The town of Oakville, just west of Toronto, is home to a new Farm Boy.
The opening of the Oakville store came one day after Empire Co. announced it had completed its $800-million purchase of the grocery chain, which has gained a loyal following for its fresh offering, prepared meals, local and private label products.
When the purchase was announced last September, both Empire and Farm Boy execs said the deal would help fuel aggressive expansion plans that could see up to 60 Farm Boy locations in the Greater Toronto Area over the next five years.
“That’s the hope,” Farm Boy co-CEO Jeff York told Canadian Grocer of the expansion plans while giving a tour of the new store located in the Oakwoods Centre, a new retail development in the town. An advantage, York said, of being part of a bigger operation such as Sobeys is that it can help Farm Boy secure prime locations.
York said the Oakville store was in the works for two-and-a-half years. When asked if any tweaks were made to the new store York said every new Farm Boy offers something a little different. “It’s a rule at Farm Boy, every [new] store has to be better than the last,” he said noting that in an evolving industry you need to keep up with changing needs.
At the new store, York said customers would notice a lot more private label items—Farm Boy has about 800 house-brand items with more in the pipeline—in the store, which occupy prime positioning in the store on endcaps and special displays. “In each of our stores, private label is a lot more significant,” said York, “It’s our point of difference.” It’s private label strategy also helps Farm Boy offer its customers “great prices” on its products.
Farm Boy is also expanding its vegan offering, a category he said was enjoying double-digit growth. “Vegans are unloved people by the industry,” says York. “So we’re embracing vegan.” Among the grocer’s private label vegan products are a vegan mayonnaise, a vegan gluten-free cauliflower pizza crust, vegan “fauxteins” and dips. Vegan options can also be found in the store’s hot food bar.
Other features of the new store include a stone-baked pizza station, The Lake Shore Grill hot food station serving up burgers, bowls and made-to-order foods, an artisan cheese counter, sustainable seafood department, a “farm fresh” produce section and an array of specialty, from-scratch items such as soups, dips, chef-made potato chips and more, can be found throughout the 23,500-sq.-ft. store.
Next up: a new location in Toronto (at Leslie St. and Lakeshore Boulevard is expected to open early 2019. The first Farm Boy, a 300-sq.-ft. produce store, was opened by co-CEO Jean-Louis Bellemare in 1981 in Cornwall, Ont.