Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability


Inside the grocery game.

Darrell Jones deals fresh insights for the livestock and meat sector

Posted: July 14, 2015

By: Brad Brinkworth

Darrell Jones

Overwaitea Food Group is on a mission to win the west.

The innovative supermarket operator based in Langley, B.C. that boasts Save-On-Foods among a portfolio of five banners is steadily expanding throughout Western Canada. It has 146 stores (including over 100 in B.C. and 32 in Alberta), with 30 to 40 more on the books in the next few years.

Overwaitea Food Group President, Darrell Jones, shared insights on the company's approach and the various changes and challenges in the Canadian retail sector, at the 2015 Future Fare event hosted by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA). Here are a few highlights from the session.

Five key insights

1. Local, local, local. We believe that being local is the key to success for us in this business, together with our business partners and strategic alliances. Focusing on local means we want to have local products. If there are local pork, chicken, beef producers near our stores, we want their product in our stores, even if they're only big enough to supply one store or a few stores rather than the whole chain.

2. Capitalizing on consumer trends. "In the U.S. last year for the first time ever, purchasing in restaurants was greater than purchasing in the supermarket, so that's a significant shift. Want to make sure that we're on the edge of that trend by supplying ready-to-go, hot buffets, hot wing bars and those types of options. Customers are seeing us as place to come home and get that quick meal when they've had a busy day. For our meat business, that also means re-thinking our meat case to fit what consumers want. Right portions. Good value. Quick. Easy. Simple. Premium cuts. Custom cuts."

"E-commerce is also becoming huge. We sell a greater amount of meat and produce to our customers online than we do in the store. By that I mean our typical order in a typical store averages $38 to $40. It's $145 online. And the portion of fresh in the online order is 50 percent larger. So anybody who says they won't buy fresh online, that hasn't been our experience. Online shopping is not something that we can see for the people in your business to be concerned about. In fact you'll probably sell more products."

3. Producers as partners. "We want you to help us any way you can be the industry leader in selling your products. And we welcome your help and support. Come talk to us."

4. Continual innovation. "This is very important. We want convenient – boneless, skinless, etc. People today are looking for smaller, higher quality cuts of meat. Easy solutions for stir fry. Gluten free, organic, humane, you name it - we're paying attention to those trends. We want to ensure our customers we have all of this. Producers and agriculture industry can help us tell that story and make sure we are the best in class on all of these aspects that are in higher demand today."

5. Creating 'win-wins.' We want to capture the opportunities with you. It's all about us getting together, growing together and growing value. And thinking customers first. That is the key. Our philosophy is really simple. Always customer first is our tag line and it is our mission statement. Bring us your ideas. If it's the right fit we'll make it happen.

Cherie Copithorne-Barnes

" ... Also for the livestock industry, we would say continue to work on traceability of where products come from. Let's do everything we can to ensure the supply chain is strong and we can respond quickly to any challenge. And we all need to keep finding better ways to tell our story. As retailers and producers, we both have a role in talking to the consumer.

"Whether it's on packaging, through the media or directly, we have a lot of good stories to tell and we need to keep doing that. One thing we encourage is producers coming into our stores to do presentations right there to our customers. That has been very well received. People say 'wow, here's who produces it' – that really builds value."

Reprintable with credit. This article is available for reprint, with acknowledgement of the source as Meristem Land and Science, www.meristem.com.

Meristem is a Calgary-based communications firm that specializes in writing about western agriculture, food and land use. More articles at www.meristem.com.




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