Left to right: Richard Parkinson, Frank Carey and John Scott
Here with Frank Carey, President and CEO of Wallace and Carey and Richard Parkinson Director of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives for W&C at their 90th Anniversary reception in Vancouver in December. It was a well-attended and very gracious event for the trade in western Canada. CFIG salutes the good people at W&C on their milestone achievement!
Last week, I had lunch with Jeffery Min, President, and Sam Park who are partners in the Korean “Galleria” Supermarkets. We enjoyed a fantastic meal at a Korean restaurant where Jeff treated me to a delightful meal of delicacies from his country. The conversation turned to trends in food and the two of them taught me a lot about how the food from their country is becoming increasingly main stream. One of the barriers to a greater penetration of these delicious products is the inability of western people to prepare the dishes at home. At Galleria, they are solving the problem with an extensive array of wonderful prepared products. Folks – this is clearly a smart way to go as they continue to gain customers. Now, since sushi caught on several years ago many of our members successfully carry a prepared line of sushi as a regular feature. But I’m not sure we have since looked at the offerings of some of the other rich cultures as closely as we should. They all offer great food that is becoming more common place and, like the Galleria experience, many ethnic retailers have moved to prepared dishes to give their customers exactly what they want!
JEFFREY MIN, President of Galleria Supermarket
Indian, Thai, Korean, Japanese – we’re all using these restaurants with regularity. Isn’t it time our retailers took a close look, found a partner in one or more of these groups and set out with some terrific, innovative fare.
CFIG makes it easy for you to source out these partners – Grocery Innovations Canada 2011 will feature a special section called the Ethnic Fare Pavillion where you can sample the goods and meet the producers of these products in one convenient location. Properly sourced and carefully prepared – I’ll bet your customers will be delighted!
The media have done a great job of telling the public about the impact on food prices as the result of rising commodity prices. I’ve done more interviews on this subject this year than ever before. Before we all decide that prices are about to spiral out of control and drive the consumer to discount stores, I think everyone should take a deep breath and consider reality. First – most of the price increases in products such as grains and corn have come from poor harvests, ridiculous government policies and inadequate transportation systems. All of these pressures are currently “coming off” and in fact we’re seeing a reduction in world-wide food or “soft” commodity prices right now. That doesn’t mean that we’ll see a return to low prices though – indeed those are gone forever, as worldwide demand from both population growth and changing consumption pattern change.
However, it does mean that the insanity based on unrealistic hype should abate. Second – a lot of the price increases at retail particularly in Canada can be traced to increased energy costs required to ship fresh goods north through a tough winter. As local (and better) product comes on stream this trend will decline as well. In addition as mid- east turmoil is reduced so will uncertainty for oil supply which will result in a lower base commodity price for oil (say $100 per barrel on average for this year) – no doubt welcome news for both consumers and store operations. The bottom line is yes there have and will continue to be price increases in our stores as a result of increased costs BUT they will be manageable and across the system. This means that while all retailers must continue to go to market (because of competition), with a sharp pencil, consumers will continue to enjoy a wealth of affordable choice. An unstoppable drive to discount? Not in the cards if you hold to your point of difference and look after your consumer!
Want to get your creative juices flowing? Try touring four great stores in one morning. Recently, prior to their winter meeting, the CFIG Board boarded a bus and toured Longo’s new Maple Leaf Square, Summerhill Market, the new Pusaterri’s at Bayview Village and the new Galleria supermarket at York Mills – all in Toronto.
Deli Counter at Pusateri's
It was like watching kids in a candy store. Every one of these entrepreneurs looked, asked questions, compared notes, and picked up some terrific new ideas. As Chair, Cori Bonina, said “Grocery is what we do – these are exceptional stores to see.”
Hmm- new techniques, different products, interesting and unique foods all packaged in delightful ways for a discriminating consumer – all in a morning tour.
Perhaps a good habit for independent grocers to adopt!
2010 has not been an easy year in general for our members. The increase in promotional selling, the proliferation of new corporate formats, and a fickle consumer have provided a plethora of challenges. Through all of that, we had many, many members build new stores, invest in renovations, or add exciting features to their offering. We admire the tremendous confidence the independents of Canada have in their industry and communities. We trust that you will reflect on your year with great satisfaction. We wish everyone the very best of the holiday season and look forward to working with you in the year ahead.
It’s OK to blow your horn about the amount of product you give to Food Banks. The grocery industry, as a whole, is the largest contributor to this worthy cause and independents are front and centre in most communities. Few are aware that CFIG donates the surplus product of both Grocery Innovations Canada and Grocery Showcase West to local food banks in Toronto and Vancouver. This raises thousands of pounds of food for the needy! In fact, we also provide complementary exhibit space to food banks in both trade shows. We met with Food Banks Canada last month and we intend to build a relationship to ensure that our members get a bit of recognition for their generosity in this area. After all, it shows the true heart of the independent to the community.
There are many varied opinions about Toronto’s new mayor, Rob Ford, but on the plastic bag issue he’s absolutely right on. Governments have no right to dictate the price of a product sold by the private sector. Government does have the ability to set fees and rates for publicly owned property or services. But plastic bags in stores? They do not unless the levy is placed on a bag distributed by a City owned vendor. CFIG has always stated that if Toronto wants the consumer to pay for plastic bags then the city should levy a tax. So, as the new mayor muses out loud about the potential change in the illegal levy to a tax, he has our full support – just as long as the funds raised go to the support of environmental initiatives. Go for it, Mr. Mayor!
Here is something absolutely terrific. For a few years, the industry has been moving towards a better connection with the health and wellness movement and building on the positive role a food store can play in enhancing the diet of consumers. There are some people in the forefront at retail such as Choices Markets in Vancouver. There are also manufacturers such as Campbell’s and McCain Foods who are actually reformulating their products to minimize the presence of sodium, fats and preservatives. And there are people who study these trends and have ideas as to how we can tap into this new social direction in a profitable way. Can you imagine what it would be like to learn from all of them? After all, they are clearly on the cusp of the next big trend. Well, we asked each one and, to our surprise, they all agreed to come on stage for a panel session at Grocery Innovations Canada this fall. You can catch them on Tuesday, October 26 at 8:30 – 9:45am at the Toronto Congress Centre. It promises to be one of the best mornings ever at a CFIG event! Register at groceryinnovations.com
You have to be impressed with the entrepreneurship of the independent grocers across Canada. Despite a slow economy and a skittish consumer, independents are moving forward with new and innovative store offerings that are gaining a great response from the consumer. Take a look – Commisso’s in Niagara Falls are just about set – the Stezenko’s and their new Quality Market in Thunder Bay – the Kynoch’s in Chase just celebrated their new addition in Chase – a new Longo’s opened in downtown Toronto on the 26th and on and on the list goes. These are excellent, aggressive entrepreneurs with faith in their own ability in their market. Let’s hope the consumer responds in every case!