Inaugural Food Island Day a Resounding Success

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Held at the gorgeously renovated Clinton Hills barn, Food Island Day was a one-day symposium that exceeded our expectations. Not only did we sell out much more quickly than we anticipated (we were forced to expand capacity not once, but twice!), but there was a tremendous representation of support from industry and from our friends in the private sector. 

This shows us that government, industry, and individuals are willing to all come together for the greater good of the province’s food sector. Absolutely fantastic to see!

Emerging food trends were discussed, presentations were given on packaging, the new food marketplace, and much networking  happened during the (scrumptious) nutrition breaks. 

Speaker Summary

Paul Uys, Senior Director of The Food Institute at the University of Guelph, gave an insightful presentation about how differentiation is key in the marketplace. He also spoke about consumer trends and food safety concerns. 

Shelley Balanko, Senior VP of Hartman Group gave an enthusiastic presentation about food trends and how consumers today are looking for playfulness in their food. Towards the end of her speech, Shelley made an excellent point about how PEI is well positioned to appeal to consumers around North America because we have a wonderful story. We might not be “local” to all consumers, but we are a “locale” that many are interested in. 

All the way from the Netherlands, Joris Leferink of Foodatelier spoke about innovative food and packaging and how food trends are being incorporated now into packaging concepts. Packaging matters, but also must make sense—there is no reason to package a banana, for example. His presentation ended with a video about what our plates might look like  10 years from now if current food trends continue. 

The highlight from the podium for the day would arguably be the keynote presentation by Vikram Vij, Celebrity Chef and Entrepreneur (pictured here). Vikram spoke from his heart as he told his story of getting into the restaurant business and holding tight to his Indian culture. In Vikram’s restaurant, the staff are allowed to eat whatever they want from his menu (and enjoy a glass of wine—at the end of their shift, of course), and nobody—not even Pierre Trudeau—skips the line. In fact, he doesn’t actually take reservations, preferring to adhere to Gandhi’s philosophy that everyone is equal. Vikram was in attendance for the entire day, even though his speech was not until after lunch. During breaks, he took the time to stop and chat with people, asking questions, and graciously posing for photos.

We can not wait to have him back in Prince Edward Island with us for the Fall Flavours Savour Victoria event. 

Lunch

The photos really sum everything up, but we ate well. 

Food was generously sponsored by local producers, and we feasted on oysters, lobster, clams, mussels, sausages, corn, salads, soup, charcuterie, and cheese. Blueberry lemonade, tiramisu, apple crisp, homemade granola bars .... yes. It was delicious. 

Thank you to Canada’s Smartest Kitchen and the talent on hand from the Culinary Institute. 

New Food Product Award

A panel of judges was given the unenviable task of choosing a recipient for the first ever New Food Product Award. 23 nominations were received, and represented a diverse range of products from agricultural products and supplements to beverages and seafood. 

In the end, five finalists were shortlisted for the award. The finalists included:

  • PEI Pure Fruit Puree by PEI Berries
  • Bottled Bar Clams by Annand Clams
  • Ahiflower Oil by Natures Crops International
  • Gahan Blueberry Ale by PEI Brewing Co.
  • Ewesual Sheep Gouda Cheese by Glasgow Glen Farm

The winner of this award was named during Food Island Day. PEI Berries received a $15,000 prize package including services from PEI Bio Tech, Canada’s Smartest Kitchen, and seed capital from the Departments of Agriculture and Fisheries and Innovation PEI.

Congratulations to PEI Berries and all of the finalists for their commitment to the growth of our food sector! 

Sushi!

The final session of the day was an interactive food demo hosted by Chef Ilona Daniel with Holland College Culinary Bootcamps. We all got our hands dirty as we learned how to make lobster  sushi! If table mates weren’t acquainted by this point in the day, they quickly were by the end of this fun and delicious team-building activity.

What’s next?

Staff and stakeholders of the Food Island Partnership will be continuing to further growth of the food sector, as we work together to identify development opportunities and to promote Prince Edward Island food brands.

Follow @FoodIslandPEI on Twitter for updates. Judging by the 117 Twitter followers we gained on our first day, we’re guessing we have plenty of local support that is likely to just keep growing!

As we look forward to an even larger Food Island Day next year, we wish to send special thanks to Versatile Management Group for organizing the event, to Clinton Hills for the perfect venue, and to Canada’s Smartest Kitchen and Holland College for the catering. And of course to all our fabulous speakers and attendees.

In closing, we would like to echo the words spoken by President of Food Island Partnership, John Rowe, who stated during the event that he believes we not only have the opportunity to become Canada’s Food Island, but we have the potential to become known as the world’s Food Island.

We would have to agree.