Loblaw is letting customers discover more local brands with the rollout of its Ontario Made program.
In partnership with Grey Jay Sales & Distribution, Loblaw is featuring products from 12 Ontario-based suppliers in more than 150 stores under the Loblaw umbrella, including Zehrs, Your Independent Grocer and Valu-Mart. The suppliers include Jakeman’s (maple products), Urban Hippie (granola), Yawdi’s (marinades and sauces), and Kiki (maple water), among others.
Adrian Centea, category director at Loblaw, says as customers are being more mindful about what brands they support, Loblaw saw a big opportunity to support more local vendors.
“We know that being a vendor at Loblaw can be intimidating at first, especially if you don’t have the scale to do so, or you’re a small company,” says Centea. “We reduced the barriers to entry, and partnered with Grey Jay to handle logistics and bring vendors to us that we can support.”
The program started as a pilot at three stores last October. After getting positive results, Loblaw began rolling out the program earlier this year. “As we started piloting more stores, other stores saw the program and said they want to be part of it,” says Centea. “It’s getting great reception from our customers and we’re very happy with it.”
In addition to bringing its customers local brands they want to support, Loblaw wants to help the suppliers grow their businesses.
“Given the lockdowns and restrictions, we hear a lot about small businesses not doing as well as they should be. We wanted to find a way to give a helping hand and make sure we’re giving back to our communities,” says Centea. “We’re able to help them scale their business and provide guidance along the way. We really want to provide a bigger avenue to help grow these Ontario businesses.”
Throughout the stores, the Ontario Made products are being promoted on displays that also highlight the people and stories behind the brands. “At the top of each rack, there is a segment for storytelling that enables us to let the customer connect with who they’re supporting,” says Centea.
There is no set time frame for the program and Loblaw is looking at further expanding it.
“Since the program launched, there have been so many more businesses that have asked how they can be part of the program, which is encouraging,” says Centea. “Right now, we’re in the early stages, we’re learning a lot, the program is evolving and we are looking at expanding it.”
In a press release, Jordan Ender, VP operations at Grey Jay Sales & Distribution, noted that supporting local is crucial to the survival of local brands. “The support of major grocery retailers and Ontarians as a whole will help our Ontario-based suppliers to move into the post-pandemic era and bolster economic recovery,” he said.