The North West Company introduces Indigenous language shelf signage

New initiative includes more than 30 languages and dialects on signage

Northern Canada’s largest grocer has begun a program to introduce Indigenous languages on in-store signage and shelf labels.

The North West Company, which operates 121 Northern stores and six NorthMart stores in mostly remote communities across much of the Canadian north, will provide translations in more than 30 Indigenous languages on more than 80 items.

The company said the program would not only enhance the shopping experience for many of its customers, but is intended to promote the use and learning of the various languages. Shelf labels in the Indigenous language will include a QR code, which shoppers can scan with their phone to hear an audio translation and learn the proper pronunciation.

“This initiative responds to our customers' needs and their community priorities, which are closely intertwined at North West, and go to the heart of our community promise to help make a positive, progressive difference in each community we serve,” said Craig Gilpin, executive vice-president, The North West Company, in a release. Requests for an interview were not returned.

The program was first announced in June along with plans to offer more healthy everyday food options. In early September, North West launched the Health Happy program that saw anywhere from 300 to 800 new items (depending on the size of the store) introduced to the shelves of Northern and NorthMart stores. The new items have lower sugar, salt, fat or caffeine, such as Green Giant Corn Niblets with 54% less sodium and Dole’s Resealable Fruit Pouches with no sugar added. Shelf signage is being used to identify the Health Happy products and weekly flyers and handbills promote the Health Happy items on sale that week, along with suggested recipes.

For the translation initiative, the company worked with professional translators, along with community Elders, language teachers and cultural centres to ensure accurate translations.

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