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IGA inks exclusive deal with smoked meat specialist Schwartz’s

Quebecers no longer have to line up outside Schwartz’s on St. Laurent Blvd. to eat the world-famous Montreal deli’s smoked meat. The only lineup they’ll now face is at the check-outs at IGA, Marchés Tradition and Bonichoix banners now that Sobeys Quebec has inked an exclusive deal to sell the smoked meat in its stores.

The Schwartz’s product is being sold pre-cooked in four, 125-gram vacuum-sealed bags for $10.99.  (By comparison, a smoked meat sandwich at the restaurant costs $6.40.) The product is dubbed “Schwartz’s at home” on the packaging and a slogan boasts it’s “a Montreal tradition since 1928.”

“Schwartz’s is a smoked meat icon,” says Yvan Ouellet, vice-president, procurement and merchandising at Sobeys Quebec.

The exclusivity deal gives Sobeys a competitive advantage, says Ouellet, given the reputation, quality and renown of Schwartz’s. He hopes the exclusivity deal will allow the company to grab some Loblaw and Metro customers who will make a special trip to IGA to buy the smoked meat,

“Consumers are looking for authenticity and originality,” says Ouellet, noting that  Schwartz’s “qualifies as the best smoked meat in the world.”

Ouellet refused to provide terms of the deal or to give sales forecasts. But he says expectations are high, particularly among consumers outside the Montreal area who can’t necessarily make it to the city for a smoked meat sandwich,

He admits the Schwartz’s product may cannibalize the sale of other smoked meats, but should increase overall smoked meat sales at Sobeys stores in Quebec.

The smoked meat will be regularly promoted in IGA circulars starting in a few weeks.

Schwartz’s new owners promised not to franchise the storied restaurant when they bought it last year. The new owners are Eric and Martin Sara who partnered with René Angélil, husband of pop star Céline Dion, to buy a 50 per cent stake of Schwartz’s, while Montreal restaurateur Paul Nakis and his granddaughter own the other half.

Bringing the brand to groceries allows Schwartz’s to vastly expand its reach without opening new restaurants, says Eric Sara, vice-president, finance of Schwartz’s. It also assures quality control.

The Schwartz’s smoked meat for Sobeys is being made by Boisbriand, Quebec-based Desco, one of the largest poultry processing and delicatessen-meat transformation companies in Canada and the eastern United States,

“It’s equivalent to what you’ll find in the restaurant,” Sara says. “It’s tasty, tender, juicy and better than any other smoked meat sold in retail.” Significant time and R&D were spent in trying to get the taste close to the restaurant version, he says.

Ouellet says Schwartz’s smoked meat should eventually make it outside the province. “We’ll start with Quebec and it’s foreseen we’ll sell it in Sobeys other stores across Canada.”

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