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A new beginning

Canada’s largest grocery retailers have embarked on a new approach to managing industry issues by establishing the Retail Council of Canada’s Grocery Division

You may have heard about a new organization for grocery retailers in Canada. But you may not know all the details. So let me fill you in.

First off, this organization isn’t new at all. It’s the Retail Council of Canada, an association of 43,000 stores that has effectively represented retailers for nearly a half-century. RCC has set up a Grocery Division to serve our industry, and members will benefit from working with retailers across Canada on issues affecting our industry.

Over the past few months, as we’ve set up the new division, I’ve chatted with many of you about it. You’ve asked questions and I’d like to answer them now.

Which grocers are involved in RCC?

The Grocery Division is supported by Canada Safeway, Metro, Loblaw, Sobeys, Walmart Canada, Co-op Atlantic and Costco Wholesale.

What does the new division do, and with whom?

The Grocery Division works with partners inside the grocery industry, including Food & Consumer Products of Canada, GS1 and the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers. Our primary mandate is to define and put into place proactive global solutions in the following areas:
Food safety: We’re working with the federal government to develop a harmonized approach to recalls. And we’re developing industry best practices to ensure that members implement the best food-safety programs at store level and in procurement. We also want to make sure government regulations reflect the realities of the grocery business.
The environment: We’re working to ensure that provincial stewardship programs are harmonized across as many jurisdictions as possible to increase effectiveness. We’re also developing best practices for managing specific materials and working with GS1 Canada to load packaging material on ECCnet, to efficiently track and report changes in packaging. And we’ve formed a sustainability committee to address green solutions for the long term.
Health and wellness: Obesity rates continue to rise (17 per cent of children are overweight and 37 per cent of adults are obese), so our industry is committed to educating consumers about food choices and healthy eating.
Supply chain: We’ll find and put into place opportunities for industry efficiencies and cost savings. We’re also working on existing industry initiatives such as protocols on data integrity, unsaleables and best-before information on shipping cases. The Grocery Division will also explore opportunities for collaboration, such as developing common standards for retail-ready packaging.

Metro and Loblaw are members of the Grocery Division

Anything else?

These four areas define the focus for grocery retailers, but there are other issues we’ll get involved in. A prime example is the fee charged to retailers for processing credit card transactions, especially socalled “premium” credit cards that carry a higher fee for merchants. We want to ensure that Interac, Canada’s efficient and low-cost national debit system, continues to be a viable option for consumers and merchants, both online and in brick-and-mortar environments.

We’ll also continue to sponsor the Canadian Grand Prix New Product Awards. An awards dinner will take place each June to celebrate the winners. Also in June, the Retail Council of Canada holds its annual Store Conference. This is an excellent chance for retailers to share their experiences. Knowledge-sharing events on specific topics, such as the RCC Sustainability Conference, will also become a focus for the Grocery Division.

I’m pleased to note that we’ve made significant progress in the division’s first eight months. We’ve secured some early wins including establishing best practices for PET recycling. And we’ve assumed a leadership role in federal-provincial consultations on childhood obesity. We’re committed to thinking about issues differently, implementing new approaches that will allow our members to prosper and to better serve customers. We look forward to making progress on the issues that will define the future of our industry.

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