A health guide written in collaboration with Harvard Medical School describes vitamins and minerals as “essential nutrients because, acting in concert, they perform hundreds of roles in the body.” The authors of the guide cite calcium as a major mineral because it’s essential to bone health.
Indeed, studies show calcium leads to increased bone growth in children and improves bone density in adults, which becomes more important as they age. Dairy is one of the best calcium-rich foods.
Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products are also a source of the other five nutrients that Health Canada says Canadians need more of: vitamins A and D, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. Studies as recent as 2018 have associated dairy products with bone health and reduced risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer.
Trade deals amount to millions in losses
Despite the clear nutritional value of their products, Canadian dairy processors are facing serious challenges due to trade deals such as the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).
Mathieu Frigon, President and CEO of the Dairy Processors Association of Canada (DPAC), says that, at full implementation, these deals allow foreign producers to capture close to 10 percent of the Canadian dairy market. That’s in addition to the 8 percent they’ve already captured through previous trade agreements — Canadian dairy processors stand to lose close to $1 billion in annual sales.
“Real food” movement a boost for dairy
While processors are concerned about the impact of those trade deals, they’re also enjoying an increase in demand for their products. The “real food” movement has led to increased consumption of cream, butter, and cheese over the past five years.
“The trend among Canadians, particularly millennials, to consume wholesome and natural foods has been extremely positive for dairy processors,” says Frigon.
To meet the heightened demand, and to accommodate the evolving tastes of consumers, processors are constantly launching new products. Some of these recent innovations include specialized products such as lactose-free products, skyr, kefir, and grass-fed butter. “These products are designed to suit individual tastes, lifestyles, and dietary restrictions,” says Frigon.
He adds that processors have also been making significant strides in improving efficiencies and reducing waste in their production processes.
By collaboratively addressing trade challenges with the government, Canadian dairy processors will be able to adjust to industry changes and continue to respond to consumer demand through innovation.