Sat | Jul 20, 2019

GraceKennedy eyes larger Canadian market

Published:Friday | July 12, 2019 | 12:25 AMKarena Bennett - Business Reporter

Looking to secure a larger foothold in the ethnic market in western Canada by year end, GraceKennedy has expanded retail space and launched new products in that market.

But the food and financial services conglomerate has promised that more is to come from its Canadian business, Grace Foods Canada Inc, GFC, which had modest growth of 3.8 per cent in 2018. Canada is the fifth-strongest performing country in year-on-year growth for the conglomerate among eight geographic markets.

Sale of GFC products in supermarket chains across western Canada now accounts for close to 65 per cent of overall revenue for the market, something the Group CEO for GraceKennedy Group, Don Wehby, believes is a direct response to increasing demand for Caribbean foods.

“The major western Canada chain stores have expanded their Caribbean range offerings. This has opened the door for GFC to secure listings in these chains,” he told the Financial Gleaner.

Consumers are now able to purchase Grace products at Federated Coop, Loblaws, Sobeys, Walmart and Caribbean speciality supermarkets.

Canada contributes just over six per cent to GraceKennedy’s total yearly group sales. For the financial year ending 2018, revenue for GFC climbed by $226-million to $6.1 billion, or in Canadian dollar terms, by CDN$2.4 million to CDN$64.8 million. And of that $226 million growth in revenue, 25 per cent was derived from GFC further leveraging its category adviser relationship with Walmart.

“In early 2016, Walmart selected Grace Foods Canada as the category adviser for their Caribbean set. Through this three-year partnership, Grace Foods Canada has grown the sales of Walmart’s Caribbean offering and, in turn, the sales of the Grace products,” Wehby said.

Today, Grace Foods Canada claims the number one spot based on year-over-year growth in the ethnic food category in Walmart. Wehby noted that the conglomerate has also retained its position as the number one jerk brand in Canada, based on sales data by brand and case volumes purchased. Grace Coconut Water also showed double-digit growth in volumes for 2018 and retained its number one product category position based on volumes.

Grace Jerk Chicken Wings

Wehby hopes to secure a bigger share of the ethnic market by the end of the year with the launch of the Grace Jerk Chicken Wings. The product, which is available in three varieties – hot, mild and honey jerk – forms part of the national expansion of the Grace brand in Canada.

The wings are expected to be on the shelves of Sobeys later this year.

“As proud sponsors of the Grace Jerk Festival in Toronto, Grace Foods Canada continues to build the Grace brand as the authority on jerk, and promote jerk to all Canadians,” the CEO added.

GraceKennedy’s venture into Canada began in 1981 at a time when Caribbean families were migrating there in significant numbers. At the time, the business was known as GraceKennedy (Ontario) Inc, but as Caribbean families moved west in Canada, and Jamaica became a top ‘sun’ destination for Canadian tourists, GraceKennedy saw the opportunity for GFC to expand westwards, and currently operates in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Grace Jerk is now available nationally and commands over 50 per cent market share in Canada, Wehby added.

The conglomerate has set up a manufacturing facility in Denbigh, Clarendon, to facilitate its diversification into value-added jerked products for the international market. The facility became operational in March.

karena.bennett@gleanerjm.com