Vancouver-based Save-On-Foods officially kicked off its entry into the Winnipeg market last Friday, with aninvitation-only “First Taste Celebration” at its flagship store in north Winnipeg.
Company President Darrell Jones reported that about 650 guests—including 200 executives from Canadian CPG companies—were expected to attend the celebration that featured greetings from representatives from the three levels of government as well as comments from Save-On-Foods CEO Jim Pattison.
The opening also featured tours of the store with opportunities to sample the wares and culminated in a concert by internationally-known local rock star Randy Bachman.
Earlier in the day, media representatives were invited to a guided tour of the 65,000-sq.-ft. store. The tour began with the fresh meat department where Mike Olson, vice-president of fresh merchandising, pointed out workers smoking salami and other meat in public view and the in-store chef nearby who is available to discuss meal options with consumers as he goes about food preparation.
Brenda Kirk, vice-president of store merchandising, took the media representatives on the second leg of the journey. She noted that while the front part of the store carries the grocery selection that the average Canadian consumer is used to, the back shelves are divided into a wide variety of ethnic foods.
“This store carries the most diverse varieties of food products in Canada,” she said.
One of Save-On-Foods’ selling features is that each store’s product selection is customized to the ethnic make-up of the consumers in the area. Thus, Kirk noted, there are over 36,000 Filipino-Canadians living in northwest Winnipeg. To cater to that population and other Canadians of southeast Asian background In the neighbourhood, the store carries over 700 skus as well as the largest selection of rice in western Canada.
“We are carrying more than 6,000 products from around the world,” Kirk said.
There are also areas dedicated to consumers of British background (specifically a large selection of Tesco products) as well as German, Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, Mexican, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and south Asian origin.
Wayne Currie, vice-president, supply chain and ecommerce, noted that Save-on-Foods offers its customers the option of placing orders from home and either picking up the order or having it delivered.
“We offer same day pickup or delivery service anywhere in Winnipeg,” he said. “We have hired over 50 personal shoppers and we train our drivers to be kind and friendly.”
In a follow-up interview, Darrell Jones said that it was Sobeys’ purchase of Safeway stores that led Save-On-Foods to look into the Winnipeg market.
“We saw an opportunity here,” he said. “We pride ourselves on being a little different than anybody else. This (north Winnipeg) store is going to be the prototype as we expand our footprint in western Canada.”
The first three Save-On-Food stores opened to the public on Saturday, November 19, with in-product food sampling, family-friendly events and appearances by Randy Bachmann.
Save-On-Foods is planning to open at least 12 stores in Winnipeg as well as stores in other sizeable Manitoba communities.