I realize we’re in an electronic age. However, for a just moment here, I’m up to my neck in computer print-outs. This is my annual exercise – to research as many as 200 food companies’ public records, reports and media mentions.

What impressed me this year? I realized I’m not the only one making lists.

I say that facetiously, of course, as I call your attention to “Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies.” Sponsored by Deloitte Canada, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and others, this annual program invites all private companies to compete for recognition of their management abilities and practices.

Although the 2010 winners are noteworthy, I was interested in the program sponsors’ final assessment – which applies equally to North American food processors.

Here are excerpts.

Best Managed Companies see growth opportunities via mergers and acquisitions.
Over the next 12 to 24 months, there will be a significant amount of merger and acquisition activities as private companies see growth opportunities in acquiring competitors or complementary businesses. Companies which have weathered the storm and have maintained solid core businesses, and those with realistic valuations and multiples will become attractive return on investments opportunities for private companies.

Best Managed Companies drive innovation across their organizations.
This year’s winners understand the ability to innovate is a strategic competitive advantage for their organizations. Whether it’s the shop floor, back office or the front-line delivery of products or services, re-engineering operations continues to be on the agendas ...

Best Managed Companies employ detailed and divergent strategies for business south of the border and beyond.
A continuing theme for Canadian private companies is managing their exposure to the U.S. market. Many companies see this as a huge opportunity to capture market share, grow revenue, relocate manufacturing facilities and engage in M&A activities. On the flipside, other emerging theme is Best Managed Companies’ desire to reduce their exposure to the U.S., and pursue acquisitions or other collaborative investments such as joint ventures and alliances on a global scale, with growing interest in South America, Europe, China and other parts of Southeast Asia.

Best Managed Companies build close relationships with customers.
While many companies focused internally, this year’s winners concentrated on their customers’ issues and how to solve them as a means of strengthening their own business.

Best Managed Companies adopt green strategies.
In support of their overall growth, Best Managed Companies increased their adoption of green strategies. Those tied to the energy supply chain saw significant opportunities in serving an expanding global market domestically and internationally. Others investigated how making their organization greener could support cost-reduction initiatives, increase their reputation as good corporate citizens by protecting the environment, and help to attract the socially conscious Gen-Y labor force.