A unique grocery concept has opened in Calgary.
Food retailer Sunterra Markets opened a 2,800-sq.-ft. space in the city’s West Hillhurst neighbourhood on Thursday in partnership with District Ventures, the business accelerator headed by entrepreneur and TV personality Arlene Dickinson that helps get businesses in the food, beverage and health space off the ground.
Part grocery store, part café, with dine-in and takeout options, the Sunterra Market and Café carries nearly two dozen Canadian food and beverage products that were developed out of Dickinson’s accelerator including, Chickapea Pasta and Drizzle Honey. Think of it as a grocery market that’s also a testing ground.
“What we needed was a way to connect the innovation to the commercialization, because that hasn’t ever happened in this country,” says Dickinson, “To me, success is going to be that feedback Sunterra will provide to our entrepreneurs almost immediately; uptake on the product, feedback on pricing, packaging, ingredients. That immediate retail feedback is very difficult to get.”
Sunterra Market and Café employs 30 staff members, in a space that’s adjacent to Dickinson’s District Ventures office. (Sunterra will also carry District Ventures-supported products at seven other of its locations.)
“We operate seven days a week, breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” says Glen Price, president of Sunterra. “There’s eat-in space but prepared food is prominent with lots of hot food takeout, and perhaps even more emphasis on that here than any other location. We also have lots of ready-to eat and ready-to-heat items.”
The space also features a variety of grocery products including fresh baked breads, salads, fresh fruit and flowers, plus a bar that serves beer and wine customers can sip at communal tables in the bright, modern-industrial space.
Dickinson and Price both note that this retail concept and partnership is just one step towards creating an economy where Canadian food producers can grow and get better access to world markets; not just for raw ingredients such as grains, but for quality consumer-ready foods.
“It’s time we stopped being just a supplier of ingredients for others to use,” says Dickinson, “We need to create an economy that is self-sustaining where we can export our goods around the world and leverage Canada’s great brand and our innovation. Relationships like the one we have between Sunterra and District Ventures is what’s going to make the difference.”