Loblaw promotes local through Ontario Made program

Loblaws is doing what it can to promote local Ontario brands through its new Ontario Made program.

In partnership with Grey Jay Sales & Distribution, the Canadian chain is featuring products from 12 Ontario-based suppliers in more than 150 stores under its Loblaws umbrella, including Zehrs, Your Independent Grocer, and Valu-Mart. Suppliers include Jakeman’s (maple products), Urban Hippie (granola), Yawdi’s (marinades and sauces), and Kiki (maple water).

“We know that being a vendor at Loblaw can be intimidating at first, especially if you don’t have the scale to do so, or you’re a small company,” says Adrian Centea, category director at Loblaws. “We reduced the barriers to entry, and partnered with Grey Jay to handle logistics and bring vendors to us that we can support.”

The program started as a pilot at three stores last October. After getting positive results, Loblaws began it out earlier this year. “As we started piloting more stores, other stores saw the program and said they want to be part of it,” says Centea. “It’s getting great reception from our customers and we’re very happy with it.”

In addition to bringing its customers local brands they want to support, Loblaw wants to help suppliers grow their businesses.

“Given the lockdowns and restrictions, we hear a lot about small businesses not doing as well as they should be. We wanted to find a way to give a helping hand and make sure we’re giving back to our communities,” says Centea. “We’re able to help them scale their business and provide guidance along the way. We really want to provide a bigger avenue to help grow these Ontario businesses.”

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Ontario Made products are also being promoted on in-store displays that highlight the people and stories behind the brands. “At the top of each rack, there is a segment for storytelling that enables us to let the customer connect with who they’re supporting,” says Centea.

“Since the program launched, there have been so many more businesses that have asked how they can be part of the program, which is encouraging,” Centea adds. “Right now, we’re in the early stages, we’re learning a lot, the program is evolving and we are looking at expanding it.”

Jordan Ender, VP of operations at Grey Jay Sales & Distribution, noted that supporting local is crucial to the survival of local brands. “The support of major grocery retailers and Ontarians as a whole will help our Ontario-based suppliers to move into the post-pandemic era and bolster economic recovery.”

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