This may all be about to change with the introduction of the Canada EU Comprehensive Economic Free Trade Agreement.
Coming in to force next year, the Agreement removes 99 per cent of all tariffs on Canadian exports entering the EU, opening the door for a whole host of new products to reach the UK.
“At the moment it can be quite challenging for an export like lobster to take centre of plate on a restaurant’s menu because of the pricing, but once the tariffs are removed it will offer more opportunity for Canadian products to become the main feature of the menu,” Susan Powell, of the Canadian Food Exporters Association, told BigHospitality.
The UK foodservice industry is booming, and Canadian exporters believe there is a space for the country's offering in an increasingly diverse market.
“Canadian food can fit on to a menu and offer a point of difference for people that are interested in experiencing different types of food. The products offer something that you don’t typically see in the UK, like bison beef or geoduck,” said Emma Finn, trade commissioner at The High Commission of Canada to the United Kingdom.
What is Canadian cuisine?
Canadian cuisine is famously hard to define, with former Prime Minister Joe Clark reportedly described it as ‘not a stew pot, but a smorgasbord’ of other cultures dishes.
So what can we expect to start seeing more of on British menus? Exports targeting the UK include maple syrup, wild Atlantic prawns, black cod, nut-free peanut butter substitute Wowbutter and geoduck, the largest burrowing clam on earth.
Though 90 per cent of geoduck exports currently ships to the Oriental market, there is a growing UK demand with restaurants such as Nobu and Hakasaan both using Canadian produce.
Finn said: “We really feel that the diversity of Canadian food reflects on the diversity the country itself and its multicultural heritage – whether it’s from the land with the Alberta beef or from the sea with geoduck and salmon.”
Targeting young chefs
Canadian exporters are already getting a head start in the market by targeting the next generation of chefs.
Wild Atlantic Prawns have launched a chef education programme designed to provide chefs, trainee chefs and those studying hospitality management subjects with an insight in to using their product.
The course details how to best use prawns in dishes, how chefs can use them to maximise returns, as well as information on nutritional benefits and how to communicate these on menu.
Karen Galloway, from Wild Atlantic Prawn’s Chef Education team, said: “A lot of chefs have no idea where the prawns come from or how to best use them in dishes. They don’t realise that the prawns are best served cold, not under high heat.”
Finn said that working with young chefs was a means to ‘catch everybody early’ and help ensure the position of Canadian food on menus of the future.
“We’re reaching out to chefs and the hotel and restaurant community to make them aware of what Canada has to offer. Although we haven’t been overt in our communication with this industry before, we feel that the time is right to start making those connections.”
Canada’s iconic coffee and doughnut chain Tim Horton’s currently has 4590 sites in Canada, the USA and the Persian Gulf, and are now owned by Burger King.
The group previously opened in Ireland and Scotland in partnership with Spar convenience stores, so can we expect to see one of Canada’s most famous exports opening in the UK High Street anytime soon?
Powell speculates: “They actually might expand their opportunities a little more because of the Burger King partnership, for example they’re doing wonderful in the Middle East. So who knows, they might look at the UK if they get the interest they had from other countries.”
So what does the future hold for Canadian produce in the UK?
“I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more Canadian products in the restaurants and supermarkets in the UK," said Powell.
"The High Commission is looking to increase contacts within the chef community and foodservice sector and let people know that we are beyond commodities, and we are beyond maple syrup. Although it’s wonderful, we have a lot more to offer.”