   34:33


Sylvain Charlebois   34:34

It was a wonderful opportunity for both Michael and I, it was Michael's first SIAL. I knew the potential. It's our playground, really. We had access to many companies. We were able to interview many of them for our podcast, it was just peas and carrots. Absolutely. 

Michael LeBlanc   34:40

Peas and carrots, (crossover talk). Well, we're going to have, we're going to have a second helping of peas and carrots because we're going to be together again in Toronto, (crossover talk), with Jane, 

Sylvain Charlebois   34:47

Exactly. We're back, (crossover talk), 

Michael LeBlanc   34:48

And we're going, (crossover talk) we'll get you back on the mic. You're going to see all three of us at SIAL in Toronto.

Michael LeBlanc  35:05

Perfect. Now, Jane, you and I, you and I were ships passing through the night in Las Vegas last week, we were both at the same show, the NACS, Convenience Store Show, and you're involved with SIAL as well. So, you're clearly going to a lot of shows. I know, one of my takeaways from the NAC Show was the Birthday Cake KitKat, which I really enjoyed. But talk about SIAL and Food Innovation. Let's, let's hone in on SIAL. Now, what's your role with SIAL and how do you see that show? Because it must be a bit of (inaudible) and a bit of a playground for you.

Jane Dummer  35:38

Yeah, so I was asked to be the SIAL Canada health expert probably about five years ago, I think and, and so again, based on my work, based on my business, I was referred to the SIAL staff. And they reached out to me, and they said, you know, we've got this opportunity are you interested? And again, because I'm working from the Pod to Plate and my experience is, is, is more of a macro-approach. And SIAL is more of a macro-innovation conference. So, it's not just specific to one sector, it's not just specific, you know, to one industry. So, it really made sense to be that, be that person for them because it matched my business in, in such a good way. And I am looking forward to it, it's coming up in May, which you know, again, is not that far away. And I look forward to, you know, sharing my insights and chatting and learning what's, what's new all over the globe, because we get that opportunity to see innovations from the world.

Sylvain Charlebois  36:44

I guess what's next for you? We're, I guess COVID is kind of behind us. And how do you see the future? How do you,  I see the next 12 months or so? What's in your portfolio of, of projects, if you will?

Jane Dummer  36:58

Yeah, sure. Well, I hoped to get a few more rounds in, of golf before the end of the season. But when it comes to my business, we're really excited to celebrate 25 years in 2021. And then this year 2022 we re-, relaunched, refreshed the website, and I'm getting excellent feedback on that. So, I'm fine tuning some, some of the services based on my customer feedback. But, you know, basically, we're committed to the success of our clients. And so, whether it's advising on an agri-food project or communicating in the better-for-you space, or even offering my you know, my voice on an advisory board, I'm just really excited that the health and wellness is top of mind with the consumer. I've never seen such an important piece within the food industry.

Jane Dummer   37: 58

And also, I am really excited about, which kind of came out of the pandemic, based on my services. But I'm doing a lot of writing and storytelling, both B2B and B2B. And with the experience and education and background, you know, I can take that scientific information and, and make it really consumer friendly, and make it interesting. And, and that storytelling, those engaging pieces, and, and my clients are really loving that, and they keep coming back for more, for more of that. I'm going to continue on with my column for Bakers Journal, and that's a B2B Ca-, magazine, Canadian bakers’ magazine. I've got another upcoming feature in Food in Canada. And this is kind of exciting, you know, kind of what excites me too is the whole pet food industry. So, human food, health and wellness, top of mind, (crossover talk), 

Sylvain Charlebois   38:51

Pet food, oh really. 

Jane Dummer   38:56

Pet food, health and wellness, top of mind and even the shared experience of having food grade pet food that your owner, the pet owner can eat along with the furry family member. So that's, that's really kind of exciting. Yeah, so just basically doing the same but as a health professional with two decades of, of industry experience, I'm really excited that health and wellness is top of mind.

Michael LeBlanc  39:15

So, listen, how do we get in touch with you if the folks listening want to get in touch with you? Are you a LinkedIn person and then throw us your, your websites and any of your social media?

Jane Dummer  39:24

Yeah, absolutely. I do spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, especially with my B2B clients. So, connect with me on LinkedIn. My website is So, visit that I'm, I'm a regular contributor to my blog; Grow with Nutrition, probably twice a month. So, you know, check that out. Email me at And you can always call or text 519-716-4755

Michael LeBlanc  39:52

All right, fantastic. Lots of ways to get in touch. We'll put links to that in the show notes and, and on behalf of Sylvain and I, thanks so much for joining us on The Food Professor podcast, it was great to get you on the mic. 

Sylvain Charlebois   39:59


Michael LeBlanc   40:00

And we'll, we'll make sure and catch up with you again to SIAL, 

Sylvain Charlebois   40:02


Michael LeBlanc   40:03

Because I'm sure you will be there and wherever we cross paths again. So, once again, thanks so much for joining us on the show.

Jane Dummer  40:12

It's been my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Michael LeBlanc  40:15

All right, that was a great interview. I mean, (crossover talk) as we said before and during we met, I met Jane, you've known her for a while and she's at the, at that sharp edge of this, of the, of the knife so to speak, at Food innovations, you meet with the companies who are doing it and and,

Sylvain Charlebois  40:30

She's got a great balance that she actually, 

Michael Leblanc   40:33

Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Sylvain Charlebois   40:35

That's why she moderated the supply chain panel earlier this year at SIAL because she sees it all right. She covers production, processing, the end game for the consumer, retail. Yeah, she's got really this macro-perspective. And she does use that term of the food industry, which is really, which makes her unique. I mean, her approach is just amazing. Absolutely, (crossover talk). And I think, I think between you and I, Mike, I think she's a bit modest, with her handicap. I think she's a better golfer than she admits, I think, (crossover talk), she must miss us.

Michael LeBlanc  41:09

As I said, my handicap is, I got a bunch of them. 

Sylvain Charlebois   41:12

It's golf, it's golf. 

Michael LeBlanc   41:14

And be sure and read her blog, because she mentioned that quickly at the end, but she does, and she does write. She's very prolific and it's great stuff. So, we'll put links in the show notes for that. All right, last thing. So, Canada's big three supermarket chains are going to face a parliamentary inquiry, (crossover talk), a side show that we saw last time when they were brought up in front of a parliamentary committee, I guess. 

Sylvain Charlebois   41:38

Oh my God. 

Michael LeBlanc   41:42

It's a fresh chapter.

Sylvain Charlebois  41:46

But I think it was, that was the Finance Committee for salaries. This one is AG, AG is less, is less hostile. So, I actually testified before the Finance Committee just a couple of weeks ago about this. And last week, they actually were calling me on the day they were actually going to be announcing that they are going to be looking into price gouging and all of that, but I wasn't available. I was actually travelling. So, honestly, I'm not surprised and frankly, I'm pleased that they're doing something. But my expectations are very, amazingly realistic.

Michael LeBlanc  42:29

Well, I mean, if I read your you know you're in the public domain saying, listen, I can't find any evidence on the industry wide of this gouging. I think your perspective is and tell me if I got this right? Is, let's have, okay, let's get this testimony done. Let's get this commission done, because it'll open the doors and say, listen, here's the reality. And we can't find, there's no evidence of this is, am I, is it a fair characterization of how you're thinking about this?

Sylvain Charlebois  42:55

Well, I think so first of all, I mean, I said to the committee, if you are to look at greedflation, that's the term being used. Don't just look at retail. I mean, it would be the scope. It wouldn't be appropriate. And it's so easy to blame grocers. And we did look at grocers, because it's the easiest, known to look at, everything is public. And we looked at public data, available data of the last five years, and we don't see any evidence of, of that we wouldn't see anomalies. And in the number’s margins are the same. And people are just using this record profit rhetoric. But let's, let's, let's keep in mind that 3% today, in 2022, is not the same amount as 3%, five years ago. So, of course, they're recording record profits, it's quite normal. Everyone should record, record profits, every single year. And so that's why I wasn't, what was important to me was to, was to hear a committee not succumb to this superficial rhetoric of just looking at the grocery business because the ones that, (crossover talk), 

Michael LeBlanc  44:15

The one dimensional, right. A trap of falling into the one-dimensional let's blame the very public companies that you (crossover talk). But the voters, let's face it, the voters walk through their doors each and every day, right?

Sylvain Charlebois  44:26

Because it's the only relationship that we all have with the food industry. It's the grocery business but the food distribution is very complicated and, and, and I saw (inaudible) posts over the weekend. Two pictures of the same product at two different stores in the same city on the same day. Parmesan cheese you can actually look it up and it was MP McAllister from BC. And he was claiming that he got these two pictures from the same, from the same person in Truro, Nova Scotia, which is not too far from here. One co-, one cont-, container was $4.29 and the other one was almost $8. So, he was calling this greedflation. I'm sorry, Michael, but that is not greedflation, because greedflation is really about taking advantage of people, if someone, a retailer overcharges, it's a strategy. If, if another retailer uses a product as a loss leader, that's a strategy. I looked, I looked at the fair price for that particular product in Canada, it's about $6. So, one was a very good deal. While one was a good deal, the other one was not a good deal at all. But how markets will punish, (crossover talk),

Michael LeBlanc   44:39

Or reward. 

Sylvain Charlebois   44:41

The baddest strategy or reward the good strategy or punish the bad strategy. Let the consumer decide. But to me, greedflation is about everything rising, unjustifiably and people are forced to pay for certain products. So, but this is so, there's a lot of confusion out there in terms of what, what, what abuse actually looks like. And I think it's important for Canadians and the committee to get educated on what greedflation actually looks like,

Michael LeBlanc  44:48

And, and what I like, I guess my last question is, what is your awareness of the timeline of all this? Is it happening later this year? Is it happening,

Sylvain Charlebois  46:17

So, what I heard is that the committee is committed to meet to conduct six sessions, six sessions of a very complex issue over the next several weeks. So, my guess is that they will be looking into this, they'll actually sum-, they'll summon key players like Sobeys, Metro and Loblaw. And a couple of witnesses in academia, we called in and we're expected to be called back again to talk about this. And my approach will be very similar to, to, to the Finance Committee. Let's be, let's be, let's be realistic here. There are some issues. There's lots of data we don't have access to, but we have some question marks around meat prices, dairy, efficiency, and food. That's it. Those are areas where we're wondering what is going on, but I wouldn't blame grocers.

Michael LeBlanc  47:22

If you enjoyed this episode, you're probably already listening on a major podcasting platform. We're available on all the platforms Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Google, please. You know, give us a rating and maybe a review and tell all your friends in the food, grocery, restaurant industry. I'm Michael LeBlanc back in the home studio after a bit of marathon travelling and I'm President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company and Maven Media, a bunch of podcasts, I do some consumer growth consulting strategy and you are?

Sylvain Charlebois  47:54

The Food Professor, Sylvain Charlebois. I'm glad to be here.

Michael LeBlanc  47:59

Well, a great episode, safe travels Sylvain, sounds like you're doing a bit of travelling. We'll be together again soon enough. Until then for you and all the listeners safe travels and we'll talk to you again soon.

Sylvain Charlebois  48:10

Take care folks.


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