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CPG leaders meet with the federal government to discuss stabilizing grocery prices

Monday's meeting brought together top Canadian executives from McCain, Unilever, Nestle, Lactalis, Lassonde, Kraft Heinz and Smucker Foods

The Canadian leaders of seven international manufacturing companies, including Nestle and Kraft Heinz, met with Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne Monday (Sept. 25) to discuss stabilizing grocery prices.

Champagne summoned them to answer to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's call earlier this month for Canadian grocers to come up with a plan to stabilize prices by Thanksgiving.

Monday's meeting brought together top Canadian executives from McCain, Unilever, Nestle, Lactalis, Lassonde, Kraft Heinz and Smucker Foods.

The CEO of the Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada association, Michael Graydon, attended the meeting and agreed to answer questions on their behalf.

READ: Confusion over drivers of food inflation creating consumer distrust of grocers

Graydon called the meeting "very productive.''

''We're very much about co-operation and support, collaboration," he said. ''It's an industry that needs to align and work collectively to find a solution."

He said manufacturers want to collaborate with other players in the supply chain, such as major retailers like Loblaw and Costco, whose leaders Champagne met with one week earlier.

It's unclear, however, whether another meeting between major food companies and the government will take place.

Champagne made a point of calling out Pepsi and Coca-Cola for not sending representatives to a meeting. 

A government source told The Canadian Press that the CEOs of Pepsi and Coca-Cola responded to the federal government summons by stating they were not available Monday. The source was granted anonymity because they were not allowed to speak publicly about the matter.

In a statement, Pepsi said it is open to meeting with Champagne.

"We are pleased that our industry association, FHCP, led a productive conversation with the government and representatives from industry today,'' it said.

"We were not able to attend today's meeting, but we offered to meet with the minister. We are committed to collaborating with the government to identify solutions during this challenging time for Canadians.''

READ: As politicians played inflation blame game in 2022, what really drove rising prices? 

Trudeau has said that if the government isn't satisfied with what major grocers come up with to stabilize prices, he would intervene, including with tax measures.

Graydon said it remains to be seen how detailed the plans will be by the government's Thanksgiving deadline.

''We'll have to see whether, you know, the detail of how much completeness can be done by that time. But I think everybody's working very hard to achieve that," Graydon said.

Champagne said he is happy Graydon "wants to do something,'' because "it's a gain for Canadians.''

"It's clear that what's important is that we have timelines, work plans and obviously concrete actions,'' the minister said.

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