The Innovators: KaleMart24 looks to become the ‘Whole Foods of convenience stores’

KaleMart24’s chief executive speaks to Canadian Grocer about opening in Montreal, rethinking the c-store model and the company’s expansion plans

There’s no shortage of innovation happening in the food industry. From fresh retail concepts to avant-garde products, Canadian Grocer is putting the spotlight on the people and businesses moving the industry forward in our new series, The Innovators. Have a pitch? Send your submissions to digital editor Jillian Morgan

KaleMart24 wants you to forget everything you know about the traditional convenience store model.

Soon to launch in Montreal as a better-for-you c-store with healthier food choices like organic and plant-based foods, KaleMart24 hopes to attract convenience-minded millennials. 

CEO and director Oussama (Sam) Saoudi outlined the concept to Canadian Grocer, in addition to sharing the company’s expansion plans and more insights.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Sam Saoudi
Oussama (Sam) Saoudi

Why did you choose the better-for-you c-store model?

Like every other entrepreneur, my time is scarce, and c-stores and grab-and-go stores play an important role in saving me time. I love on-the-go options and we millennials are the ones driving the trend for increased visits to c-stores and grab-and-go stores. We make frequent trips to small grab-and-go stores just to get the food we need for the same day or the next couple of days. We are becoming more conscious about our health, however the natural food and beverage options in c-stores are currently very limited or inexistent.

What insights are you using to justify the concept?

Sales in the organic food and beverage sector grew by 7.1% in 2022. Organic sales are increasing because consumers are becoming more conscious about their health. Natural foods contribute to a healthier diet than conventional foods. The overall trend in c-stores is towards fresh and healthy prepared food items. Millennials desire a higher quality food experience with a unique narrative and authentic global flavours. KaleMart24 is geared towards those attempting to grab a quick and fresh lunch or snack in time to make it back to the office or to class. 

How are you innovating?

KaleMart24 is breaking through the mold of c-stores being associated with junk food by offering healthier choices that cater to a mobile, savvy younger generation. We're revolutionizing c-stores by introducing a natural convenience store chain that brings excitement and fun to the shopping experience. KaleMart24 is hungry for local, organic and plant-based foods. The overall trend in c-stores is towards fresh and healthy prepared food items. We're taking advantage of the current consumer shift from junk food to fresher, trendier options.

What is different about the tech you will be using compared to other c-stores that also offer self check-out, contactless and mobile payments?

We will leverage technology with a strong loyalty program, as well as self-checkout, contactless and mobile payment options that encourage shoppers to shop easily and buy often 24/7.

You’ve noted you're trying to become "the Whole Foods of convenience stores." How will you achieve this? 

With a nutritionist in our team, we will look for the best natural and organic foods available, maintain the highest quality standards in the industry, and have a strict commitment to sustainable food. Our secret recipe to winning involves a careful balance of brand consistency, customer appreciation, innovative assortment, and ease of experience. KaleMart24 is deeply entrenched in local communities, giving customers the option to support local suppliers. 

What is unique about the store design compared to other c-stores with self check-out? 

This is not your average convenience store in more ways than one. Retail design firm Gervais Harding & Associates will design the stores to build a strong and engaging brand destined to become a neighborhood favourite. Stores have a modern, upscale look, while still maintaining an earthy, homey market-like atmosphere. Expect all the usual categories, but with specialty brands and products that include not only food and beverages, but also personal care items and even organic pet food. The layout is standardized and easily navigable. Plus, you can check out with or without the help of an associate. There will also be a large ready-to-eat section with warm or fresh nutritious meals made daily.

Why did you choose Montreal for the launch? 

We're based in Montreal. Plus, there is a huge community of health-conscious millennials. It makes sense to choose Montreal as a starting point.

When will you open your first stores? 

We're planning to open our first five stores within 12 months in both Montreal and Toronto. Probably two in Montreal and three in Toronto.

What are your expansion plans and financial projections for the coming years?

By establishing a strong national brand awareness in major cities, KaleMart24 hopes to expand to five stores in its first year and grow to 30 stores by 2025. Our anticipated markup will be 44%. By year 3, we’re projecting revenues of $55 million and profits of $6 million.

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