O Canada!

A wealth of new product and merchandising ideas were on display at the SIAL show in Montreal.

By Richard Turcsik

So did you hear the one about the salesman promoting American-made croissants to French Canadians in Montreal? There is no punch line. Frank Swindle, Canadian/Midwest zone manager for Lisle, Ill.-based Lantmännen Unibake USA, was doing just that, touting the virtues of his pastries to Canadian supermarket executives at SIAL Canada 2010 which was held in late April at the Palais des Congres de Montreal Exhibition Centre.

“Up here people aren’t used to buying high-quality pastries and Danish in grocery stores,” Swindle said. “We have to raise the consciousness level of the patrons of the stores and of the buyers to understand that there are a lot of ‘foodies’ in Montreal and they have to experience this.”

Montreal is an Old World city in more ways than one, with many corner bakeries, or patisseries as they are called by the French-speaking locals. “We can put supermarkets competitively in the market,” Swindle said. “Our croissant is an all-butter croissant that saves labor and time, so for an ISB [in-store bakery] it makes all the sense in the world to go with us.”

Across the aisle, Mark Toepke, national sales manager for Charlottesville, Va.-based Kluge Estate Winery, was seeking to make similar inroads for his Virginia-produced wines. “U.S. wines are not big in Canada, but there is a lot of opportunity,” he said.

Volcanic fallout

This year’s SIAL Canada show featured participants from a number of first-time countries, including Croatia, Slovenia, Afghanistan and Ecuador. Eight Canadian provinces were represented and U.S. presence was strong from New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Vermont and Illinois, and overall attendance was up 6% to 12,759, according to show officials.

Unfortunately, the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallokull Volcano two weeks prior to the show impacted the representation of some countries.

“For our French participants, we had only one or two exhibitors missing, and Italy’s [representation] is on par with previous years because they found some local distributors here to replace their exhibitors,” Xavier Poncin, SIAL Canada tradeshow director told Grocery Headquarters. “Cyprus, however, is quite empty.”

Poncin noted that 99% of attendees are from North America with about 500 attendees from the U.S. Officials from a number of prominent U.S. chains, including Kroger and Weis Markets, were spotted browsing the show floor.

One popular stop was the Beef Information Centre booth, which was sampling a variety of Canadian beef, including Bavette, a coarse-grain beef popular in Montreal that works well with marinades. “Trying to market flat meat is very challenging, but the whole terminology around Bavette here in Quebec has a resonate ring and we’d like to see that move further west and south,” said Marty Carpenter, director of U.S. market development at the Calgary, Alberta, Canada-based association.

Another Canadian beef item being showcased this year was Cowboy Steak, a marinated shoulder clod. “Basically Cowboy Steak is a goof-proof steak,” said Gregg Oakley, sales and marketing manager at Orillia, Ontario, Canada-based Leadbetter Foods. “We marinate it, it’s boneless and we individually vacuum-seal it so the customer can take that steak home and it will cook like a restaurant-quality steak every time, unlike a meat counter steak.”

Just desserts

For the perfect dessert to go with that steak, first-time exhibitor Cassandra Craig, owner and creator of Woodbridge, Va.-based Island Treasures Gourmet, was sampling American-made rum cakes that are available in seven flavors. “ “It’s shelf-stable and you can put it anywhere in the store, but it does best in the gourmet area,” she said.

Alain Bergeron, manager of Montreal-based Les Delices de l’Erable (Maple Delights), was sampling a variety of sorbets and gelatos sweetened with maple sugar. “In maple syrup and maple sugar you are going to find potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and a lot of good acids for your organism,” he said.

Over at the booth of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada-based Exclusive Candy & Novelty Distribution, national sales manager Mike Arianna was talking about Pop Rocks bubblegum and Pop Rock Dips—lollipops that are licked and then dipped in Pop Rocks. “You get one lollipop in two flavors, Sour Strawberry or Blue Raz, and they retail for less than a dollar,” he said.

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