By Randy Shore 28 Jan 2011 COMMENTS(0) The Green Man
Shoppers are showing genuine enthusiasm for the national Eat Canadian food branding program being tested at a Vancouver grocery store.
"Our staff is all over this and customers are asking questions like crazy," said Stong's Market manager Frank Deacon. "It's really being accepted well."
Canadian foods are identified by signage on store shelves and maple leaf stickers on the product packaging.
"They gave us these signs called wobblers that move around when the air moves and the logo on them says Eat Canadian," said Deacon. "In the meat and deli department we apply stickers that have a maple leaf on it."
Products getting the Eat Canadian treatment range from canned tomato sauce and pasta, to fresh beef and chicken and a variety of processed and packaged foods.
"We have it on fresh B.C. mushrooms and Stong's cheese that we make ourselves," said Deacon. "There's something in every aisle."
After the six-week Vancouver trial ends in March, the Dunbar store will compare sales on the branded products with sales during the same period last year.
Sales of Canadian-branded products showed a "significant bump" during a similar trial at an Ottawa Country Grocer late last year, said Jason Baillargeon, senior research coordinator for Canada Brand. A third pilot will start in Newfoundland this spring.
Deacon said Country Grocer staff reported sales of some items were up 200 per cent.
Eat Canadian is part of a multi-pronged program to support the Canadian food processing industry. The program includes in-store promotion, market research and a web strategy, said Baillargeon.
"We had already developed eatcanadian.cato support our export markets so we thought why not extend it to promote the domestic market," he said.
The Ministry of Agriculture and AgriFood Canada allocated $1.5 million over five years to support the program, which is expected to roll out nationally once data from the pilot projects is analyzed.
"We did some research in 2007 that showed that Canadians prefer to buy Canadian and they want to buy Canadian, but that they have difficulty identifying Canadian food products at the retail level," said Baillargeon.
Deacon said the Eat Canadian program will help fill the void left when the provincial government cut funding to the BuyBC food branding program ten years ago.
"When BuyBC died we went and bought our own stickers that said 'Local' and 'Grown in BC' and we put those stickers on ourselves," said Deacon.
Readers of The Green Man Blog ( vancouversun.com/randyshore)supported the idea of better identifying Canadianmade products, but overwhelmingly sought better labelling for B.C.-grown foods.
"Canadian is good, but it is not the same as local. Bring on Grown in BC labels," suggested one reader.
Government plans to restore or replace BuyBC have been on hold for several years, though Liberal leadership candidate George Abbott promised to resurrect a local food branding program as part of his campaign platform.