MONTREAL — Quebec’s major supermarket chains will all be flying the local produce banner again this summer, despite a tough start.
Glenn Acton, vice president of pricing and promotions for Maxi and Maxi & Co., a subsidiary of Loblaw Cos., said Quebec’s local season started about seven days late after a cold, wet spring, and there were losses in the first plantings of lettuce and potatoes.
With no local strawberries available as the deadline for his June 23 weekly flyer loomed, Pat Calabretta, senior director of purchasing and merchandising for Sobeys Quebec, said it was a challenge to set a price for the province’s 269 IGA stores since he had no idea what quantities he’d have when the flyer came out.
“Right now, our strawberry guys are saying there are none in the field,” Calabretta said on June 10.
“Do you put a price? If we get two weeks of super sunshine, growers are going to have too many berries.”
Metro stores began showcasing Quebec produce in store and in flyers on June 16, said Genevieve Gregoire, communications adviser for Metro Inc.
Gregoire said stores are being encouraged to order specific products, particularly strawberries, raspberries and corn, directly from producers to ensure they’re as fresh as possible.
In August, she said, Metro plans to feature 1.5-quart baskets filled with Quebec vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, green and yellow beans, field tomatoes, fava beans and cucumbers.
The new “Metro & Me” loyalty program will also be used to promote fresh produce this summer through extra points and bonus points, Gregoire said.
Cross promotions will include one with Metro’s Facebook fans, she said. IGA is also interacting with consumers through Facebook with its Vive la bouffe (Long live food!) icon, which announces the arrival of crops such as asparagus and directs fans to the IGA website for recipe ideas.
Acton said Loblaw will introduce new varieties of organic greenhouse tomatoes from Serres Sagami in St. Sophie, Quebec.
Aside from local produce, Metro plans to promote lesser-known melon varieties such as casaba, crenshaw, canary, santa claus, orange-flesh and galia during the summer, Gregoire said. Calabretta said he’s planning special promotions for stone fruit and tropical fruit.
Acton said demand for Caribbean produce such as roots is growing in Loblaw stores, especially in greater Montreal, and the company is expanding its offering and space dedicated to these vegetables.
While IGA has been committed to supporting local growers for many years, Calabretta said the program only works if the product is good and customers are happy.
“Once it starts affecting our specifications, then we have a problem,” he said.
“Consumers understand if local produce doesn’t look No. 1 because of the rain, but if it goes on for three or four weeks, or if the lettuce has a lot of earth on it, they don’t want excuses, they just want to buy lettuce that looks good and is good for them,” he said.