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Sobeys and Cookin whip up a strategic partnership

Partnership will see Sobeys promote Cookin to its customers both in-store and online
sobeys x cookin
L-R: Michael Baruch (Cookin), Sandra Sanderson (Empire), Morley Ivers (Cookin), Erika DeHaas (Sobeys), Doug Nathanson (Empire) and Julie van Wyck (Sobeys). Photography courtesy Sobeys

The creation of community-focused social media content that positions produce and products from Sobeys as chef-grade quality is one of the objectives behind the grocer’s partnership with homemade food delivery marketplace app, Cookin

First announced in November and officially launched last week with an event in Toronto, the partnership will see Sobeys promote Cookin to its customers both in-store and online, including with special offers.  

And Cookin is promoting Sobeys to its customer database, including with content featuring home cooks on the app, like private chef Nicholas Heckbert who recently embarked “on a quest for premium ingredients at Sobeys.” Videos on Instagram and TikTok feature Heckbert picking up fresh produce as well as product from Sobeys’ private label brand, Compliments, to make ratatouille lasagna, which is one of his menu items on Cookin that customers in his delivery area can order. 

Sobeys first reached out to Cookin last summer, says Doug Nathanson, EVP, chief development officer and general counsel at Empire Company Ltd., owner of Sobeys.

“We had started looking for strategic partnerships that would be a good fit with our brand, our culture, and our values and purpose, when around the same time two people I trust said to me, ‘You should check out Cookin,’” he says. “And the minute I met the Cookin team, I knew it would be a great partnership.”

The two companies are both about community and family – and for Sobeys, an “aha moment” came when it realized the huge community of home chefs on the platform making authentic dishes for Cookin customers. 

“There’s such a diverse range of chefs on the app, and so as much as we can, we will be encouraging them to come into Sobeys for their ingredients and highlight them to people, so they not only enjoy their food but learn about the recipes,” says Nathanson. 

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sobeys x cookin
Ratatouille lasagna is one item available on Cookin. Photography courtesy Sobeys

With the launch event at Cirillo’s Culinary Academy in Toronto attended by online influencers and featuring chefs on the app whipping up creations from tostones, a Latin American treat of fried plantains, to chicken paneer, the partnership was brought to market in record time for Sobeys. 

“We signed it in October/November, and while maybe not as quick a timeline for a startup, the launch was in very quick order for us – lightning fast,” Nathanson tells Canadian Grocer

He also doesn’t see it cannibalizing Sobeys’ home-meal replacement offerings in-store and online with Voilà. 

“People also go to restaurants, and this is just another alternative for them,” explains Nathanson. “And so, we don’t think this detracts from anything we do or what Cookin does – it’s an enhancement for both of our customers.” 

READ: How grocers can satisfy the growing appetite for meal solution

For its part, Cookin had been looking to partner with a major grocery chain. “We ultimately chose Sobeys to partner with nationally because there was strategic alignment,” says Morley Ivers, co-founder and CEO of the two-year-old, Toronto based company. 

To date, Cookin has boarded nearly 500 chefs in Toronto alone, and is vetting home chefs and bakers from across Canada in expanding the app’s service.

He says it is getting massive uptick from local food providers of all kinds, from new Canadians to former restaurant owners.

“People are starting their home-based business with Cookin as opposed to working in a restaurant, where the hours are crazy, or having to take out an enormous loan to open their own restaurant,” explains Ivers.  

“The industry was ready for disruption,” he adds. “Cookin allows talented individuals to make food for other people and be an entrepreneur without any startup costs, because we stand up their store, handle the delivery and give them the tools to market the business.”

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