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Montreal’s all in for food culture

bp montreal

With well over a million lakes, thousands of rivers, and an immense fluvial plain along the St. Lawrence Seaway, Quebec covers nearly a quarter of the surface of Canada. Twice the size of Texas, the province is home to eight million people, half of whom live in the growing Montreal region.

On its website, the Institut de la Statistique Quebec notes that “Montreal stands out from other regions with its high proportion of 25- to 64-year-olds who have a university degree—50.6 percent in 2018. Among the factors contributing to this result is the strong presence of immigrants with higher levels of education than the average population.”

Montreal ranks as the sixth-fastest growing city in the United States and Canada, according to Ryerson University’s Center for Urban Research and Land Development, and tourism continues to climb.

“Montreal is in the midst of an unprecedented tourism boom,” reports Douglas Purdy, president of Belmont Fruits Inc., BB #:275250, Outremont, QC, which specializes in Chilean fruit and has been importing and distributing grapes, stone fruit, citrus, apples, pears, and other fruits for the last 25 years. “Tourism represents $4.75 billion in revenue and 53,000 jobs.”

Indeed, Tourism Montreal forecast a whopping 11 million visitors in 2019, with an expected rise of 4.4 percent in 2020, thanks in part to an expanded roster of direct flights. Why does this matter to the fresh produce industry? Because all of these tourists need to eat, and most will add a fruit or vegetable component to their meals.

A Foodie Haven
Montreal is multicultural and a natural location for many international festivals, including several foodie events. For example, the city hosts MTLàTABLE every November.

This citywide restaurant week boasts 175 participating venues hoping to attract foodies by offering affordable three-course, fixed-price menus for $21, $31, or $41. Food tours, wine events, dinner theater, and other cuisine-themed happenings round out the schedule.

When it comes to the everyday restaurant scene, Purdy predicts continued interest in fresh produce, noting the steady increase in vegan and vegetarian food products and restaurants in Quebec, including Copper Branch, a plant-based power foods outlet with more than 50 locations in Canada with plans to expand into the United States.

And Rattandeep Kaur, guest experience lead for McDonald’s Canada, explains that due to demand for healthier options, the famed fast food chain is testing its new plant-based burger, the “PLT,” in a limited number of Canadian locations.

“We’ve been working on the recipe and are ready to introduce this juicy burger to our guests, hear their feedback, and learn what it will take to execute on this in our restaurants,” shares Kaur. “We feel it’s a way to make our iconic burgers equally available to both meat eaters and vegetarians.”

McDonald’s worked with Beyond Meat to create a patty exclusive to the chain, Kaur says, “to capture our iconic McDonald’s taste.”

This is multi-part feature adapted from the Montreal spotlight in the January/February 2020 issue of Produce Blueprints.