Five things we learned about Toronto’s huge food processing industry from the Globe’s recent feature

Five things we learned about Toronto’s huge food processing industry from the Globe’s recent feature

Silverstein’s Bakery is responsible for that bread smell at the corner of McCaul and Baldwin (Image: spDuchamp) 

While it might seem as though much of the food you ingest comes from a million miles away, a lot more of it is processed in Toronto than you’d imagine. Yesterday, the Globe and Mail ran an in-depth piece about the economic impact of an industry that often chugs along below the radar (the restaurant component of it very much excepted, of course). Below, five things we learned:

1. It generates a whole lot of money
About $20 billion a year, actually. And according to the Globe, the industry’s 60,000 employees outnumber even those of the auto industry. In fact, the paper reports, “there are now more people working in food and beverage processing in Toronto than any other North American city, except Los Angeles.” So take that, every city except Los Angeles.

2. It’s “immune to recession”
Because people will always need to eat, they will always need to buy food. And that, according to a recent report from the Toronto Board of Trade, is what insulates the food industry from the cruel indifference of a recession. More importantly, the Globe explains, “the industry generates spinoffs for the rest of the province” and provides employment for everyone from the humble stock boy to the likes of Mark McEwan.

3. Its scope is huge
Your idea of the food industry might be limited to restaurants, grocery stores and a small cabal of food truck operators quietly planning their uprising against the nanny state. But it’s much more than that: someone has to process the food, keep the warehouses running smoothly and drive the trucks from the farm to the market. According to the Globe, the specialty food sector is growing the fastest, in response to an increasingly diverse population.

4. It can easily tap into the American market
The Globe spoke to James Milway of U of T’s Rotman school, who explained that Toronto’s proximity to the United States is beneficial to its food sector. “What really helps [this] cluster along is having sophisticated customers at your doorstep,” Milway told the paper. Of course, it’s the largest companies that make the most of this cozy relationship, which is a bummer for the little guy.

5. It’s dominated by faceless corporations (that employ lots of people)
Speaking of those large companies, the Globe provides a list of some of Toronto’s biggest food firms: Maple Leafs Foods, Kraft Canada and Fierra Foods, among others. Those three companies, by the way, employ 6,300, 2,400, and 1,000 people in Toronto and the surrounding area, respectively.

Toronto’s economy marches on its stomach [Globe and Mail]