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Empire joins District Ventures to support food entrepreneurs

National grocery chain will offer coaching to Canadian food and beverage startups as part of a new partnership
Arlene Dickinson with Jana Sobey, vice-president of merchandising, community, Thrifty Foods and Field at Sobeys.

Empire Company Limited has partnered with District Ventures to help Canadian startups get their products on store shelves.

As title sponsor of District Ventures’ Accelerator program and District Ventures Kitchen, the Stellarton, N.S.-based grocery company and its banners—including Sobeys, IGA, Safeway, Farm Boy and FreshCo—will provide support and coaching to companies in the food, beverage and health CPG sectors.

Through the partnership, these local entrepreneurs will also be given the opportunity to get their products on the grocer's shelves.

The partnership with District Ventures--the business accelerator headed by Arlene Dickinson--underpins Empire's commitment to local food and beverage brands. Sobeys' local development team, for instance, sources local products and builds partnerships with local suppliers. Since its inception in 2018, the team has partnered with more than 800 local suppliers.

“Empire has a rich history of meaningfully investing in local growers and suppliers across Canada,” said Jana Sobey, vice-president of merchandising, Thrifty Foods, Community and Field for Sobeys Inc., and a 2019 Star Women in Grocery winner.

“Supporting local is at the heart of everything we do, and we are incredibly proud to stand side-by-side with District Ventures as we continue to nurture the countless innovative food entrepreneurs in communities large and small right across our country,” she added, in a press release announcing the partnership.

News of the partnership follows District Ventures' recent acquisition of Food Starter--a commercial kitchen in Toronto that helped food entrepreneurs commercialize and scale their products.

READ: Comeback kitchen: Toronto’s Food Starter gets a second chance

The newly-minted District Ventures Kitchen remains in the 20,000-sq.-ft. shared food-safe production space once occupied by Food Starter in Toronto’s north-west end. The incubator continues to offer early-stage food companies access to a commercial kitchen and marketing assistance, among other services, to help them scale.

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