IGA has launched the Local Accelerator, a $1-million annual program aimed at helping Quebec agri-food companies develop products and get them onto store shelves.
Its aim is to support companies throughout the various stages of developing and marketing their new products to maximize their chances of making it to market.
“Supporting local entrepreneurs is part of our DNA,” says Mireille Thibodeau, vice-president fresh merchandising at Sobeys/IGA, noting that many individual stores already serve as an entry point for local entrepreneurs’ products. “The idea is to have new products that will be exciting, different, tasty and see how we can help them grow faster and help them have the commercial success they’re looking for.”
Companies will have access to IGA experts and business partners in fields including merchandising, marketing, logistics and finance. “We really believe in it,” Thibodeau says of the Local Accelerator. “We are investing lots of effort, money, human resources and all of the resources companies will need.”
IGA has also joined forces with partners such as Mycélium, a food processing incubator that supports startups during their early phases, and Université Laval’s Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF), which helps entrepreneurs find solutions to product development issues, ranging from shelf life to ingredients.
The goal is to “help entrepreneurs save money and time,” Thibodeau says, and “to avoid mistakes most make when they launch a product.”
Some companies selected for the Local Accelerator may be ready for launch, but have limited capacity, she says. Others may already be selling their products in some stores, but face challenges in increasing production for the entire province.
“We think there’s definitely some products that are ready for the market but need a little help to go to the next stage and to be able to accelerate their growth. We think we’re going to have some startups, but we also think there’s lots of products that are ready but need a little help to be able to grow faster.”
The aim is to have 10 to 12 companies in the first cohort, Thibodeau says. Participants will be chosen by a panel of experts from within the company, store owners, Mycélium and INAF.
“We want to know how their products are different (and) what they can bring to the market,” Thibodeau says, “so we can understand what they have to offer and what they can do differently for our Quebec customer base.”
Companies can apply online until May 31.