ARCHIVED - Helping Canadian Firms Tap into the Healthy Foods Boom

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December 06, 2006— Ottawa, Ontario

Biological tomatoes

Today the healthy foods and natural health products industries collectively enjoy a lucrative $150 billion global market. As more and more consumers buy food products not only for basic nutrition, but also for their potential health benefits, Canadian firms are joining the boom.

In the Saskatoon area, there are about 30 "nutraceutical" and "functional food" companies jostling for market share, generating annual revenues of nearly $60 million – while the number of firms throughout western Canada is constantly increasing. Studies show, however, that as few as 5 percent of Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) survive their first five years in business. The National Research Council (NRC) has identified some key issues faced by this sector including lack of access to business/marketing intelligence, management training, expertise in technology management, knowledge of regulatory issues, and early stage capital.

A nutraceutical is a product isolated or purified from foods that has a known physiological benefit or provides protection against chronic disease (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids, lycopene, carotene, and insoluble or soluble fibre).

A functional food is a food consumed as part of a usual diet that has a known physiological benefit and/or reduces the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions (e.g., calcium-enriched fruit juice).

A natural health product is a medicine, herb or vitamin that is available without a prescription.

In November 2006, NRC officially launched a BioAccess Commercialization Centre to help increase the number of western Canada SMEs in the healthy foods and natural health products industries that can survive the critical startup phase. Located at the NRC Plant Biotechnology Institute (NRC-PBI) in Saskatoon, which also houses regional offices of the NRC Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (NRC-CISTI) and the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), the new Centre represents a single point of contact for Western Canadian healthy foods and natural health products firms seeking research assistance, business expertise, or competitive technical intelligence.

While the idea of a commercialization centre isn't new, to establish one that is specifically focused on SMEs in the nutraceutical, functional foods and natural health product industries is unique. The Centre plans to offer SMEs programs and services to help improve their value proposition – such as market intelligence and regulatory advisory services. The Centre will provide SMEs with fundamental skills to ensure sustainable growth by:

  • Helping small firms commercialize their products;
  • Providing technical and business expertise;
  • Delivering competitive intelligence services;
  • Assisting firms to become investment ready; and
  • Increasing their awareness of the global regulatory environment.
BioAccess

Saskatoon is an ideal location for the BioAccess Centre, given the region's track record at fostering the commercialization of bio-based sciences over the past two decades. In 1983, NRC-PBI revamped its research facility, encouraging plant-biotechnology stakeholders to use it as the hub of the region's agricultural biotech sector. Since then, NRC has delivered pioneering science, sophisticated research labs, and top-notch industry support to its partners.

Today, Saskatoon's agricultural biotechnology sector is a major global player that employs more than 1,100 people, including 400 research and technology professionals, in private and public-sector organizations. Currently home to more than 40 firms engaged in agricultural biotechnology R&D, the sector only recently diversified to serve the nutraceutical, functional foods, and industrial byproducts markets.

Through the BioAccess Commercialization Centre, NRC has undertaken a comprehensive approach and leadership role in the expanding field of natural products and health R&D. NRC President Dr. Pierre Coulombe states: "The Centre will bring together NRC expertise from across the country to directly raise and accelerate the competitiveness of the Canadian economy and ultimately help Canadian companies to succeed."

BioAccess Launch ceremony. From l. to r.: Kelley Fitzpatrick, President of NutriTech, Dr. Pierre Coulombe, NRC President, Hon. Carol Skelton, Minister of Revenue and Minister responsible for Western Diversification and Dr. Kutty Kartha, Director General, NRC Plant Biotechnology Institute. (Photo credit: Heather Mcleod Photography)
BioAccess Launch ceremony. From l. to r.: Kelley Fitzpatrick, President of NutriTech, Dr. Pierre Coulombe, NRC President, Hon. Carol Skelton, Minister of Revenue and Minister responsible for Western Diversification and Dr. Kutty Kartha, Director General, NRC Plant Biotechnology Institute. (Photo credit: Heather Mcleod Photography)

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Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada
613-991-1431
media@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

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