Coronavirus (COVID-19): how three Canadian food businesses are adjusting their business models

Date : 27 April 2020

Stewart Samuel

Program Director - Canada

We look at how three different food businesses have developed new income streams in response to the coronavirus(COVID-19) pandemic.

The wholesaler: Sysco

Sysco, one of the leading wholesale suppliers to foodservice operators and restaurants in Canada, has launched a new direct-to-consumer business, [email protected] Customers using the service can order bulk groceries for home delivery or pick-up at a Sysco depot. With the wholesaler’s traditional business slowing significantly, it saw the opportunity to meet the growing demand for online shopping in Canada through utilising its extensive supply chain.

Source: Sysco

The restaurateur: Earls Kitchen and Bar

Earls Kitchen and Bar is one of several restaurants in Canada that has started to offer grocery items online. The Earls at Home service enables consumers to purchase a range of home essentials, fresh ingredients, fully prepared meals and liquor. In addition to customer favourites from the restaurant menu, it also offers meals for four people, family style dishes, brunch kits and grocery packs. Individual grocery items can also be purchased, including flour, yeast and olive oil.

Source: Earls Restaurant and Bar

The online retailer: Food-X Technologies

Food-X Technologies, which has developed a scalable end-to-end software solution for the online grocery market has developed a new range of meal boxes. The company, which manages online grocery fulfillment for a range of retailers, including Walmart Canada, has developed a new Stay Home box service through its Spud.ca subsidiary. The range includes pantry, produce, protein and snack boxes. The retailer has also introduced the #WeApplaud Box. Each box is filled with a range of items, based on what is available. Customers have a live view of box availability, with delivery available within two days. The company is providing the boxes at cost to front line workers and organisations supporting at risk individuals, while a portion of every Stay Home box will be donated to relevant organisations.

Source: Spud.ca

Reinventing business models

Many companies are developing new business models in response to the pandemic. For some, this is out of necessity as their operations have been impacted by stay-at-home mandates, while others have been able to respond to shifts in consumer behaviour. These three companies have been able to utilise existing supply relationships and the significant increase in demand for grocery delivery as people have sought to follow social-distancing practices. The speed with which the companies have been able to pivot also highlights how technology has significantly reduced barriers to entry. The success of the programmes will ultimately determine whether they remain in place for the longer-term, along with how consumer behaviour will shift again as lockdowns eventually ease.

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