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New Montreal grocer delivers local, organic fare

Bio Locaux hopes to educate consumers about agriculture
Bio Locaux
Photography via Bio Locaux/Facebook

A co-op of organic farmers in Quebec has opened its own grocery store in Montreal.

Located on Masson St. in Montreal’s Rosemont neighbourhood, Bio Locaux sells organic produce and other local goods directly to consumers. 

“We’re trying to develop a new way for producers to market their goods,” says Émilie Viau-Drouin, a farmer and the general manager of Coopérative pour l’agriculture de proximité écologique (CAPÉ; Cooperative for ecological local agriculture).

Agricultural producers are paid the same amount they receive for selling their fruits and vegetables at public markets, she says, so they make more money than selling to grocery chains. About 70% of sales go directly to the producers, who make about 30% to 50% more than they would selling through an intermediary.

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Viau-Drouin says Bio Locaux aims to reconnect people with their food roots, make Quebec organic food more accessible, and reduce reliance on imported foods. The market is particularly suitable for consumers who wish to eat organic but do not want to obtain their organic fare from food baskets or at farmers markets.

CAPÉ is part of Fermiers de famille, a network of certified organic producers that distributes food baskets. Members also participate in public markets and have kiosks on their farms.

Bio Locaux sells between 30 to 50 types of fruit and vegetables, depending on the season. In December the store was selling more than 20 fruits and vegetables, including several varieties of apples at $2.75 per pound, carrots, kale, spinach, cabbage, potatoes, beets and onions.

The store also sells a wide variety of frozen meat, dairy foods, quiches, maple syrup, flour, soups, spices, books, clothing and more. T-shirts for sale sport (translated) slogans like “Live on the land according to the rhythm of the season.”

A mural on one of the store walls contains the translated phrase “This revolution is accessible and necessary.”

Fresh vegetables and fruits cost less than comparable organic fare sold at major grocers. Prices are about the same as those in grocery stores for packaged, processed and other transformed products.

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Bio Locaux
Photography via Bio Locaux/Facebook

The Promenade Masson shopping strip was chosen for Bio Locaux’s first store because research showed there is less of a tendency for residents of the neighbourhood to buy online, she says. The shopping strip has several other fruit and vegetable and grocery stores. Young families make up many of the store’s demographic, Viau-Drouin says.

Sales to date have surpassed forecasts, she says. “We had different scenarios – both good and bad. We’re in the good scenario which is what we hoped for.” 

A second CAPÉ grocery will open next spring in the Grand Marché de Québec public market in the Limoilou neighbourhood of Quebec City. Viau-Drouin hopes to open additional stores in Montreal, but none are currently planned.

READ: How Quebec produce store Ferme Régis became a local favourite

For now, as part of Bio Locaux’s mission to educate the public about agriculture, it is planning several activities at the store with participating farmers, such as workshops and conferences, as well as farm visits.

The store has four employees and is open 10 hours daily from Wednesday to Sunday, but Viau-Drouin hopes it will be open seven days a week by next summer. “It's a question of starting off slowly and seeing how it’s going.”

Much of the marketing for Bio Locaux has come from social media as well as word of mouth.

Reviews online are strongly positive. “Finally, a grocery store run by a group of producers! What a joy to eat organic, freshly harvested vegetables at a fair price, reads one Google review.

“Organic local products have literally changed the life of the neighborhood,” reads another. 

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