The Food Professor

The Rising Cost of Dairy, the World on Your Plate and Truffle Pig Chocolate

Episode Summary

In this episode we talk about the background behind the announcement by the Canadian Dairy Commission on an 8.4% increase in the cost of dairy for 2022 , the process (or lack thereof) behind it and Sylvain's concerns around the lack of transparency of the data.

Episode Notes

Welcome to the The Food Professor podcast episode 36, I’m Michael LeBlanc, and I’m Sylvain  Charlebois!  

In this episode we talk about the background behind the announcement by the Canadian Dairy Commission on an 8.4% increase in the cost of dairy for 2022 , the process (or lack thereof) behind it and Sylvain's concerns around the lack of transparency of the data. 


We also look at sustainability on a plate…how avocados might not belong there, our fun Trying Stuff segment with Truffle Pig chocolates, and the Global Food Security index Canada is 24, U.S. is 20 - what does this even mean?

If you liked what you heard you can follow us on Apple iTunes , Spotify or your favourite podcast platform, please rate and review, and be sure and recommend to a friend or colleague in the grocery, foodservice,  or restaurant industry.   

Sylvain Charlebois

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  and       The Food Professor  with Dr. Sylvain Charlebois.  You can learn more about Michael       here  or on       LinkedIn. 


Have a safe week everyone!



Reminder to everyone about our YouTube channel where you can watch the entire first part of our podcast with bonus content and the whole Trying Stuff segment



Episode Transcription

Michael LeBlanc  00:04

Welcome to The Food Professor podcast, episode 36. I'm Michael Leblanc.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:08

I'm The Food Professor, Sylvain Charlebois.

Michael LeBlanc  00:11

Well Sylvain, we got a solo episode today, lots of interesting things to talk about. And of course, our fun 'Trying Stuff' segment featuring, in this episode, Truffle Pig Chocolates. There's some Truffle Pig Chocolates out of the Great British Columbia. It's a fas-, it's a bunch of things to talk about, in and around the product. I'm looking forward to tasting it, obviously. I love chocolate.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:32

I think we should've done this segment before Halloween; don't you think? 

Michael LeBlanc  00:36

Yeah, I think so.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:36

Like seriously, yeah.

Michael LeBlanc  00:37

I think, you know, I think we should do it as soon as we get it actually. I love chocolate so much. The, the, the brand has a, has got so many attributes to it that, that we're going to get into. It's got a great backstory, Shelly Wallace, founder of Truffle Pig, out of—

Sylvain Charlebois  00:37


Michael LeBlanc  00:54

From Vancouver, I think, or BC, and brought to attention by Brian Potvin at Food Innovations, who's also given us some coffee, check this out, Cowboy Coffee.

Sylvain Charlebois  01:03

That's right.

Michael LeBlanc  01:04

We're going to be—

Sylvain Charlebois  01:04


Michael LeBlanc  01:05

We're going to be testing Cowboy Coffee, and it, and it's interesting, I noticed right off the top it's got Burnbrae eggshells in it. So, stay tuned for that episode coming out. Now, let's jump right in. I thought before we do that, I'd wet some whistle with a delicious glass of this ice-cold milk beverage. Now—

Sylvain Charlebois  01:25

I know, I know one thing about you now, Michael, you are a rich, you are a rich man.

Michael LeBlanc  01:31

Well, as you, as you can see, I'm enjoying it in a champagne glass, which I thought would be an appropriate vessel. Let me just take a drink of this, of this fine champagne of dairy here. I do like milk. But yes, champagne, and what does champagne and milk have in common? All right, let's get into this, this whole dairy price thing. So—

Sylvain Charlebois  01:55

Aw, yeah.

Michael LeBlanc  01:55

You know, you've been in the media. It's, it's, it's so interesting, right. So, it all starts with basically a press release in the equivalent of the dead of the night. I mean, if you're a press PR expert, and you want to bury a body, you release a press release on a Friday.

Sylvain Charlebois  02:12

Very late. Absolutely. 

Michael LeBlanc  02:13

That's pure tradecraft. 

Sylvain Charlebois  02:16


Michael LeBlanc  02:16

Textbook trade craft. Nobody's going to pick this up. So, 8.4% increase in dairy prices announced by the CDC, everybody flips out, the restaurant guys are flipping out, grocers are flipping out, you're flipping out. And, and I want to get to the core of the issue here. Because basically, it's not a surprise to anyone, I think, that prices are going up. We've been talking about food inflation, I'm sure we're going to have more to say about that. 

Sylvain Charlebois  02:43


Michael LeBlanc  02:43

We've talked about milk and dairy as a public good. So, I want to hear more about that. It seems, if I can boil it all down, it seems it, because I've seen arguments on your social media and other feeds about the farmers saying, well, listen, my price of feed is going up, I need more money. On the other hand, it seems, if I boil it all down, your core is, I don't see the data, you're basically, you got a Canadian flag on your logo, that means you belong to us. You're a taxpayer, you're a common good. 

Michael LeBlanc  03:13

The CDC replies, dude, we've, we've shown all of our data, you should just go away, because you're now being whatever. And you're like, it's day ten, and you still haven't said, where's the data and who's the firm? 

Sylvain Charlebois  03:26

I haven't heard anything, no. Three, three (inaudible).

Michael LeBlanc  03:28

It's been in the news, unpack this for us. And kind of, give us a, a short history of time, why it's a concern, what role the CDC plays, not everybody knows. They're a, an organization, arm's length Crown corporation. And then what essentially your thoughts are, as we, you know, spilled milk under the bridge at this point, I guess, we're going to be paying more for dairy.

Sylvain Charlebois  03:50

Pretty much. I mean, I mean, some people are saying, well, this, this is, we're talking about farm gate prices, it doesn't necessarily mean that retail prices will be impacted. Well, actually, yes. The correlation is quite strong over the years, we've seen it. Yeah, the CDC, I mean, the Crown corporation called the Canadian Dairy Commission, was created back in 1967, when, when the Canadian Dairy Commission Act was signed. 

Sylvain Charlebois  04:15

And 91% of Canadians actually don't even know it exists. So, if you didn't know that it didn't exist, it existed. You're not alone. The CDC is the cornerstone of supply management, really, at the federal level. It's in the middle of, what I call, the moral contract between the dairy industry and Canadians. It's a Crown corporation, owned by Canadians, its job is to set a fair price for farmers, so they can actually make a decent living in Canada, and in return, Canadians have access to wholesome, good milk, good dairy products, at a decent price, and, of course, we retain domestic production. That's the key here. Supply management is really about keeping farms here in Canada.

Michael LeBlanc  04:16

Now, when you say Canada and dairy farms, my, my assumption, or my understanding is, is, that is, by and large Quebec and Ontario. But how across the country is dairy farming, I always think of Quebec when I think of dairy farming, but maybe that's just, just my, my bias.

Sylvain Charlebois  05:19

Yeah, no. It's, it's basically 80% of dairy production in Canada is in both Quebec and Ontario. So, and that has happened over time. Most of the processing occur, occurs in Quebec and Ontario. That's why there's been a lot of consolidation in dairy production. And in fact, supply management was actually designed to prevent consolidation to occur. In 1970, we had almost 45,000 dairy farms in Canada. Now we're down, we're down to about 10,000 today. 

Sylvain Charlebois  05:53

And this month, we are likely to lose about 20 to 25 farms, this month. And so, the system is not there to protect dairy farming, it's there to protect some dairy farmers. And I think that's what people are starting to understand. And the way that the CDC operates, you know, the press release on a Sat-, on a Friday night, no raw data, no communication with media and everything else. 

Sylvain Charlebois  06:22

I think people are starting to realize that the Canadian Dairy Commission, a Crown corporation, and the Dairy Farmers of Canada, are one. That's basically what has happened. I knew it was going on for many years, I said this to CDC for, now, 20 years. And I knew this, there was this confusion, and even the 80 people working at the CDC are probably very confused about their mandate. Which is probably why I'm not getting any emails back from them, because they probably feel it's not their job. They are public servants. They do work for the Canadian public.

Michael LeBlanc  06:59

So, how does such a thing happen? I mean, okay, 25 dairy farmers are going out of business. Part of the rationale, which I wholeheartedly support, is domestic, domestic creation and lack of concentration. So it is, as I understand it, a lot of small independent farmers who make the delicious milk. I'm a, I love milk, of any, of any kinds and sorts. So, what's going wrong? Why don't, I guess, asked differently, if 25 dairy farmers are going out of business, is it because their costs are making dairy farming too expensive? And does this then justify an 8% increase? So, is it the percentage of increase, the 8%, 8.4 I think that, that bothers you more than the process behind it, or are those two things connected in your mind?

Sylvain Charlebois  07:47

Well, let's talk about the 8.4% first. I actually do believe that dairy farmers deserve that amount, and probably more to be honest, given what's happening around the world. Frankly, I wasn't overly surprised by the 8.4%. The, the concern that I have is transparency and governance. I mean, who sets, who recommends the 8.4%, and how did they come up with 8.4%? I've had that question every single year. We're talking about it this year, because it is 8.4% which is a lot and 12.4% for butter. And we all know why butter is going up 12.4%—

Michael LeBlanc  08:27

Butter gate, it's butter gate.

Sylvain Charlebois  08:28

Because of butter gate and, but they're not saying it, they don't want to say it because it looks bad on the industry. Why is it that the CDC, the Canadian Dairy Commission, is concerned about the image of the industry? I do not understand that at all. 

Michael LeBlanc  08:42

They should be, they should be two, they should be not arm's length, they should be very separate entities.

Sylvain Charlebois  08:48

Absolutely, very objective. Now, let's say, for argument's sake, that we go ahead with the recommendation, we go ahead with an 8.4%. What do you think is going to happen with the rest of the industry? How do you think processors are going to get, how do you think, Lactalis, Saputo? And on Friday night when the news came out, I actually didn't know, because that happened on a Friday night, I got a phone call from a very good buyer of milk, industrial milk, who told me, he asked me, did you see the news? 

Sylvain Charlebois  09:23

What news? He was the one that told me because he was panicking. He was wondering whether or not he should sell his plant because he can't see how he can be profitable. So, these processors will likely go south to get their dairy proteins, as they did before with the (inaudible) milk episode, which, really, lasted about three years. 

Michael LeBlanc  09:46

Now let's talk— 

Sylvain Charlebois  09:47

This is a biggest concern of mine, which is why a reduction in quota is likely possible, which could lead to more farms disappearing, leaving the industry.

Michael LeBlanc  09:59

Which, which seems to be the antithesis of everyone's objectives, right. I mean, it was all started to do the exact opposite of these consequences, right. 

Sylvain Charlebois  10:07

Dairy farmers are defending a system that's actually killing dairy production. That's the thing. I've been saying it for so many years, but, but dairy farmers themselves, I wonder if they actually care about the industry, because if they leave, they cash out, they'll make money anyways, that's the thing. So, and the people who, who stay in the industry will continue to make good money. And if they dump milk, they're compensated. They actually get money from the government over the next three years, almost $2 billion. And we, we spoke about that. So, I mean, the system doesn't really incentivize the industry, dairy farmers, not to really think about the welfare of the sector itself.

Michael LeBlanc  10:52

And one of the things you mentioned that I was intrigued at, I think you called it the importation of illegal, industrial dairy products, you just—

Sylvain Charlebois  11:00

Yeah, that's the dairy protein situation. And so, so there are different ways of calling these dairy proteins. And frankly, if you want to save a bit of money, by the way, if you're buying industrial milk in U.S, it's a quarter of the price.

Michael LeBlanc  11:15

And maybe this is just a bias, but my understanding of milk in the U.S, is the quality of like-to-like milk on, you know, regular, is lower than it is in Canada, do you, would you agree? Or am I, am I just thinking about that. I mean, I remember reading something that the Americans allowed more chemicals or more different things in their milk.

Sylvain Charlebois  11:35

Growth hormones, BST—

Michael LeBlanc  11:36

Yeah, yeah.

Sylvain Charlebois  11:37

Blah, blah, blah. So, this is, again, the Dairy Farmers of Canada's playbook of, of playing that fear factor. The reality in the U.S is that there are several ways to produce milk. Unlike Canada, where you have to follow strict protocols and U.S you have different ways to manufacture milk. About 5% of dairy farms in the U.S are actually using growth hormones. 5%. 

Michael LeBlanc  12:02

And 95% are not. 

Sylvain Charlebois  12:03

And that 5% won't export to Canada. Canadian, do you think that Lactalis or Saputo, and Agrifoods, don't care about the quality of products? Of course, they do. 

Michael LeBlanc  12:15

Of course, they do. 

Sylvain Charlebois  12:15

They won't buy crap, but if they can actually buy good quality product, buy good quality milk for a quarter of the price, why wouldn't they? And that's the thing that concerns me quite a bit.

Michael LeBlanc  12:28

All right, so two questions, and then, then we'll, kind of, wrap this up. We got lots of other stuff to talk about. Question one is, you said, if this goes through, I think, I think that's what you said, is this not a done deal? Is there something that can, you know, reverse this decision? And, and I guess the second thing is, all right, I'm going to make you the President, Chair, Director General Grand PooBah, of the dairy industry, what would you do, and how would you do it differently? That could be an entire episode separately, so, first of all, is this a done deal?

Sylvain Charlebois  12:59

Well, let me ask you a question, Michael. If I offer you a raise, would you take it?

Michael LeBlanc  13:06

I'd think hard, no, I'd take it, yeah, I'd take it for sure, of course. 

Sylvain Charlebois  13:09

That's the question we're asking, about the provincial boards. So, and frankly, Quebec, by the way, Quebec is asking for more than 8.4%, they think it's not enough. This is what supply management forces dairy producers, not to think about marketability, not to think about consumers themselves. They just think about farm gate, they think about price, that's it. So, they think that 18% should be the appropriate percentage. Can you imagine 18%? 

Michael LeBlanc  13:43


Sylvain Charlebois  13:43

It's crazy. So, there's a complete disconnect between what goes on, on the farm in Canada, versus what's actually, what's actually happening in grocery stores, affecting us. All of us.

Michael LeBlanc  13:53

And restaurants, right, and the—

Sylvain Charlebois  13:53


Michael LeBlanc  13:53

Restaurant industry is, as you know, restaurants don't resell, it's an input. It's a cost input. And in some things, you like, I'm sure if you're, right now, Tim Hortons or Starbucks, this is bad, bad news. Because, you know, there's a lot—

Sylvain Charlebois  14:07

If you talk to Todd, if you talk to Todd, the CEO of Restaurants Canada, he'll tell you. Pizzerias are livid right now because half, half the cost to produce one pizza, it's the cheese.

Michael LeBlanc  14:21


Sylvain Charlebois  14:21

It's what's going to happen with cheese, it's going to increase significantly next year. So, it's really tough. And so, going back to the CDC, and to answer your second question, I would say, change the governance, give a voice to processors, give a voice to restaurants and consumers. 

Michael LeBlanc  14:38

And grocers. 

Sylvain Charlebois  14:38

So, you actually make governance work for Canadians. And secondly, you got to work on transparency and, and make that raw data available. Because right now, I mean, the reports that they post on their website is worthy, I mean, I actually think that an undergraduate accounting student can actually do a better job than what they're doing right now. It's the same report, every year, worded the same way. And the CDC has claimed several times now in the media that accountants are behind the pricing formula.

Michael LeBlanc  15:11

Which ones, which ones, whose?

Sylvain Charlebois  15:13

No, no word in terms of who, which firm is behind the numbers, which accountant is behind the numbers. And frankly, I'm kind of, I'm quite concerned about that statement, because I'm not sure there are any accountants behind these numbers. That's the thing. Because we don't know if the raw data was verified by accountants, because it could be self-reporting. I mean, they call farmers, say listen, how much does it cost you to heat your barn this year? Oh, it's, and they don't verify anything. So, many Canadians may be paying for averages and mediocracy.

Michael LeBlanc  15:51

All right, well, let's, let's leave it there. Because I think we can talk about more of this as the story develops.

Sylvain Charlebois  15:56

I will start getting to a lot of nasty emails.

Michael LeBlanc  16:01

Got to answer all those nasty emails. Let's talk about, for the viewers, and reminder to everyone who's listening on the podcast, we have a YouTube channel. You're, you're not in your usual place, you're in what looks like to be a hotel room, course you sound a little different, with a different mic. I believe you're in front of the folks from St-Hubert Chicken. Quick story about St-Hubert, I lived, as, you know, I grew up in Ottawa, and it was the special, the special trip to go to Montreal, with me and my parents when I was a kid. And there was one place we always had to go before we left, and that was St-Hubert for their—

Sylvain Charlebois  16:36


Michael LeBlanc  16:37

Yeah, it's very close to my heart. So, what, what brings you there to, to chat with the folks of St-Hubert, and then you've got some breaking news for us about an upcoming guest.

Sylvain Charlebois  16:46

So, I was invited to do a fireside chat in front of, of restaurant franchise owners, of St-Hubert. And they have about, I'd say about 90 franchise owners, 90 to 100. And they're all concerned about what's going on in the sector. So, they basically got me in there to give them, you know, a clearer picture of what's actually happening. And frankly, I mean, just before me, and I was actually chatting, I had a fireside chat with the President, Richard Cloutier,[1] and he's, and before us, it was the Procurement Manager of St-Hubert.

Sylvain Charlebois  17:22

And basically, they, they did it on purpose. They wanted to, to present some really gruesome numbers about costs, about what's happening with supply chains. And then they got me on, on, on this panel with Richard, to talk about why this is happening. 

Michael LeBlanc  17:38

To validate it, right.

Sylvain Charlebois  17:39

Yeah, I mean, they're restaurant managers, so they can't really, they're not thinking about the entire supply chain. So, I got them to think about what's actually going on. And frankly, I didn't get rid of that, that word call, that word transitory in your language, because for food, it doesn't apply.

Michael LeBlanc  17:55

Yeah, yeah. And, and of course, they're franchisees, which means they're their net takers of whatever prices and costs are given to them. So, I guess it's a good initiative to explain, here's why, right. Because that, you know, as opposed to leaving them in the dark, I mean they’re great operators, but they—

Sylvain Charlebois  18:09

And of course, we're in the middle right now of preparing Canada's Food Price Report, which will be released on December 9th. And so, I'm actually working on, on the report right now in my team and it's not looking great, Mike. Listen, I think 2022 is not going to be, it's not going to give a break to consumers. Whether it's at the restaurant or in the grocery store. But Canada is not an isolated case, it's happening everywhere around the world.

Michael LeBlanc  18:40

Well, speaking around the world, sustainability on a plate, and we'll get to Truffle Chocolates in our ‘Trying Stuff’ segment in a second.

Sylvain Charlebois  18:47

That's right.

Michael LeBlanc  18:49

You, you've talked about it, and I know—

Sylvain Charlebois  18:52

Avocados before chocolate, okay. All right, sure.

Michael LeBlanc  18:54

Yeah, yeah. I, you know, listen if I had to have a choice it'd be tough one for me because I love my avocados. You know avocados—

Sylvain Charlebois  19:00

You do, planet killer.

Michael LeBlanc  19:04

Like, like almonds, right? Which are just water, water reservoirs—

Sylvain Charlebois  19:08

I know.

Michael LeBlanc  19:08

Like almonds are the most intensive thing. So, what's going on? I mean, more Canadian, I mean more people are thinking about sustainability, that's clear. How is this connected to avocados?

Sylvain Charlebois  19:17

I'm not a huge fan of avocados. Every time I think of avocados, I think of Deadpool for some reason, I don't know why. But it is a popular product now. I mean, they just, demand for avocados has gone way up. Biggest producer of avocados around the world is Mexico and Peru, as you probably know. But in those parts of the world, things can get interesting, when all of a sudden you see a market rise and becoming an opportunity to make a lot of money. 

Sylvain Charlebois  19:48

And so, so you saw the emergence of cartels, crime. So, that really is one thing. Typically, you saw, we've seen that with coffee, by the way, and cocoa, and bananas. And, but over the years, we've been able to, to get the supply chain better organized, I guess. So, farmers can be protected. Avocados, we haven't had a chance to do that yet. 

Michael LeBlanc  20:14

I see.

Sylvain Charlebois  20:14

Fair trade movement and everything else, it's been very difficult. And so, that's why there's that mess. And on top of that, there's, there's, there's that sustainability baggage affecting avocados. The water required to produce avocados, the fact that it's destroying biodiversity, it's responsible for deforestation in some parts of the world, in Peru particularly. So, there's lots of issues. And that's why some chefs, some leaders in the culinary world are really showing some leadership and saying, you know what, this is not acceptable. This is something I don't want to feed my customers with. Let's try to find that, find a substitute. So, they've been trying to replace avocados.

Michael LeBlanc  21:04

So, let's jump right in. Let's get to our new ‘Trying Stuff’ segment. Which—

Sylvain Charlebois  21:10

Trying Stuff. This is never thought of, right? 

Michael LeBlanc  21:13

Yeah. So, this, let's see if I could see, because I never quite get these camera angles, right. And for the listeners, I'm showing everyone Truffle Pig Chocolate. So, when this first arrived, my wife, who picked up the order at the door said, why on earth would anyone want pig in their chocolate? And I'm like, that's a good question, actually. So, great backstory. A woman in, in BC, she was actually, I don't know if you saw, she was working at the Four Seasons. 

Michael LeBlanc  21:43

And, and one of her cust-, customers was in chocolate. And she decided to get into chocolate but wanted it different. I mean, when I look at this product, I look at the packaging. I mean, it ticks off, you know, direct fair trade from, you know, from far, it's more organic than organic. I mean, it's got the BC logo on it—

Sylvain Charlebois  22:00


Michael LeBlanc  22:00

It's got a slave-free logo on it. Look at it, it's slave-free.

Sylvain Charlebois  22:04

Buy BC.

Michael LeBlanc  22:05

Buy BC. I mean, it's got, it's got so many things going for it. Let's see if it's got taste going for it. Because that's what I'm here to, so, I'm going to start off—

Sylvain Charlebois  22:15

Which one are you going to taste, yeah, which one are you going to taste first? 

Michael LeBlanc  22:17

Well, since we're talking about milk, I'm going to try the Milk Hazelnut. Oh, my goodness, that's good. 

Sylvain Charlebois  22:24


Michael LeBlanc  22:25


Sylvain Charlebois  22:25

Wow. Your entire mouth is working, feeling it, wow.

Michael LeBlanc  22:30

If anyone is thinking about this product, you're making some kind of sacrifice. Get that out of your head right now. Like—

Sylvain Charlebois  22:39


Michael LeBlanc  22:40

Now okay, let's try the Milk Peanut Butter. 

Sylvain Charlebois  22:44

Oh, yeah. 

Michael LeBlanc  22:44

Creative labeling, each one, by the way, each one of these packages, that's very clever, has a colour code.

Sylvain Charlebois  22:51

This is really good, so I tried Dark Peanut Butter, you're trying Milk Peanut Butter. The Dark Peanut Butter, I like even more, 70% Cocoa. Oh my god. It works so well. 

Michael LeBlanc  23:05

This is like a Hershey's Peanut Butter Cup, for adults. 

Sylvain Charlebois  23:08


Michael LeBlanc  23:08

So rich, not that, you know, nothing wrong with Hershey's, I love those too. But it's just somehow the blend. All right, last one, Milk Cashew Butter, and here it is in the green.

Sylvain Charlebois  23:20

Yeah, right here. I have to try that one. This is, this is very good for a nice afternoon.

Michael LeBlanc  23:27

It's a tough job, subtle flavors of the cashew. Like each one of these, I was wondering when I looked at all—

Sylvain Charlebois  23:35

What is going on, my goodness, working, working, hm.

Michael LeBlanc  23:41

You know, when I was looking at all these, I'm like, how different are these really going to be? Of course, the base is, this it feels like the same chocolate, but the flavors are both subtle, but, you know, different right? Like you know you're having—

Sylvain Charlebois  23:55

Probably, just to be clear, they, their, their, their motto is "Farm to Bar Chocolate". 

Michael LeBlanc  24:01


Sylvain Charlebois  24:02

I thought, I really felt, when you think about farming again, you don't think about chocolate. As cocoa is made elsewhere, right. But they made it Canadian, and—

Michael LeBlanc  24:12

Yeah, no it's a good point.

Sylvain Charlebois  24:12

And really, typically when you eat chocolate, it will pop, like early, and then the taste fades away. This, this goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on. And basically, discover parts of your mouth that you didn't even know existed. But this is, this is really a good product, my goodness, yeah. Congratulations.

Michael LeBlanc  24:38

As we think, cast our minds back 20 years ago, chocolate was off the radar screen in terms of fair trade, like I didn't care where my chocolate came from. 

Sylvain Charlebois  24:47

That's right.

Michael LeBlanc  24:47

Now, you know, some things, some things came out that it wasn't such a good industry.

Sylvain Charlebois  24:51


Michael LeBlanc  24:52

Particularly some, some big, big, big global players, who sell chocolate, were not being, I, my perception, not being very fair to the farmers. And it's been a real Renaissance, ground up, with small players first, I also think, you know, I think of Truffle, I think of, also from BC, I think Purdy’s Chocolates, which can—

Sylvain Charlebois  25:11


Michael LeBlanc  25:11

You know, converted all their chocolates as well, to fair trade.

Sylvain Charlebois  25:16

She seems very committed to fair trade, without really calling it like that. But they really, they, she's committed to the supply chain, and I'm reflecting on the conversation we have with the, with Julie, from Fairtrade Canada. I mean, that's basically what they want, right. They want more of these products on the market, that which honors farmers and, no, they do a really good job, providing a great product to Canadians, for sure.

Michael LeBlanc  25:43

All right, well, congratulations to Shelley Wallace and the entire team. 

Sylvain Charlebois  25:47


Michael LeBlanc  25:48

Bravo, bravo. As I said, if you think you're making some kind of sacrifice, you're not, it's delicious.

Sylvain Charlebois  25:54

And if you, if you're thinking of giving these bars to kids at Halloween, do not do that. 

Michael LeBlanc  26:01

I'd keep it.

Sylvain Charlebois  26:03

Keep it all for, to yourself.

Michael LeBlanc  26:06

So, I'll put links to her website, the Truffle Pig website, on the show notes. You can go learn more, and learn their story, and they got a bunch of products you can buy, in case you can't find them. They got a store locator and all that great stuff. All right, so let's get to the back half. We got a few minutes left. First of all, I wanted to make a note, today is November 11th. So, Sylvain, I wanted to thank you for your service to Canada. 

Sylvain Charlebois  26:29

Thank you, yeah. And everyone who has served for Canada in the past, and in, and present. Yeah, so, big sacrifice. Big deal. I'm not going to be with my family on November 11th, unfortunately, but they are going to the Cenotaph and pay their respects, absolutely.

Michael LeBlanc  26:48

Yeah, it's a very important day. My, my father served in the Korean conflict, the Korean War. Let's transition, the last couple things, Global Food Security Index. So, I was very intrigued by one of your posts, the Global Food Security Index comes out. Canada's 24, the U.S is 20, I think Denmark is number, number one. I mean, what makes this ranking up, I mean, and is it because of northern communities? Like, how are we not food secure, because we import a lot of our food, like what's going on here? 

Sylvain Charlebois  27:18

Well, I mean, I actually get a kick out of these indexes, because I'm a, I'm a big sucker for benchmarking, as you probably know. I luck, I like to compare because I just hate when count-, when countries say we're the best at this, we're the best at that. Like, like dairy farmers are saying Canadians have access to the best milk in the world, oh really, where's the evidence, you know.

Sylvain Charlebois  27:37

And that's when you get to real conversations about quality assurance, about, you know, how do you measure performances and things like that. So, that's why I really like indexes. And I don't really care much about ranking I, I certainly like to see who's, who's ahead of us, who's underneath us. 

Michael LeBlanc  27:59


Sylvain Charlebois  27:59

And overall, how we doing, and frankly, the indexes should be reassuring to Canadians, were first in safety, third in access, and 24th in affordability, and those are good positions. Those are, those are good positions to be in. Metrics can always be different, and if you and I start a Global Food Security Index, we'll probably, we would come up with different results. 

Michael LeBlanc  28:05


Sylvain Charlebois  28:19

It depends what people care about; these benchmarking exercises are very important because it allows countries to share. And so, the theme of our conference was 'share and compare'. And why we did that is to get countries to think about the future. Look at mad cow, mad cow hit Canada hard because we weren't prepared. We didn't learn from the UK, which was hit by mad cow only four years before,

Michael LeBlanc  28:55

We keep coming back to this theme of globalization, global themes. And this is a great example, right. We've got to learn from each other, that's, you know, when we look back, when the history is written on the COVID-era, that's certainly going to be one of the milestones is, is learning from each other. Now, it could be some shortcomings as well.

Michael LeBlanc  29:12

We may never learn the full history, but, you know, the history and development of the vaccines, I think we've learned some lessons, so. All right, well, listen, we're going to have to leave it there. We're, kind of, running out of time. I'm going to go have some Swiss Chalet. I can't have my St-Hubert, but I'm going to have, I'm going to have the next thing, Swiss Chalet. 

Sylvain Charlebois  29:26

Wash down, wash down that chocolate, of course.

Michael LeBlanc  29:29

Wash down the chocolate, I'm going to have some Swiss Chalet today for real, we've already talked about that. 

Sylvain Charlebois  29:34

That's right.

Michael LeBlanc  29:35

Now okay, one question—

Sylvain Charlebois  29:37

I'm actually having dinner with, with Richard and his team, and so, I'll be able to talk to different folks involved in the restaurant business so it's going to be a great night.

Michael LeBlanc  29:47

Well, you ask them my one question I ask everybody when we have St-Hubert, Swiss Chalet, do you dunk your chicken in the gravy or do you pour the sauce over? I'm a pour, I like to pour. Dunker or pourer, maybe we'll do a poll.

Sylvain Charlebois  30:02

Actually I, that's a good question, the question I was asked at the end of our panel was, was it traditional or creamy, do you know, do you remember that? When you’re, when you’re served at St-Hubert, you have, you're given a choice for coleslaw, traditional or creamy. And so, basically, and Quebec is divided on this issue, 50-50.

Michael LeBlanc  30:26

Need a referendum on creamy, or saucy, or plain. All right, well listen if you liked this episode, you can find us on Apple, iTunes, Spotify, your favorite podcast platform. Please rate and review, be sure to recommend to a friend or colleague in the grocery food service or restaurant industry. We also have a great YouTube site, where we have some bonus content, and we tend to chop up our issues, like this issue, we talked about three or four things. We have those, kind of, segments so you can watch whatever segment is of most interest, interesting to you. I'm Michael LeBlanc, producer and host of The Voice of Retail podcast, and a bunch of other stuff. 

Sylvain Charlebois  30:59

And I'm The Food Professor, Sylvain Charlebois.

Michael LeBlanc  31:02

Well Sylvain, safe travels back to Halifax, great seeing you, enjoy your dinner tonight. I'm envious of your time with the folks of St-Hubert, and we'll catch up in another episode soon. 

Sylvain Charlebois  31:13

Take care.


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