Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS)

Industrial Summary

Food and Beverage Products

(NAICS 3111-3119; 3121; 3122)

This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing food as well as beverage and tobacco products. Food manufacturing is by far the most important segment, accounting for 81% of production in 2018, followed by beverage products (16%) and tobacco products (3%). The industry is largely domestic-oriented as about two thirds of its production is sold within the country. However, foreign markets are representing an increasing share of total sales, with exports accounting for 31% of revenues, up from 24% a decade ago. With a total of 299,000 workers in 2018, it is the largest employer of the manufacturing sector (17% of all manufacturing workers). Most workers are operating in food manufacturing (89%) and employment in the industry is largely concentrated in Ontario (37%) and Quebec (29%), with men accounting for 60% of the workforce. Key occupations (4-digit NOC) include:[3]

  • Process control and machine operators, food and beverage processing (9461)
  • Labourers in food and beverage processing (9617)
  • Supervisors, food and beverage processing (9213)
  • Industrial butchers and meat cutters, poultry
  • preparers and related workers (9462)
  • Bakers (6332)
  • Testers and graders, food and beverage processing (9465)
  • Fish and seafood plant workers (9463)
  • Labourers in fish and seafood processing (9618)

The food and beverage industry was a manufacturing leader in terms of production growth over the period 2009-2018 (trailing only plastics and rubber products). This partly reflects the fact that food is a necessity, making the industry less sensitive to cyclical fluctuations in aggregate demand. In contrast with most manufacturing industries, where output fell significantly during the recession of 2008-2009 and took several years to fully recover, output in food and beverage products remained relatively stable from 2008 to 2013 and increased markedly thereafter. The resulting pace of growth in real GDP averaged 1.6% annually over the period 2009-2018, with most of the increase coming from the food segment which expanded at an annual rate of 1.9%. While steady increases in domestic consumption have been the backbone for the food segment during the past decade, output growth has been primarily fueled by rising foreign demand, particularly from the U.S. and Asian markets. The decrease in the value of the Canadian dollar in 2014-2015 has also provided additional stimulus for food exports. In comparison, production in the beverage and tobacco segments grew at an annual rate of only 0.4% over the period 2009-2018, as output growth was significantly constrained by higher import penetration of brewery products and weaker consumption of cigarettes. The growing presence of foreign competitors in the food and beverage market over the past several years forced the Canadian industry to undertake a significant amount of restructuring and consolidation to remain competitive globally. The larger plants have allowed manufacturers to take greater advantage of economies of scale, as well as containing costs per unit of output. At the same time, capital spending for some food segments has also started to pick up, benefiting from strong inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI), led by a surge in European capital. The greater shift toward technology boosted productivity in the industry and restrained employment growth to an annual average of 0.3% from 2009 to 2018.

Over the period 2019-2028, real GDP growth in the food and beverage manufacturing industry is projected to weaken somewhat relative to the previous decade, primarily reflecting the adverse impact of population aging on food consumption, but also the slower pace of growth anticipated in consumer spending in general. It is widely accepted that the need to eat tend to decline as people age. Empirical evidence shows that older people spend a smaller proportion of their income on food and clothing, particularly once they are retired from the labour market. Moreover, high household debt levels and the slower pace of growth anticipated in disposable income (resulting from slower growth in the working-age population and massive retirements of baby-boomers) are also expected to weigh on consumer spending. Although food is a necessity and is generally less sensitive to fluctuations in household consumption, expenditures on food that are discretionary in nature are more at risk of weaker demand. With little room for additional growth in domestic demand, foreign demand will continue to be the largest contributor of production growth in the food and beverage manufacturing industry.

The export-oriented segment of the industry is expected to benefit from a relatively low Canadian dollar, a solid U.S. economy, and new market opportunities resulting from the recent inauguration of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the gradual implementation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Exports of food products are also expected to benefit from rising incomes and the growing middle class in emerging markets. Developing countries generally have higher population growth rates than developed countries and a greater capacity to increase per-capita consumption of food. In addition to enhance the price-competitiveness of Canadian exports of food and beverage products, the low value of the Canadian dollar is expected to increase import prices and encourage a shift toward local sourcing and domestic production. The legalization of cannabis edibles in October 2019 is also expected to have a positive, albeit small, impact on domestic food sales. The resulting pace of growth in the industry’s real GDP is projected to average 1.2% annually over the period 2019-2028, compared to 0.5% for employment. Despite the slight acceleration in employment growth relative to the previous decade, job creation in the industry will continue to be restrained by productivity gains as technological innovations, particularly in advanced robotics, are expected to increase the automation of the production process.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Food and Beverage Products

Figure showing the annual average growth rates of real GDP and employment over the periods 2009-2018 and 2019-2028 for the industry of food and beverage products. The data is shown on the table following this figure

Sources: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS industrial projections.

Text Version of Figure Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Food and Beverage Products (%, annual average)
  Real GDP Employment
2009-2018 1.6 0.3
2019-2028 1.2 0.5

Sources: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS industrial projections.

[3]Key occupations for manufacturing industries in general also include: Manufacturing managers (0911); Construction millwrights and industrial mechanics (7311); Material handlers (7452); Shippers and receivers (1521); Transport truck drivers (7511); Industrial engineering and manufacturing technologists and technicians (2233); Industrial electricians (7242); and Industrial and manufacturing engineers (2141). Back to text.


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