Fleury Michon's fresh, refrigerated ready-meals a hit in Quebec


French food giant Fleury Michon is banking it can become well-known in Quebec with its recent launch of a new line of refrigerated ready-meals.

While the 108-year-old family-owned company has “100 per cent awareness in France,” its awareness in Quebec is minimal, admitted its director of marketing, Liette Vézina. “We’re really starting from scratch – the objective this year is to build awareness of the brand.”

The line was initially launched last March only in IGA stores in Quebec and distribution was expanded to other grocery chains in the province last October.

Fleury Michon now has about 75 per cent distribution across Quebec with its line of six bistro dishes like chicken cacciatore and five Asian dishes like beef teriyaki. The company has also begun to sell surimi rolls at IGA.

“We wanted to make sure consumers could find our product and to build distribution before speaking publicly about the brand,” Vézina said. The line is being promoted through public relations, in-store promotions, circulars, demonstrations, coupons and POP materials. The possibility of major marketing campaigns, such as TV ads, remains confidential.

The single-serving meals sell from $5.49 to $5.99 and have a 30-day shelf life in the fridge and three months in the freezer. They can be microwaved in two minutes from the fridge.

Fleury Michon uses a pasteurization to keep the meals fresh, not frozen. The company invested about $50 million to bring the pasteurization process from France to Quebec, after its 2006 acquisition of Rigaud, Quebec-based Delta Dailyfood, an airline catering specialist.

Well-known Quebec chef Danny St-Pierre, who runs two restaurants in Sherbrooke, is serving as a consultant for Fleury Michon in the province, much like Michelin-starred chef Joël Robuchon does for the company in France.

The chefs help the brand differentiate itself in terms of taste, Vézina said. “They bring creativity, quality, a critical eye and challenge us in product development.”

The company believes there is a market in Quebec for ready-to-eat meals in the fresh section of groceries. “Consumers tell us they’re surprised by the taste. They don’t expect that from a ready-meal because there’s quite a negative perception of ready-meals.”

First-year sales at IGA have met objectives, although Vézina would not provide sales figures. (Overall, Fleury Michon sales were 690 million euros in 2012.)

If all goes well, the company will expand into other Canadian markets.

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