An initiative from Calgary Co-operative is connecting consumers with local producers.
Calgary Co-op is hosting three pop-up farmers’ markets in the parking lots of three Co-op stores. Each pop-up features local food producers along with some of Calgary’s favourite food trucks. Farmers’ markets, explains Ken Woo, Calgary Co-op's CEO, are a great way to create a more exciting and interactive process with consumers and local producers.
“When you drive by them, you can see the tents, smell the food and hear the music–it provides a fun country experience,” he explains. “The great thing is it’s not just about the local product, it’s about the even that drives people to the product.”
Woo admits he was a bit apprehensive before the first pop-up at Crowfoot Co-op in August. The vendors were sparse, and he worried the gloomy weather would discourage otherwise interested consumers. But Woo says the reception has been fantastic, and vendor numbers doubled at the second pop-up on Sept. 4.
“We didn’t think we’d sell a ton of product – that it’d be more of a show and tell,” he says. “But many sold out, and they were as pleased as punch.”
The pop-up markets are one aspect of the Co-op’s three-pronged approach to establishing itself as a strong supporter of Calgary’s local market.
Every weekend until November, the co-op will tag local products to show shoppers the producer and where it’s from.
Calgary Co-op also plans to invite new producers to its stores on weekends to talk to consumers about their product and what makes it unique.
“When a producer talks to you about their product and how it’s made, it’s a great story to listen to,” says Woo. “A lot of them are very family-oriented, and local producers seem to have a flare when they talk about their product’s history.”
The Cucumber Man, for example, has been a family business since 1968. Green Eggs and Ham, another local producer, grow a selection of greens as well as breed organic, free-range chickens.
While Woo was familiar with these local growers beforehand, he says the pop-up markets have brought forth a lot of new producers – ones who have products that he can now bring into stores.