Grocery leaders share how they’re helping shoppers save

Executives from Metro, Longo’s, The Sweet Potato and more on navigating high food costs
grocery leaders
Left to right: Metro's Eric La Flèche, Anthony Longo of Longo's, Pattison Food Group's Darrell Jones, Calgary Co-op's Jeff Ambrose and The Sweet Potato's Digs Dorfman

How are Canada’s grocery leaders responding to consumer concerns about high food prices? Well, it’s complicated.

As retailers know, delivering value while contending with inflationary cost pressures is no easy feat for this low margin business. 

Canadian Grocer surveyed grocers big and small about how they’re communicating with their customers – and helping them stretch their food budgets – during this turbulent time. See their answers below: 

Eric La Flèche, president and CEO, Metro: “Inflation affects all departments and categories right now. Metro is well positioned to meet the changes in consumer behaviour and deliver the best value possible to consumers in these inflationary times with our multiple store formats, effective promotional strategies and a strong private-label offering. There’s a shift to value and it’s our job to provide the best value we can.”

Anthony Longo, president and CEO, Longo’s: “We appreciate that many Canadians are concerned about rising day-to-day costs, especially when it comes to necessities like food. To help mitigate the rising cost of food, we are working diligently to increase our Longo’s branded products and provide additional cost-friendly options to help Canadians get the most out of their food budgets. We offer meal solutions and recipes to provide inspiration about how to stretch dollars further. We also have our loyalty program, Thank You Rewards, which provides member pricing on items throughout the store and allows guests to accumulate points towards free groceries.” 

Darrell Jones, president, Pattison Food Group: “We understand their concerns as we are all being impacted by record-high inflation rates. Our manufacturers and supplier partners are seeing cost increases in all areas, from transportation and fuel costs to raw materials and packaging. I think it’s fair to say that all of us in the retail food industry are doing everything we can to mitigate passing these cost increases along to our customers. We will continue to work hard to provide options for our guests that are of the highest quality and the fairest prices.”

Jeff Ambrose, senior vice-president, operations & merchandising, Calgary Co-op: “We understand there are many factors at play from supply chain issues to significant inflation that are impacting grocery budgets. We encourage our customers to take advantage of our promotional offers including weekly flyer specials, Butcher’s Best savings in the meat department, and our Big Deals offered throughout all departments. We recommend our customers become member-owners by purchasing a one-dollar lifetime membership. They can get even more value with Member Exclusive Pricing throughout our stores, partner discounts and offers, and an annual return on our profits.”

Digs Dorfman, CEO, The Sweet Potato: “We’ve done our best to keep prices static during these turbulent times, but in some cases raising prices has been inevitable. To help reduce the strain on customers, we’ve negotiated great everyday low pricing on some key items, which we’ve strongly messaged. But, ultimately, if a customer asks why we had to raise a price on a particular item, we’ve just been direct with them every time: our costs have gone up.”

Giancarlo Trimarchi, partner, Vince’s Market: “Instead of providing a list of reasons (which can sound like excuses) to customers around why food prices have gone up over the past two years and how the retailer is the last actor in the food supply chain when it comes to the cost of their food, I would rather use this as an opportunity to point customers towards how to maximize the value they get from the dollars they spend on food. The core concepts we are focusing our promotion and merchandising activities on are promoting in-season locally available food, buying “in-season” whenever possible, encouraging variety and food exploration that challenge the traditional centre plate approach to favour more wallet friendly alternatives, and promoting education and awareness around minimising after purchase food waste. These are big topics to cover, but without a reprieve from elevated food prices on the horizon, we feel this approach will serve our customers well.”

Brad McMullen, president, co-owner, Summerhill Market: "We share the same concerns, and any increase in prices are a reflection of increases we have seen on the supply side. Summerhill is no different than an individual consumer in that we are constantly looking for opportunities to save or to look at alternatives. With food and supplies there are always high and low alternatives and this, fortunately, creates a dynamic marketplace and as a fast mover we see unique opportunities to buy, save and pass along to our customers. Metaphorically this can be seen in beef pricing, for example, where consumers tend to lean toward less expensive cuts of beef which in turn creates a surplus of the higher cuts which we can then offer significant savings with volume purchases and pass along as features. We are seeing situations like this starting to pop up and gives us the opportunity to pass savings along to our customers. It’s very much an unusual time and I expect to see continued changing behaviour.”   

Dominic Arsenault, owner, IGA: “It is a very sensitive subject to talk about. As retailers, we are stuck with cost price increases from suppliers and with the razor thin retail margins, we have no other choice than passing on the price increases to the customers or else we would go out of business."

This article was first featured in Canadian Grocer’s November issue.

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