The Food Professor

The Top Food Industry Stories of 2021, plus Trying Stuff featuring JUST Egg

Episode Summary

For our season finale Sylvain and I wrap a the year with a great discussion of the top food industry stores of 2021! From TimBeibs to supply chain pain to the year of the food worker, we have it all in a rich and wide ranging discussion. We kick it off where we left off last episode - talking about Canada's Food Price Report and the media/public policy impact of the 2022 forecast. Next, we move to our fun segment Trying Stuff, featuring JUST Egg, a tasty plant-based egg product available in two formats.

Episode Notes

For our season finale Sylvain and I wrap a the year with a great discussion of the top food industry stores of 2021!  From TimBeibs to supply chain pain to the year of the food worker, we have it all in a rich and wide ranging discussion.

We kick it off where we left off last episode - talking about Canada's Food Price Report and the media/public policy impact of the 2022 forecast.  Next, we move to our fun segment Trying Stuff, featuring JUST Egg, a tasty plant-based egg product available in two formats. 

Be sure and  check out our YouTube site for bonus content and to see our very own version of Mukbang!


About Us

Dr. 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  ,      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 adventure for fun and influencer riches - Last Request Barbecue,  his YouTube BBQ cooking channel!


Episode Transcription

Michael LeBlanc  00:04

Welcome to The Food Professor podcast episode 39. I'm Michael LeBlanc.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:08

And I'm Sylvain Charlebois.

Michael LeBlanc  00:10

Our final episode of 2021 Sylvain, what a year.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:14

Already, oh, yeah, our first full calendar year together, I guess, because we started, I think it was -

Michael LeBlanc  00:20

That's right.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:20

in May of 2020. So, it was -

Michael LeBlanc  00:22

That's right.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:22

a pretty interesting year, don't you think?

Michael LeBlanc  00:26

Well, I and that's what we want to cover a lot in this is what we think, what you think were the top stories, the food stories. I mean, it was great. We had the opportunity to get together in person for our last episode. 

Sylvain Charlebois  00:36


Michael LeBlanc  00:37

We might not have that opportunity for a little while after that.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:41

Unless we're all in a bubble.

Michael LeBlanc  00:44

Unle-, unless we're all in a bubble.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:45

It's incredible. What's a, what's going on? It really, it's, it's this, this wave is starting -

Michael LeBlanc  00:51


Sylvain Charlebois  00:51

probably at the worst time for everyone. Just around -

Michael LeBlanc  00:54


Sylvain Charlebois  00:55

close to Christmas and people had plans and it's unfortunate.

Michael LeBlanc  01:00

Well, in fact, at our last podcast episode, the week, on the Friday, we got I got a note from the club saying that they had a COVID exposure, and they were closing the club for a couple of days. 

Sylvain Charlebois  01:10

That's right, yes. 

Michael LeBlanc  01:10

And, and it was a very vague announcement. It was like we had one last week. So, I'm like, what does that mean? Because you and I were there on, on, on the Tuesday, and I'm like, what does -

Sylvain Charlebois  01:20

That's right.

Michael LeBlanc  01:20

that mean? So, I went, I actually did some detective work and found on the Toronto health, that there is actually a precise time, which was Sunday night. So, you know, we were, we were fine. But you know, just it, it's like a close encounter, right? I mean, it's more close than I want to be -

Sylvain Charlebois  01:35


Michael LeBlanc  01:35

with this whole COVID stuff. So, I think, I think we're in for some trouble. 

Sylvain Charlebois  01:38

Yeah, well, I hone-, honestly, when I got your note, we got, we have self-tests, COVID tests at home, did two tests over three days, I was fine. Did a PCR test yesterday, I'm fine as well. So, everyone's good here. So, we're good, yeah.

Michael LeBlanc  01:59

Also, let's move on from all that COVID stuff. 

Sylvain Charlebois  02:03


Michael LeBlanc  02:03

In this segment, we have, we have our Trying Stuff segment with JUST, check this out.

Sylvain Charlebois  02:04

Yes, that's right, yes.

Michael LeBlanc  02:09

two, two formats. JUST Egg, and I have to say a little pre preview, the JUST Eggplant egg with comes in a free, it comes frozen. You pop it into your toaster for seven minutes. I love it. I've been, I've been buying them ever since we did the review. Because I just love it. I put a slice of Lactalis cheese on it and -

Sylvain Charlebois  02:09

I know.

Michael LeBlanc  02:09

it's like an Egg McMuffin and it's delicious. So, I'm very happy with that.

Sylvain Charlebois  02:09

Yeah, formats are, it it's, they have a very convincing approach, I must say and - 

Michael LeBlanc  02:40


Sylvain Charlebois  02:40

this company reached out to us and sent us some samples and -

Michael LeBlanc  02:45


Sylvain Charlebois  02:46

yeah. So we'll, we'll hear more about, about our reviews. But yeah, we've were, I was intrigued first, and then of course my family tasted it and yeah, they were in for a big surprise for sure.

Michael LeBlanc  03:00

Reminders to listeners that we have a YouTube channel, The Food Professor podcast, check that out, lots of content, including Savannah and I doing our Korean mukbang. You know, mukbang, where you eat on camera and that's our version of mukbang.

Sylvain Charlebois  03:13

That's right.

Michael LeBlanc  03:13

I want to start off this episode with, where kind of where we left off. So, last episode was not entirely but a lot of focus on Canada's Food Price Report. So, that was released like literally the day we did our podcast. So tell me -

Sylvain Charlebois  03:26


Michael LeBlanc  03:26

what was the reaction? I mean, last year, it blew up and lots of people focused on it. How was the reaction this year? One of the things I noticed, as you said, you weren't in front of the camera as much a lot of your people were they're doing a great job of speaking to the results. So -

Sylvain Charlebois  03:40

I'm fortunate enough to have a really good team and we have some great partnerships with the use of Guelph, University of Saskatchewan and the University British Columbia. Their contributions were significant this year, it was great. The day of the release I was actually at a conference in Banff and, and so, I was busy and I did all the morning shows the main morning shows. But after that the team took over and they did a fantastic job we, we received, I believe we received over about 150 requests. We weren't able to answer all of them, obviously. But I, I think most of them were answered. Because we had so many people giving interviews so, it was great and the market reach this year was over 550 million people in other words Michael -

Michael LeBlanc  04:29


Sylvain Charlebois  04:30

most Canadians have actually heard of, of Canada's Food Price Report. If you watched the news at night. It was probably the number one or number two stories on, on most networks. So, we were pleased with the release obviously, it was not great news, because we were -

Michael LeBlanc  04:47


Sylvain Charlebois  04:47

announcing higher prices for 2022 but, the report really is filled with a lot of nuggets. A lot of different things beyond forecast. The forecast is really the hook but there's, there, there are other issues that we addressed in the, in the report and hopefully people will, will, will read the report fully over the next few weeks.

Michael LeBlanc  05:10

Yeah, I think if anyone might hesitate to read the report thinking they're just going through a bunch of tables and charts and of numbers. It's, it's just the opposite really, as you say, it's a very fulsome report with lots of great insight and writing. And I mean, what, what, what I got to thinking more about was the impact of the, the restaurant I, I by the way, went out to dinner at our friend Carl Heinrich's, Richmond Station. 

Sylvain Charlebois  05:36

Ah, okay. 

Michael LeBlanc  05:37

A friend of mine was in town, he said, where can we go that safe? I said, Well, you know, Richard Station, ‘A’ I haven't been there. Carl says hello, by the way. So, I ran into Carl was there - 

Sylvain Charlebois  05:46

He was there. He was there. 

Michael LeBlanc  05:48

He was there, it was a busy night, everybody of course had to, you know, show their ID show their ID their vac status to get in. Anyway, the food by the way, we you and I have to go next time we're in Toronto. The food was amazing. Richmond Station and just for the reminder to the listeners, their hospitality included no tipping.

Sylvain Charlebois  06:04

Were you, were you tempted to give, you know, a little extra for because of the holidays and you, you felt, you felt generous?

Michael LeBlanc  06:12

Not, not because I felt generous, but because it's habit. Like -

Sylvain Charlebois  06:16

It’s habit, yeah. 

Michael LeBlanc  06:16

Right. Like, they hand me the machine, right. And I'm like, where's the 18 - 20 - 22% - 

Sylvain Charlebois  06:20


Michael LeBlanc  06:21

option? Like, oh, yeah, tips are already included. So, and yeah, the service was great. My server was wonderful, people were great. Food was amazing but, I think that's, again, we'll talk about the future, in the future in 2022. But anyway - 

Sylvain Charlebois  06:35


Michael LeBlanc  06:35

great report. Well alright, I mean that’s the, the Food Price Report. So, congratulations, it’s a big body of work and very influential.

Sylvain Charlebois  06:41

Thank you so much.

Michael LeBlanc  06:42


Sylvain Charlebois  06:42


Michael LeBlanc  06:43

Yeah, it was good. I had lots of people say, Hey, I saw your partner on TV. And I'm like, that's my partner. 

Sylvain Charlebois  06:50

There you go.

ichael LeBlanc  06:51

Let's talk about looking back at 2021. And I wanted to get your thoughts for this episode on what you thought the top 10 big stories were, that occupied your mind, I guess it's all colored by COVID, which is either an accelerant or creator of things. But overview, you know, when you look back at 2021, if you and I were on an elevator, heading up to somewhere, and you only had a minute or two to describe 2021, what would you say?

Sylvain Charlebois  07:19

In a nutshell, from food inflation, to TimBiebs, to supply chain roads, to the Suez Canal. And even Danny DeVito and Nabisco that would sum up 2021 for me. What about you? You saw my list, but I and I will probably go through it. But, I certainly would want your, your opinion on the list that I prepared for you.

Michael LeBlanc  07:26

Well, I think you nailed a lot of the things that I mean, if I was to boil it down to three, it's, it's the acceleration of trends because of COVID. 

Sylvain Charlebois  07:53


Michael LeBlanc  07:53

It is the creation and, and that's all kinds of things that is, you know, TimBiebs is not, (inaudible) the, a very fun story, it actually. But it actually captures the revitalization of Tim Hortons' brand. So, that's (crossover talk) -

Sylvain Charlebois 08:07

That's right.

Michael LeBlanc  08:07

a much better, much better job as a brand, you know, with their place and I think they lost the script a little bit for a few years. And they lost their place -

Sylvain Charlebois  08:16


Michael LeBlanc 08:16

in, in the hearts and minds of Canadians. And I thought it was genius, and well executed. And apparently they're good. So, I think that was nice. I think what was different about 2021 clearly was COVID, whether it's the supply chain dramas, whether it's food insecurity, a little bit of, you know, taking it less for granted, as you said, so I think, you know, in my mind, then the industry stuff, the really, how we think about how the relations between brands and retailers works - 

Sylvain Charlebois 08:48


Michael LeBlanc  08:48

and you know, that it's not like there wasn't stress or opportunity, pre-COVID. But obviously COVID put a lot of stress, on the one hand it put a lot of stress. And on the other hand, you know, the demand shot up, right? 2021 was the,- 

Sylvain Charlebois  09:03


Michael LeBlanc  09:04

the cementing of volumes and Michael Medline said this, I think it is in his he's released about his numbers. He said, you know, we're thinking that even though Food Service has opened, there's a lot of Canadians who are now cooking more at home. And that, -

Sylvain Charlebois  09:18


Michael LeBlanc  09:18

you know, I try to, I always try to sift through temporary changes that are just adjustments to unusual circumstances versus structural changes. You know, I think a structural change is more work from home. But more work from home has an incredible impact in the foodservice industry. I mean, the breakfast hour and the lunch hour.

Sylvain Charlebois  09:36

Oh, absolutely. -

Michael LeBlanc  09:37

Yeah, right?

Sylvain Charlebois  09:38

That's why I've always looked at that metric very closely. Because I think even early on in the pandemic, I remember being on a few panels and people were saying, oh, we're going to go back to how things were, no problem. People will be working in their offices. I mean, we were almost two years into this pandemic. And you can, you can see already that the marketplace won't look the same. It won't look this same, people will be working in different places.

Michael LeBlanc  10:04

And, and I guess, you know, actually, I just came off an interview myself on the other side of the mic with Susan Kransky from the Globe and Mail talking about, you know, these kinds of things on retail. And I said, listen you use a lot of people, and it applies to restaurants and food service, can I still make money on 66% of the crowd? So, -

Sylvain Charlebois 10:24


Michael LeBlanc  10:24

you know, if you, if you rely on commuters, office workers, and maybe some tourists, you know, can you still and, and, and there's a school of thought that says when people go back, that they'll take those special days and actually go do all that stuff. Like, I'm only in the office one or two days a week, I'm going to shop and I'm going to go out for lunch with my friends. I think that's, I think that's a very sound bet. The question is, for all the restaurant tours listening, can you keep your business afloat on two or three days? Maybe four days of good value of good volume and then nothing on the other days? Don't know? We don't know, right? We're going to have to see.

Sylvain Charlebois  10:57

Absolutely, there's still a lot of things that are in flux, obviously, we're still not done here. But you can start slowly seeing what the picture will look like, on the other side of the pandemic, for sure. Well, and, and I would say that 2021 was really, yes, COVID painted a lot of the things that we're seeing, or we saw, but I the word that, that when I actually started to prepare the list for this, for the show, the word that came up a lot in my mind, especially from a supply chain and labor perspective is fatigue. I mean, the food industry we have to I mean, we have to remember Michael, I mean the food industry has delivered, executed, has made Canada food secure for 21 months now despite Mother Nature -

Michael LeBlanc  11:39


Sylvain Charlebois  11:44

Floods,  Yeah pandemics, problems with supply chains. I mean, there's been a lot of issues and still, shelves are full, people have something to eat. 

Michael LeBlanc  12:03


Sylvain Charlebois  12:04

We haven't had major challenges As we saw in other parts of the world, we have to really celebrate what the food industry has done over the last 20 months, it's been a miracle really,

Michael LeBlanc  12:13

Let's take - 

Sylvain Charlebois  12:14


Michael LeBlanc  12:14

a break, and let's do our Trying Stuff segment with our JUST Egg. So let's, let's give JUST Egg a try. All right, we're back with another I think it's number, I forget what number it is, ‘Trying Stuff’, we're back. We are back with another ‘Trying Stuff’. 

Sylvain Charlebois  12:30

It’s our virtual buffet, all you can eat.

Michael LeBlanc  12:33

Also known is also known as our lunch by the way, because -

Sylvain Charlebois  12:36

That's right.

Michael LeBlanc  12:36

Once again we're recording over lunch. And so, in today, we have JUST, JUST Egg check this out, sent to us JUST -

Sylvain Charlebois  12:46


Michael LeBlanc  12:46

Egg. So, we have two formats, actually the format you're holding. 

Sylvain Charlebois  12:49


Michael LeBlanc  12:49

Which is a really interesting product. It is basically a pre made, goes in, we'll talk about it goes in the toaster.

Sylvain Charlebois  12:56


Michael LeBlanc  12:57

And then we have the liquid egg product. And so, I got, I got very ambitious. And here we go. Oops, here we go. I made an a McMuffin and with the egg, and I made (crossover talk).

Sylvain Charlebois  13:10

Up my game a little bit Michael, I mean, you do so well. I just I basically took the, this is the product you would see as you -

Michael LeBlanc  13:18


Sylvain Charlebois  13:18

Take it out of the box basically, - 

Michael LeBlanc  13:20

That's right.

Sylvain Charlebois  13:21

it was microwaved and all ready to eat and so I guess they often say you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs, but I guess with JUST, you can.

Michael LeBlanc  13:32

Well that's well put and in fact, I made a Jacque Papan omelet, which -

Sylvain Charlebois  13:37

Oh my God.

Michael LeBlanc  13:37

is a not a scramble, but a fold over French style omelet and it's got chives, tarragon salt and pepper in it. I found the product more liquidy than others I've tried. So, it was amenable to that.

Sylvain Charlebois  13:51

Oh, okay. 

Michael LeBlanc  13:52

Right out of the fridge so, I didn't - 

Sylvain Charlebois  13:54


Michael LeBlanc  13:54

get it like literally right out of the fridge and then for the, for this bake. So it comes in a bunch of packets, come in this - 

Sylvain Charlebois  14:01


Michael LeBlanc  14:01

packaging, -

Sylvain Charlebois  14:02

That's right.

Michael LeBlanc  14:02

like it comes like this, frozen. 

Sylvain Charlebois  14:04


Michael LeBlanc  14:04

I'll tell you about my story about it being frozen.

Sylvain Charlebois  14:06

Very hard, yeah, absolutely.

Michael LeBlanc  14:07

I just and I made myself a little Egg McMuffin here -

Sylvain Charlebois  14:13


Michael LeBlanc  14:13

with by the way, some Balderson cheese. Thank you Lactalis -

Sylvain Charlebois  14:17

Oh my god.

Michael LeBlanc  14:18

for that. 

Sylvain Charlebois  14:19

By what's, what's kind of interesting with this format as you can actually put it in the toaster. I don't expect that at all.

Michael LeBlanc  14:26

That's how I made mine and I didn't know my toaster could run for six and a half minutes so it's a lot of different a lot of different ways to make it from frozen in the toaster six and a half minutes or you bake it or you grill it or you do a bunch of stuff so let's first try together.

Sylvain Charlebois  14:43

Let's try this, oh yeah.

Michael LeBlanc  14:44

You're going to try.

Sylvain Charlebois  14:45

So, I haven't tried it before so, this is my first time honestly you wouldn't know, you will not know that no eggs were killed for this omelet.

Michael LeBlanc  14:56

No chickens, yeah. 

Sylvain Charlebois  14:58

Oh no chickens.

Michael LeBlanc  14:59

If I did a drive-thru at our friends at Tim Hortons or whatever, and got a sandwich, this would be delicious. Now I put a, I purposely put a very neutral cheese on it, I just put a, a, a cheddar cheese because you could put all of (crossover talk), altogether.

Sylvain Charlebois  15:12

Well, I suspect that the texture would change it. So I, I find it a little bit spongy. But really, I mean when you make a scrambled, when you make scrambled eggs, often they are spongy.

Michael LeBlanc  15:23

And in this format, they win for me. They win in three ways. One it tastes delicious. 

Sylvain Charlebois  15:30


Michael LeBlanc  15:31

It's very good to format so my God it couldn't be easier. Pop it in the microwave, or pop it in the -

Sylvain Charlebois  15:37


Michael LeBlanc  15:38

toaster for six minutes comes out great. 

Sylvain Charlebois  15:39

You can put in the toaster, microwave oven, whatever you want, you can, you can do it with that. And it's all, it's all ready to go.

Michael LeBlanc  15:48

It's all ready to go. And in each of these packages here, which are four folded plant eggs for them. So, there's four in here. Now here's my story, here's my fun story. 

Sylvain Charlebois  15:58

Yeah, I want to hear it. 

Michael LeBlanc  16:00

So, we, we were sent these products and by the way, that's a good time to say to all the listeners that we're under no obligation here with this isn’t -

Sylvain Charlebois 16:08


Michael LeBlanc  16:08

a sponsor content. We're sent product we try it, it's Trying Stuff.  So, just to be always to reiterate that not, not sponsored. So, we got this sent from JUST Eggs to us. And I looked at it and I looked at the liquid and I put it in the fridge. Well, what I didn't realize the small print, keep frozen.

Sylvain Charlebois  16:25

Frozen, yep. You didn't see that?

Michael LeBlanc  16:28

I didn't see that, my bad, I didn't see it. So, when (crossover talk) -

Sylvain Charlebois  16:32

I (inaudible), because I didn't get a bottle. 

Michael LeBlanc  16:34

No, the bottle is fine. The bottle is it,  oh, you didn't get a bottle? Okay, -

Sylvain Charlebois  16:37


Michael LeBlanc  16:38

the bottle is a scramble. Well, that's what I made. So, the, the bottle is just refrigerate and it's got a best before date, that was November 14th. So, the best it does have a BB date. 

Sylvain Charlebois  16:49


Michael LeBlanc  16:49

That doesn't go on forever. The frozen was mid-February. So, I think we got this in early October. So, it's a month it's fine. 

Sylvain Charlebois  16:56

That's right.

Michael LeBlanc  16:57

And it's keep refrigerated and then, and then once open you, you should use it within seven days. It's not unusual for any product really once, once they're kind of open. So, what I did I, I last night, I was preparing for the segment, I took out this to kind of do some research and figure out how I was and I noticed the JUST frozen and I'm like, oh, no, I don't know. Could have been fine. But I'm like, you know, to be fair, I want to cook this and make this the way they intended it to be consumed. 

Sylvain Charlebois  17:26


Michael LeBlanc  17:26

So, I went online and I was, it was three o'clock in the morning because I was doing some edits on a podcast. And when I realized all this and I went on to, I went on to and did a curbside pickup and Walmart is one of the retailers of JUST Eggs. At Metro as well, curbside pickup at 7am had it at my tailgate and back and almost like nothing happened. Anyway, so.

Sylvain Charlebois  17:50

So, you didn't even dare try the, the samples you had in your fridge, no?

Michael LeBlanc  17:55

No, I mean, maybe and maybe the, the just the folks that JUST Eggs can tell me if it probably would have been okay, (crossover talk), but they do say, - 

Sylvain Charlebois  18:03


Michael LeBlanc  18:03

they do say on the packaging looks and it's plant based but cook it you know don't -

Sylvain Charlebois  18:08

Yeah, we have to follow -

Michael LeBlanc  18:09

Don't eat it raw.

Sylvain Charlebois  18:10

the label for sure, yeah.

Michael LeBlanc  18:12

You got to follow the label and (crossover talk).

Sylvain Charlebois  18:13

I got them and I saw, put in the freezer, put the,  I got four lovely boxes. I actually find the packaging very, very, very nice, too. It's -

Michael LeBlanc  18:24

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sylvain Charlebois  18:24

yeah, very clear. And yeah, no, it's, it's just, it's, it throws you off because as you it's like a when you actually open up the box it is like you actually picked up a pop tart or something. 

Michael LeBlanc  18:24

Yeah, yeah.

Sylvain Charlebois  18:28

You put it in the toaster and you got eggs.

Michael LeBlanc  18:42

Yeah. All right now I'm gonna, you didn't get any of their, their liquid. So, I'm going to try this, this. egg. 

Sylvain Charlebois  18:47

Yeah, I'm intrigued.

Michael LeBlanc  18:50

I can tell you. If I hold it up the texture, it's a little more, it, It's a little maybe a little more yellow than a standard egg omelet. Here we go.

Sylvain Charlebois  18:59


Michael LeBlanc  19:00

Like it's really delicious. 

Sylvain Charlebois  19:01

It taste the same. 

Michael LeBlanc  19:03

It, it tastes the same. It's got depth to it. As I said in this omelet.

Sylvain Charlebois  19:09

Did you add anything to the omelet?

Michael LeBlanc  19:11

Yeah, so I've got salt, pepper, and chives and tarragon, which is kind of your -

Sylvain Charlebois  19:17


Michael LeBlanc  19:17

classic French Jacque Pappan omelet, which I've been trying to perfect the making of for five years. And I'll take there'll be a whole episode on that, obsession. But when you try it, it melts in your mouth, delicious. 

Sylvain Charlebois  19:17


Michael LeBlanc  19:18

No unusual taste.

Sylvain Charlebois  19:19

And by the way, (crossover talk) Michael, I don't know if you did you go on their website or their Twitter handle and look at all the recipes they have with, with their products. Some, -

Michael LeBlanc 19:42


Sylvain Charlebois  19:42

some of them are pretty creative. You can do a lot of things with their products very easily, burritos and, and yeah, great videos within two seconds, you basically can get inspired to do all sorts of recipes.

Michael LeBlanc  19:56

To be crystal clear. I love eggs. 

Sylvain Charlebois  19:58

I do too.

Michael LeBlanc  19:59

I am not changing that. But as a ,as a as something different, I mean these guys nailed the packaging very modern, right? 

Sylvain Charlebois  20:05


Michael LeBlanc  20:05

San Francisco based, big. I mean there's a lot of very smart people clearly and very sophisticated marketing behind this product this isn't kind of a -

Sylvain Charlebois  20:15

They, they came to us, they heard about our podcast they came to us, asked  - 

Michael LeBlanc  20:18


Sylvain Charlebois  20:19

us if we were interested in getting their products and so, you can feel that they are very aggressive and their marketing is really out there and yeah, kudos to them. 

Michael LeBlanc  20:27

Big influence in marketing, big influencer -

Sylvain Charlebois  20:27


Michael LeBlanc  20:27

in marketing. So I, you know, I talked to more and more brands about this is, you know, let's get to people, you and I would probably be considered influencers more of the trade. But that works too for them and, and consumers as, as we're consumers. I, I guess it's made from the mung bean. I and I'm suspecting based on they have a bunch of offices in China and America that they're probably importing mung beans. I don't know much about the mung bean, but I think it's a common ingredient in this stuff. Anyway,-

Sylvain Charlebois  20:56


Michael LeBlanc  20:57

my assessment is, Bon Appetit, like it's really good. 

Sylvain Charlebois  20:59

Bon Appetit, yeah absolutely and a great job.

Michael LeBlanc  21:02

And anyway, congratulations, JUST, JUST plant egg.

Sylvain Charlebois  21:07

And thank you for sharing your products with us. 

Michael LeBlanc  21:10

Yeah, we couldn't do this segment without you. And best of luck, as I said, we'll put a link into their website. You can find where they're distributed. I found it here in, in Mississauga and Toronto and Walmart and it's in Metro. So, I'm sure you can find all those details. So, that's our latest edition of Trying Stuff. Alright, we're back after just trying. I have to say that for the JUST Egg, It is now part of my diet. I'm not, I love eggs, by the way. I love eggs. I eat them all the time. I had one yesterday. But this is a very convenient goes on an Egg McMuffin with a slice of cheese kind  -

Sylvain Charlebois   21:45

It is.

Michael LeBlanc  21:45

of thing as I said. I like -

Sylvain Charlebois  21:46

Yeah,  formats are pretty convenient, I must say. Yeah, absolutely.

Michael LeBlanc  21:50

And it's not our only plant based egg that we've actually reviewed in Trying Stuff because we hadn't Abadi Cana-, made in Canada. It was different. The taste was different. I liked it, too. 

Sylvain Charlebois  22:00


Michael LeBlanc  22:01

So, I think it's an exciting and interesting category and, and we wish them, I wish them the best of luck.

Sylvain Charlebois  22:07


Michael LeBlanc  22:08

Speaking of being an omnivore, let's talk turkey again. So, you how many questions did you, how many questions did you get this year about is there enough turkeys for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter? Like it seemed to be the year of the turkey uncertainty? You know, is that? 

Sylvain Charlebois  22:23

Yeah a little bit, yeah. So, it's on my top 10 list number 6, you know, this year. So, the, the word shortage was overused, I think. Just people looking for holes on shelves, wondering if we're running out. And, and there were a few things. Even maple syrup was actually making headlines for a while because we were going into our strategic reserve and people learned that we had a secret reserve and I had reporters calling me and say we're actually get, we're, we have a secret reserve in Canada. And I said, What's the news? I mean, I It's been -

Michael LeBlanc 23:02


Sylvain Charlebois  23:02

there for many, many years. So, what's the big deal and so people got to learn more about what's going on. But the one thing that the one shortage related story that caught my attention was related to turkeys because turkeys is supply managed Canada, and the turkey industry is pretty solid and very strong. And, and so we sell 2.9 million turkeys a year for Christmas in Canada, we're likely to be selling the same amount this year. But for some reason, some, some media, some journalists actually thought that we were running out and, and I'm not suggesting that the system is perfect. And all grocery stores have enough turkeys. Of course, once in a while you'll see some, some, some inventories being low,

Michael LeBlanc 

It’s so to speak, there will be a run-on turkeys.

Sylvain Charlebois  23:15

That's right. But I mean, and, and the turkey industry will acknowledge that they're planning this year since April was a little bit different because they were expecting smaller gatherings and a bit of a demand shift. And so, we are expecting smaller birds. Birds are more expensive too. But all in all, we shouldn't be running out of turkey's. So, number 6, it made the number 6 on my list of stories of the year, just because I actually think it points to how sometimes people don't understand exactly how the industry -

Michael LeBlanc  24:26


Sylvain Charlebois  24:26

operates, how it plans and supply management is all about planning we produce what we need. But the need part is a big question mark especially during COVID.

Michael LeBlanc  24:37

Alright, so when I looked at our top 10 episodes of the year, our number one episode was a, our number one and two episodes were all related to the same broad topic, dairy. Number one - 

Sylvain Charlebois  24:49


Michael LeBlanc  24:49

was buttered number one was butter gate. And then number two was the CDCs Canadian Dairy Commission's - 

Sylvain Charlebois  24:56

Oh was it?

Michael LeBlanc  24:58


Sylvain Charlebois  24:59

And that's number five on the list of stores of the year, yeah, there, there, there's somewhat related because the Canadian Dairy Commission obviously made, made history in November, by announcing that farm milk prices are going up by 8.4%, which is almost double the previous record, that's a lot. And probably (inaudible), will start seeing that hit in, in mid-winter, February, March. Butter is going up 12.4%, that's probably due to butter gate. The Canadian dairy farmers won't admit it. The CDC won't admit it either. That's basically why because once you stop using, palmate, which is a palm oil derivative, it will increase your cost of production. But, I think 2021 was, was a very good year for the dairy sector, I think, because people got to learn more about dairy production. And it, it really those stories made the system more transparent and more accountable. And so, and even though we're having some issues with the Canadian Dairy Commission to get access to primary data, which we won't have access to, unfortunately. Because we did talk to the accounting firm, responsible to collect data, we still won't be able to get access to primary data, unfortunately. So we nobody really knows how the, how, how they came up with the 8.4% unfortunately, and, and that's something we have to live with.

Michael LeBlanc  26:31

So, let me ask you this question. Just to close off on dairy. If you were a dairy farmer, would you have considered 2021 a good year?

Sylvain Charlebois  26:39

No. Well, dairy, I think it was a good year, but I don't think dairy farmers thought it was a good year, essentially, because they think about their image. They're very concerned about their image. And I'm more concerned about accountability and transparency. And for me, when you look at those two criteria, it was a good year for them, they may not acknowledge it. But moving forward, I think it's going to be a good year, but they do have a massive marketing budget of $150 million a year so they can buy love they and they're buying. I'm sure you've seen their ads now. Um, they're everywhere. They're spending - 

Michael LeBlanc  27:16


Sylvain Charlebois  27:16

a lot of money to make you forget about butter gate to make you forget about the fact that your cheese, your yogurt are about to get more expensive in a few weeks from now.

Michael LeBlanc  27:28

Well, let's talk about a different type of farmer, potato farmers on the, the great Island.

Sylvain Charlebois  27:34

Number four.

Michael LeBlanc  27:35

PEI, is that still so i have actually lost track of it a bit. So ,the story was we talked about in a couple episodes that there was a bit of potato fungus, it was under control. But then the government stepped in and -

Sylvain Charlebois  27:47


Michael LeBlanc  27:47

the government stepped into that thou shalt not export. And where do we sit with that?

Sylvain Charlebois  27:51

I think when you look at that gauge, the year 2021 really reminded us, yet again that science always take a backseat to trade politics. That's basically what it is. PEI, farmers, I feel for them, potato farmers on the island are really upset. If, if you haven't followed the story, you haven't missed anything, Michael, because the problem is still there. So, two farms had warts on potatoes, the CFI had had protocols to follow science based protocols. But when politics came in, the Minister basically should embargo only on PEI potatoes to save the potato industry across Canada. But, there's, there's some rumors suggesting that perhaps something else is at play. For example, there's this issue about EV, electric vehicles, the, the production of electric vehicles, it's not something I know very well, but there's a lot of different issues, right? The trades, that sometimes impact food, and I think this may be one case, unfortunately, (crossover talk), the sad thing is that, that we don't believe that this problem will be settled before New Year’s, and if that happens, the industry may actually have to discard some potatoes unfortunately, so we will lose some supplies. So, it's, it's just not a great and frankly, this embargo once you put in an embargo against an island like that, like PEI,  it's hard to get rid of it and so -

Michael LeBlanc  27:56


Sylvain Charlebois  29:25

basically, AG Canada picked all other provinces over PEI and PEI reputation will be damaged unfortunately.

Michael LeBlanc  29:35

Well, not with me when I think of potatoes, I think of PEI that's not going to change, so.

Sylvain Charlebois  29:38

I do too and they're great.

Michael LeBlanc  29:40

Yeah, a great potato (crossover talk). 

Sylvain Charlebois  29:40

And if you can buy some for, for the holidays.

Michael LeBlanc  29:44

Last couple of things. We talked a lot about the food worker in - 

Sylvain Charlebois  29:48


Michael LeBlanc  29:49

2021. I gotta think that I know that made your list and I guess from one part, it's, you know, the COVID outbreaks, the strikes, their increase of pay, the need for technology and processing plants, all the way to the frontlines. I, I what's your kind of thoughts around, is there anything that happened in 2021 that you see continuing on? I gotta think these pay raises and people recognizing the, the work that goes on in these production facilities. I got to think that's another add to both the cost of the food. But importantly, these people are getting paid what they're probably what they are worth, right?

Sylvain Charlebois  30:22

I, I think with 2020, people notice that food workers exists, and they did gain political capital. In 2021 they actually financially benefited from that gained political capital. I think that's basically what's going on right now. When you look at deals at Nabisco, Kellogg's, Cargill in High River, Alberta, (inaudible) in Quebec (inaudible). I mean, they all got a lot of money over several years. But of course, most of these companies are now committed more to towards robotics and automation as well. Don't get me wrong. But -

Michael LeBlanc  31:00


Sylvain Charlebois  31:00

you can you're seeing really wages going up in the industry, which is great news for them. But obviously, over time, we are expecting more automation to, to change the industry overall. But the one, the one thing that caught my attention in the United States was the fact that you know Hollywood great Danny DeVito actually was asked to become the spokesperson for Nabisco workers. And honestly, I don't know about you, Michael,  But I've never seen a Hollywood actor, being asked to advocate for food workers like that very helpful, it was really interesting.

Michael LeBlanc  31:35

But you're right. I mean, it's, it's raised to a new level. Now speaking of raised to a new level, there's been a couple of comments when we make posts about okay, everything you say is fine, but why aren't you talking more about climate change? You know, why are you talking about boats in the Suez Canal? Shouldn't we be -

Sylvain Charlebois  31:51


Michael LeBlanc  31:51

talking about the big issues? So, I saw you know, climate change, heat domes, all these things they've got (crossover talk).

Sylvain Charlebois  31:59

Historic rivers so they, so that number two on our list this year, that wasn't hard to pick, in my view. I don't know about you. But really, I think what happened in BC in particular this year. If you're, if you're a climate change skeptic and you live in BC, there's something wrong with you.

Michael LeBlanc  32:16

What's it going to take, like what's it going to take like flaming toads from the sky? Like what's it going to take to convince you, you know.

Sylvain Charlebois  32:22

Oh my God, Linton at 49.6 degrees, that's insane, that's a lot. 

Michael LeBlanc  32:26


Sylvain Charlebois  32:27

So, the heat dome in, in June, the atmospheric rivers in the fall. Really, - 

Michael LeBlanc  32:34


Sylvain Charlebois  32:34

it, it gets every-, I hope it will get everyone to believe that our supply chains are vulnerable. But also I mean, from with climate change, we need to focus on you know, how to, how do we make sure that, that agriculture and processing continues to remain competitive despite all the, the, the things that Mother Nature throws, throws at us?

Michael LeBlanc  32:58

And, and what role can the choices we have at a grocery store play in some small way, choosing local versus whatever, that's not always easy.

Sylvain Charlebois  33:05


Michael LeBlanc  33:05

We don't grow, we don't grow avocados, and Winnipeg. So, all these, all these things come together. Now, number one in your list, gets us all the way back to the beginning of the podcast, which is food inflation, right? So, from your -

Sylvain Charlebois  33:17


Michael LeBlanc  33:17

perspective, that's the most important story of 2021, right?

Sylvain Charlebois  33:22

Were you surprised?

Michael LeBlanc  33:23

No. (crossover talk) 

Sylvain Charlebois  33:24

I mean, I've, I've, I don't know if you have any idea of how many interviews I, I've given this year?

Michael LeBlanc  33:30

How many? How many? 

Sylvain Charlebois 33:33

(Crossover talk), I actually, every week, I actually log the number of interviews every single week French and English.

Michael LeBlanc  33:37

Now, it's not fair. Because you told me, I think you told me the total was like 1100, or something, or 1200. Was it?

Sylvain Charlebois  33:43

So I, I'm right now as we speak, I'm at 1210, one thousand -

Michael LeBlanc  33:50


Sylvain Charlebois  33:50

two hundred and ten . And I would say probably, probably half of them, were related to food inflation, at least.

Michael LeBlanc  34:00

It's not unu-, it's not unusual for the media to call you up for your expertise. But if you look back three years pre COVID, you were, you were in the media as well, fairly often, but has that. Do you think there's more stories going on? Or do you think the number of times people are calling you obviously reflection of your expertise, but obviously also a reflection of interest in the subject matter? Would you, would you say, yes?

Sylvain Charlebois  34:22

I would say well, I mean, the 2020 was my busiest year with media, I would say but my second busiest year would media was this year, over the last 20 years or so. And, and a third busiest was probably 2019. So, it's just, it's just getting busier and frankly, I enjoy working with media. I mean, they give me information. And so, as an academic, it fuels our research, because we get to know what matters to people. And so that's why I was very intimately related or we work very closely with media because they, they give us a lot of information. Yeah and I know you do too, as well.

Michael LeBlanc  35:08

Yeah, I, I look at it more for you, I look at it as a great thing because it pulls information out of academia and puts it into the public eye where it kind of belongs, right? It becomes a public good. 

Sylvain Charlebois  35:09


Michael LeBlanc  35:17

And so I, you know, I appreciate, you know, your contribution that says, well, we're doing all this great work, and let's make sure that people understand, they may or may not agree with it all the time.

Sylvain Charlebois  35:32

Oh absolutely so, I had a column in the Toronto Star over the weekend and on farmland management and what we should do with rural economies and things like that, because I was arguing that over the next 50 years, having enough farmland would be should be the least of our concern, because of, of what's going on with dairy with meat products, meat consumption, we're gonna have to figure out ways to, to populate rural communities, that's going to be a big problem, because a lot of people are actually either going into rural communities because they want to live there and, and have space and, and freedom, but not farm necessarily. So, those are question marks that I've raised in my article. And, and of course, I did get a lot of positive comments. But I also got, I received negative comments as well, which I will not share in detail. But when you are actually out there in the media, and you have an opinion, you should expect to get all sorts of reactions, of course,

Michael LeBlanc  36:37

I guess, I guess it's a Vax, Vox Populi peer review, I guess, so to speak, right? You're, you're it, it they're not, they're not your colleagues not in your profession. But you know, the fact that they take time to say, I disagree.

Sylvain Charlebois  36:52

I must say some of the emails I get, I'm not even sure the per-, the person that is actually sober. So, that's, you know. Their send, like 10 or 11 at night, and you go, oh, boy, okay and I don't reply. If it's positive, I will reply and I will thank them. But if it's negative, -

Michael LeBlanc  37:09


Sylvain Charlebois  37:09

I just whatever. Yeah.

Michael LeBlanc  37:11

Yeah whatever. Well, all right, well listen, a great episode and we're back. We're taking a bit of a hiatus. We're back in the mid of January. We've got some lots of great products for Trying Stuff. You can see some of them on for those watching, to see half of them on my shelf behind me. We've got JoAnne Labrecque is our first guest to kick off the year a real mentor of yours, I believe. 

Sylvain Charlebois  37:34

Yes, absolutely. 

Michael LeBlanc  37:35

So, she's got a tremendous expertise in all things like eCommerce and all that. So, I'm really looking forward to that. That's, I think, on the 13th, January 13th.

Sylvain Charlebois  37:44


Michael LeBlanc  37:44

We are taking a bit of a hiatus, we got lots of fun stuff planned for 2022. We'll also kick off with a bit of our predictions for 2022. It's good, good time to do it. So, until then make sure and smash that subscribe button, whether it's on your podcast platform, or whether it's on YouTube and keep up with everything we've got going on. We got lots of fun stuff coming in the new year. Sylvain, it was such a treat, as always, for 2022 to spend time with you and great to see you in person actually. Which is - 

Sylvain Charlebois  38:14

Yes, absolutely. That was a bonus. 

Michael LeBlanc  38:17

Extra super fun and I guess it was very, very, it was very characteristic of 2022. Right, we saw each other in person and I had to send you a note that there was a COVID exposure. So, there it is, sums up, sum up the year. Merry Christmas, go get tested. 

Anyway, all right well listen, I am Michael LeBlanc, President of Maven Media Group, and also Host and Producer of the all-new ‘Last Request Barbecue’ show on YouTube, so check that all out.

Sylvain Charlebois  38:45

Oh yeah, absolutely.

Michael LeBlanc  38:46

So, be sure to check that out and you are?

Sylvain Charlebois  38:49

Sylvain Charlebois and I want to wish all our listeners. Happy Holidays and be safe.


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