Our customers count on us to provide the products and services that nurture them and their families. Meeting this commitment takes partnerships with suppliers, processors, manufacturers and all the people involved in getting what our customers need from field to table. Fostering respectful supplier partnerships where we work together to deliver value has always been part of our approach to business—and it is more important than ever during the sector-wide transition required to tackle climate change.
Fiscal 2022 Performance Highlight
350+ women entrepreneurs supported in fiscal 2022*.
*Excludes produce and SKUs listed in Quebec only
Working in partnership with our suppliers is part of what sets our business apart. We believe everyone in our industry deserves to be treated fairly—which is why we are helping to lead efforts to create a Grocery Code of Conduct in Canada.
We do this because it is the right thing to do, and also because strengthening our supplier partnerships is critical to the successful execution of our business strategy and making progress on our bold new Climate Action Plan. We work with our suppliers to drive innovation, support local products and producers, tackle major shared challenges and better serve our customers.
Strong supplier partnerships are a critical component of our national, functionally led organization. Supplier engagement, feedback and support ensure we successfully build growth plans for key categories, find opportunities to create efficiencies, and provide quality products and value to our customers.
Working with our supplier partners, we find new ways to support our stores and inspire our customers, while never losing sight of the need to deliver compelling value and to build cost and margin discipline. This process allows us to streamline our business to focus on investments and resources that add real value to us and our customers.
Given the interdependencies between our business strategy and supplier partner relationships, our Board of Directors and Executive Committee have high-level oversight of this area as part of their focus on our strategy and growth.
Operational responsibility for supplier partnerships sits under three streams:
(under Field Merchandising)
Our Director of National Sourcing is responsible for creating a national sourcing strategy on which all supplier negotiations, policies and procedures will be based. Reporting to our SVP National Sourcing & Own Brands, the Director is also an advocate for our business on all related industry and government issues.
In fiscal 2022 we created a new National Sourcing Team to strengthen our partnerships and increase collaboration between our supplier partners and all our merchandising teams. The National Sourcing Team is responsible for negotiating supplier contracts on behalf of all our banners and overseeing cost negotiations, revenue agreements and internal merchandising policies. This national approach means we collaborate more efficiently with suppliers while also securing greater investments from them, delivering value for our customers. It’s a win-win.
In addition to the great work we’re doing with national suppliers, we take great pride in sourcing from local farms and businesses across the country. This area of our business is led by our VP Merchandising—Community & Field Merchandising, with the support of dedicated teammates who are part of our National Merchandising Team.
We remain focused on supporting local supplier partners in the communities and regions where we live and work, helping them serve local customers and scale their offerings to reach more customers across Canada. In fiscal 2022 we developed a new strategy to foster local products and local entrepreneurs, with goals including improving food security, reducing transportation-related impacts and empowering customers to buy sustainable, local products. Last year we welcomed 258 new local suppliers, who accounted for almost 15 per cent of local sales in our stores. We also helped 51 supplier partners scale so they could reach more customers, including helping to take 14 companies national. In addition to our five regionally based and dedicated Local Development Teams, we support local supplier partners through an annual product roadshow and intake events, and by rolling out portals on our banner websites that make it easier for small companies to engage with us.
Our Strategic Sourcing Team focuses on growth and cost discipline, helping us serve more customers in more places with even better value. Reporting to our Chief Development Officer, the team is led by our SVP Real Estate & Strategic Sourcing and our VP Strategic Sourcing.
Working with our supplier partners is also an important way we drive innovation, helping to inspire our customers with new products and services. For example, we were the first national grocer to partner with a vertical farming provider, joining forces with Infarm in 2020. In fiscal 2022 we strengthened that partnership which will make it possible for even more of our customers nationwide to access sustainable and environmentally friendly produce grown right in our stores or in nearby growing centres. Infarm is building new large-scale growing centres in Calgary, Halifax, Winnipeg and Hamilton. The Hamilton centre will be the largest of its kind in North America, with a growing capacity of 37,000 square feet. In combination with existing growing centres, this expansion will supply more than 1000 of our stores nationally by 2023.
To help our supplier partners grow as entrepreneurs, we partner with a range of initiatives including:
- Venture Park Food Accelerator: Non-profit supporting early-stage entrepreneurs in food and wine industries
- iLaunch Her: Program supporting Black women, racialized women and immigrant women
- R-Purpose MICRO: Business bootcamp focused on sustainability and innovation
In March 2022 IGA launched the IGA Local Accelerator program, designed to support Quebec agri-food companies launch new products with the potential to shake up the industry. The IGA team is investing $1 million annually in this project to support approximately 10 local companies each year. Entrepreneurs receive a combination of practical advice and access to business partners in order to get their products and services to market.
Looking ahead, in fiscal 2023 we are committed to continue building the capacity of our sourcing and merchandising teams around sustainability-related issues relevant to their areas, and we are empowered to work with our supplier partners to improve sustainability along our entire supply chain.
Partnering With Local, Innovative Suppliers
We know our customers want to enjoy and support locally sourced food and products—and we do too. Since 2018 we’ve hosted a series of cross-country roadshows to engage local growers and producers to bring their products into our stores. The roadshows use informative and interactive presentations to illustrate our commitment to local growers, celebrate our existing local partnerships and build new relationships. Some of our most recent winning suppliers include:
Daniel Kapeta and Amy Kopp
Daniel's Dill Dip
Medicine Hat, Alberta
As personal trainers who are also vegan, Daniel and Amy created their dairy-free dip out of necessity. They found their family and friends enjoying it too, and they decided to branch out from being personal trainers to become manufacturers. Sobeys supported Daniel and Amy with scaling their company.
Formerly incarcerated and now finished parole, Emily has overcome many obstacles to launch her own business, particularly around financing for the business. Sobeys has supported Comeback Snacks in testing the product and the growth of her business. Emily is now focused on inspiring other individuals leaving prison to start their own businesses.
Whole-leaf tea blends and spicy chai mixes
With roots in Mali, West Africa, Fanta learned from her grandmother the power of food, herbs and spices on one’s health. She knew that for her local company to be successful she needed to carve out a place for her product by innovating, ensuring her products are good for your health and aren’t available from big brands. Her teas are now in several Sobeys and Safeway stores and she is growing the business.
The Patty Shoppe
Jamaican-style beef patties
After discovering that Jamaican patties in Canada didn’t taste the same as the patties from his home in Jamaica, Jerome built a business plan in 2013 and started making and selling patties from his home basement. In 2019 he connected with his local Sobeys and started selling in six stores, and he has since expanded his business.
The Stak Co
“Ready-to-be-made” pulse-mix meal options
The Stak Co is a Manitoba-grown and Métis-owned award-winning agribusiness. At an early age, Suzan learned about dietary restrictions to help her father manage health issues. Seeing how important nutritious meals were to his health inspired a lifetime of cooking from scratch. Suzan’s products are designed with product transparency, convenience, affordability and nutrition in mind.
Ariel Gough & Edwina Govindsamy
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Clean perfumes that are free of alcohol and phthalates
Cosmetics enthusiasts Ariel Gough and Edwina Govindsamy co-founded Bailly, a brand offering scents that are made with fractionated coconut oil and are free of parabens, phthalates, and petroleum, as well as cruelty-free and vegan. In working with Sobeys, they have been able to make clean fragrances more accessible and donate 15% of their sales from selected products to the Girl Power Project of Just Like My Child Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on educating girls in Uganda to help change the cycle of poverty.
Falavory Soup Seasoning Blends
Gourmet-quality soup seasoning blends
Courtney always felt rushed in the kitchen and unable to prepare the kind of healthy, flavourful meals she could be proud to serve. That’s why she developed her “Fresh By You” soup blends. Courtney has perfected the spice profiles, so all you have to do is add your family’s favourite protein and produce and voilà—you have a homemade family meal, made easy.
Stephanie and Jeremy Nimchuk
Buttery ranch pretzels
As a mother of three busy children, Stephanie has always relied on snacks to get through the days. The pretzels she made were always a huge hit at home, so when she and her husband were approached to bring them to market and sell their family’s favourite snack food, they couldn’t say no. It was a leap of faith, but one they’re thrilled they took.
Al and Jill Forster
Chaser’s Fresh Juice Vancouver
Abbotsford, British Columbia
Cold-pressed fruit juice
Cold-pressed and all-natural Chaser’s Fresh Juices are HPP processed without heat to extend their shelf life while maintaining their nutritional benefits. With over 30 years of restaurant experience, Al and Jill took the plunge to grow Chaser’s from a small Yaletown juice shop to one of the largest cold-pressed juice manufacturers in BC in just under nine years, working with Sobeys and Safeway to have their products in stores across British Columbia.
A favourite phrase of mine is that it takes a village to raise a child. We can leverage the entire grocery ‘village’ to support sustainability efforts using our passionate experts as guardians. Our opportunities are rooted in connecting and collaborating with key stakeholders, including our own stellar merchandising teams and dynamic supplier partners. I am proud of the leading role we play in fostering better partnerships in our industry, specifically with suppliers. I look forward to advancing all of the good work done to share perspectives, align on goals and spread the knowledge to influence significant positive change for all of us. It is simply the right thing to do.”
Steve Denny, Director National Sourcing
Our work to support innovative suppliers is helping us achieve our goals to reduce plastics and take climate action.
As a family nurturing families, we want to ensure Canadians are taken care of today, tomorrow and in the future. By doing OurPart™ for the environment, we hope to inspire our customers to do theirs. Every step we take together—big or small—can make a difference.Learn More