The market turnover was 6.936 billion Canadian dollars (CAD) in 2020, an increase from 5.4 billion in 2017. 66% of Canadians buy organic products every week: Generation Z (those born between 1996 and 2010) and Generation Y (millennials, born between the early 1980s and late 1990s) are the ones buying the most organic products. In 2020, organic products accounted for 46% of weekly purchases for Generation Z and 32% for Generation Y.

123rfLimited©marcbruxelle. Jean-Talon Market (Montreal), the largest outdoor public market in North America.

How is the import of organic products regulated in Canada?

Canada has entered into equivalence agreements regarding organic products with several countries. This means that Canada has evaluated the regulatory systems of these countries and concluded that they comply with its own regulations.

The European Union (EU) and Canada accept that their production rules and control systems for organic agricultural products are equivalent under their respective rules. This type of acceptance is also known as an “equivalence agreement.”

When the logo of the other country is used, exported products must meet all applicable labeling requirements in the importing country. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) ensures that Canadian labeling laws are adhered to, ensuring that the labels of all foods are complete and adequate (nutritional information, allergens, etc.).

Large-scale distribution is the main sales channel for organic products in Canada. In 2020, 82% of organic product consumers regularly bought them in supermarkets (hypermarkets and supermarkets).

Loblaw is the Canadian leader in food (and pharmacy), being one of the largest retailers in Canada. With over 2,400 establishments, including 1,050 grocery stores. In 2022, Loblaw is expanding its organic range with “PCMD OrganicMC” products, including more than 650 food and non-food products.

Metro: The group operates 1620 grocery stores (975 units) and pharmacies (645 drugstores) under the brands Metro, Metro Pharmacy, Super C, Marché Adonis, Food Basics, Jean Coutu, and Brunet, with a turnover of 19 billion CAD in 2022.

Sobeys (Empire Company) is a Canadian supermarket chain headquartered in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. Sobeys owns 1600 supermarkets in all ten provinces of Canada. With its brands: IGA, IGA Extra, IGA Coop, IGA Express, Bonichoix, Farm Boy, Marché Tradition, Voisin, and Rachelle-Béry in Quebec. Sobeys reports a turnover of 30.5 billion CAD with 131,000 employees.

Large-scale distribution is the main sales channel for organic products in Canada

Farm Boy Inc. (Sobeys) is a Canadian retailer of specialty foods, offering a wide range of gluten-free, organic, and natural choices, operating in the province of Ontario with 47 outlets.

Rachelle Béry (Acquired by Sobeys in 2005) presents itself as a “health grocery store” throughout Quebec, with 10 stores and more than 80 health spaces located inside IGA supermarkets.

Avril Health Supermarket: The company, headquartered in Granby, employs over 1,000 people, has 11 branches in Quebec, a transactional website, a house brand, and a logistics and distribution center with its central kitchen.

The American brand Whole Foods Markets (WFM, owned by Amazon: Currently, Amazon Fresh operates 38 stores, none of which are located in Canada, and owns 530 WFM stores in the USA and the UK) is also present in Canada (in English-speaking provinces) with 14 stores.

Montreal city skyline.

There are also several chains that have developed in a single province, such as Marché Branche d’Olivier, which has been in existence for over 29 years with 6 stores (ethnic, natural, and organic) in Quebec, Organic Garage with its 4 stores in the Toronto area, Ambrosia with 4 outlets in Ontario, etc.

Many independent stores also sell organic products, such as Allons Vert, a natural foods and dietary supplements store in Griffintown and PA Nature, in Montreal.

Online sales accounted for 8% of organic food purchases in 2020 (compared to 4% in 2016) with numerous online retailers in Canada: with over 40,000 products and the largest assortment of organic and natural brands in Canada, and iHerb, founded in 1996 in the United States, as well as generalists like Costco, Walmart, etc.

Many wholesalers are active in Canada

UNFI Canada: (UNFI was established in the USA in 1976) Canadian distributor of natural and organic foods. Over 10,000 organic, natural, and specialty products with 850 suppliers.

Béland Organic Foods is a brokerage and promotion company for organic foods. In the organic industry since 1992, a wholesaler, and producer. Offices in Vancouver (British Columbia), Toronto (Ontario), and Quebec (Quebec).

Horizon Grocery + Wellness Facility: Distributor of organic and natural products in western Canada in dry, refrigerated, and frozen categories.

Approaching the Canadian market requires collaboration with professionals who know it well, mastering its bilingual and bicultural nature.

Author: Gerard Gontier, French Organic Market Expert

Article Originally Published in Bio Eco Actual International Yearbok 2023 – Trends 2024.

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