Left to right: Ricardo Larrivée, executive chef and co-founder, Ricardo Media; Brigitte Coutu, president and CEO, Ricardo Media and Pierre St-Laurent, executive vice-president and chief operating officer, Sobeys Inc./IGA (CNW Group/Ricardo Media)
IGA has further strengthened what it describes as a “fruitful collaboration” with Ricardo Media, announcing this week that it has acquired a majority stake in the Quebec-based company. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Established in 2002 by Ricardo Larrivée and Brigitte Coutu, Ricardo Media has grown into a significant player in Canada’s food and lifestyle sector, with ventures including a magazine, a website, a daily TV show, books, a line of kitchen accessories, three shops, an online store and three restaurants operating under the name Ricardo Boutique + Café.
“We strongly believe in the [Ricardo] brand and we see a lot of opportunity to grow on both sides,” says Pierre St-Laurent, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Sobeys Inc./IGA, of the deal.
Ricardo Media will continue to operate as a separate entity, with Larrivée and Coutu retaining their respective roles as executive chef/co-founder and president and CEO.
The transaction builds on a longstanding relationship between the two companies dating back 20 years. IGA has used recipes sourced from Ricardo on its digital platforms and in its weekly flyers, and also introduced a line of Ricardo-branded food products in 2018.
IGA saw “tremendous success” with the Ricardo products during the pandemic, says St-Laurent, with sales growing six times over the prior year. “It’s growing very quickly because the brand is highly appreciated by customers,” he says.
Like so many transactions in the digital age, however, data is at the heart of the IGA acquisition. With some 7,000 recipes and approximately 5.4 million monthly visits, the Ricardo site provides IGA with a lens on consumer preferences before they even set foot in one of its stores.
“Ricardo knows what people want to eat tonight, so it’s a new Nielsen for us [in terms of determining customer behaviour],” says St-Laurent. “It’s rich information that [shows] the future intent of customers. What are they looking to eat? What inspires them?” This data can be used to inform its merchandising program, rather than reacting to purchase data, he says.
IGA will also look to grow Ricardo’s e-commerce business using its distribution capabilities, and will work with Ricardo to innovate on new grocery products. “We don’t want to have me-too products,” says St-Laurent. “We’re using that brand to differentiate. It’s a complementary product [to its existing private-label brand Compliments] that’s very powerful and distinctive…and we believe that in some parts of the country, some of these products could be really well received.”
In a release, Larrivée said the partnership represented an “important step in our entrepreneurial journey” that will enable the company to accelerate its brand development and ensure its sustainability in both Quebec and across Canada. “We look forward to developing new strategies to growth both of our companies in the coming years,” he said.