Grocery Store Guru

All about the grocery industry, from a store level perspective.

Come Join Me At My New Home!

I no longer post here – I’m over at grocerynerd.com .

Come join me!

I’m leaving the blog here as an archive of what I’ve written in the past….

Brent

March 5, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Apple Picking Disappointments

It seems that there’s a lot of things stacked against large families these days. With 5 kids (and 3 of them still in diapers), we struggle to keep to the 2 bag garbage maximum every week. When you go to an attraction, the “family rate” almost always includes 2 adults and 2 kids, which barely covers half of my family. The local beach demands that there’s 1 adult for every 2 kids, meaning we can’t go there either.

One of our annual traditions with the kids is to go apple picking. The little ones love it, and it gives me the chance to teach them something about where their food comes from. There’s a local orchard that we go back to every year – the apples are always great and, more importantly, the people that own the farm are happy to talk to me and the kids about farming. I’m always a big advocate for local farmers, and having the kids hear an actual farmer talking about what he has to do and what the challenges are is really valuable to me.

I was gutted this year when I found out that the orchard I always go to was closed this year because, of all things, a pipeline that was being built on the property. I already knew it was going to be a tough year for apple picking thanks to the unseasonable warm weather we had in the early spring – it caused the trees to bloom early, and the frost that followed killed a lot of the blossoms. But I would have still visited the farm, even if it was to pick up some pre-picked apples and talk to the farmers!

My lovely wife, knowing how much the kids look forward to apple picking, went on a mission to find another local orchard we could visit. She found one – Dixie Orchards (http://www.dixieorchards.com/). I wish I had visited the website first – I wouldn’t have bothered making the trip.

We bundled up all of the kids (it was cold this morning!) and off we went to the orchard – Me, my wife, our 5 kids and my mother and father in law. We got there and prepared to head out to the apple trees, and stopped in front of a large sign that announced that there was a $2 admission fee. Add up the people that we had with us, and that makes $18 for the privilege of picking the apples that we’re going to pay for, too. I have come across picking fees before – but every time, this fee would be used against the cost of the fruit that you picked. So if I paid a $10 picking fee, and picked $50 worth of fruit, I would pay $40…. but that wasn’t the case here. It was a straight admission fee to get to the trees.

If my in-laws hadn’t been there to calm me down, we would have left on the spot. I’m all for supporting local farmers, but I don’t like being taken advantage of either. They tried to justify the charge, telling us it had been a bad year for apples. If that’s the case, charge more for the apples (which they also did). Their website tells us that they’re a family oriented orchard – apparently unless you’re a large family, and their admission fee makes what used to be an affordable family trip into something that isn’t quite as affordable anymore.

To their credit, they eventually dropped the admission fee to $10 (which I still wouldn’t have paid had we been there alone), and in we went. We picked almost $80 of apples – we store the apples in a cold and dry environment, to make them last. We always do this, as a way to support the local growers as opposed to buying the US apples that often end up in the grocery store. But the fact that they were ready to tack on an extra 25% to my apple bill for admission still sticks in my throat.

I know that some people will read this and wonder why I’m so angry about something that in the grand scheme of things is minor. There’s a good reason! Anyone who reads what I write here and other places knows that I am a big supporter of buying local. To spend the time I do to try and convince people to support their local growers, and then to find out that the growers are making themselves less accessible, is incredibly frustrating and disheartening. If someone who believes what I believe can show up to an apple orchard and think “why didn’t I just go to the grocery store?” (which I did), imagine what the casual picker is thinking. Explain to me, Mr. Local Farmer, when I can get apples at the grocery store for the same price or less (Royal Gala were .99/lb at Freshco last week), why am I coming to see you and let you nickel and dime me to death?

So heads up, Orchalaw Farms – your minimum charge for pick your own is alright with me – I’m still paying for apples that I get to keep. But if you start charging admission, I’ll be ending our 15 year relationship as well.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eat an apple.

October 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Meat-atarian, Part 2

In part one, I talked about the fresh meat counter.

In part 2, I’d like to show you a neat trick with packaged meat products.

I’ve posted before about store brand products, and how I like to give them a try. One thing I do with the meat products is check who actually makes them. You can do this with any product that’s made in a Federally inspected meat production facility – they’re obligated to put the inspection seal in the package, as well as the number assigned to the inspected facility. For example, here’s a package of Country Naturals ham I bought earlier today:

Inspection Seal

That’s the inspection seal. Often times, the establishment number is part of the seal as well. In this case, it’s not, but a quick look at the package shows that they’ve printed it on the package with the expiry date:

Expiry date / establishment number

There it is – the establishment number is 97B. They don’t always have letters in them, but if they do be sure to note the letter as well. Next, we go visit the CFIA website here: http://active.inspection.gc.ca/scripts/meavia/reglist/reglist.asp

There’s a lot of places on this page to enter information, but you only have to worry about the very first one: under the “Establishment” section, the field that says “Registration Number”. Enter the number from the package here and scroll to the bottom and hit the “Submit” button. Here’s what we get back:

Registration Number Name of the Operator Address(s) Function Codes Telephone Number(s)
097B
MAPLE LEAF FOODS INC./LES ALIMENTS MAPLE LEAF INC.
Also Doing Business As Name :
MAPLE LEAF FOODS/LES ALIMENTS MAPLE LEAF :MAPLE LEAF CONSUMER FOODS/LES ALIMENTS DE CONSOMMATION MAPLE LEAF : MAPLE LEAF FOOD SERVICE/SERVICE ALIMENTAIRE MAPLE LEAF : MAPLE LEAF PORK/PORC MAPLE LEAF : MAPLE LEAF POULTRY/VOLAILLE MAPLE LEAF : SCHNEIDER FOODS/LES ALIMENTS SCHNEIDER : J.M. SCHNEIDER : MITCHELL’S GOURMET FOODS : HUB MEAT PACKERS : LARSEN PACKERS : COLD SPRING FARMS : MAPLE LEAF POTATOES : HUB MEAT/LES VIANDES HUB : CAPPOLA FOOD : THAMES VALLEY PROCESSORS

—————

Location Address: :
150 BARTOR ROAD, TORONTO, ON, M9M 1H1
Mailing Address: :
30 ST. CLAIR AVENUE WEST, SUITE 1500, TORONTO, ON, M4V 3A2
3x,

6fx, 9B,
11DN,
(416) 748-4130 (416) 741-2073/F (416) 748-4171/I
This search found 1 establishment(s).

 

We can see where this meat product was made and exactly who made it. This can be particularly useful when you’re curious about store brand products, or products you suspect aren’t made by the brand name that’s on the package. Like the M&M Meat Shops Honey Garlic Chicken Breasts that are in my freezer:

 

Registration Number Name of the Operator Address(s) Function Codes Telephone Number(s)
439
MAPLE LEAF FOODS INC./LES ALIMENTS MAPLE LEAF INC.
Also Doing Business As Name :
MAPLE LEAF FOODS/LES ALIMENTS MAPLE LEAF : MAPLE LEAF CONSUMER FOODS/LES ALIMENTS DE CONSOMMATION MAPLE LEAF : MAPLE LEAF FOOD SERVICE/SERVICE ALIMENTAIRE MAPLE LEAF : MAPLE LEAF PORK/PORC MAPLE LEAF : MAPLE LEAF POULTRY/VOLAILLE MAPLE LEAF : SCHNEIDER FOODS/LES ALIMENTS SCHNEIDER : J.M. SCHNEIDER : MITCHELL’S GOURMET FOODS : HUB MEAT PACKERS : LARSEN PACKERS : COLD SPRING FARMS : MAPLE LEAF POTATOES : HUB MEATS/LES VIANDES HUB : CAPPOLA FOOD : THAMES VALLEY PROCESSORS

—————

Location Address: :
LOTS 18 & 19, CON. 14, BLANCHARD TOWNSHIP, PERTH COUNTY, ON1865 ROAD 139, RR6, ST. MARY’S, ON, N4X 1C9
Mailing Address: :
30 ST. CLAIR AVENUE WEST, SUITE 1500, TORONTO, ON, M4V 3A2
1fi, 3f,

6f,
11ADGV,
(519) 229-8900 (519) 229-6444/I (519) 229-8953/F
This search found 1 establishment(s).

 

Hmmm… same company, different number. When the same company owns several different plants, each one has a separate establishment number. This can help track things down or give you peace of mind when there’s a meat recall. Also gives you an idea that Maple Leaf foods seems to own the world when it comes to boxed meats! To be fair, Maple Leaf inherited this product when they bought Schneider’s, who was making almost half of the M&M products when I had a franchise there, but that’s a different story.

Now, how many of you have the urge to run to the fridge and find out who makes the stuff you’ve already bought? 🙂

Happy Meat Eating!

 

September 23, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gluten Free Expo Comes to Toronto

Gluten Free (along with Organics and many other “natural” foods) is one of the fastest growing segments in the grocery industry today. It seems that even the conventional grocery stores have caught on – you can find small gluten free sections at almost every banner now, including discounters like Freshco and Food Basics, although selection is really limited. The leaders are still the independent stores… especially your local health food store. They’re much more flexible with their listings. And while they’re usually willing to order you things you can’t get anywhere else, the smaller store size can limit what they can order regularly as well as what new items they choose to carry.

So today’s gluten free consumer may have a hard time finding the new and innovative products that are in the market. What if I told you that there is going to be a chance to see all kinds of gluten free products, and sample many of them? And what if I told you that this chance was little more than a week away?

On September 30th, from 10am to 5pm, at the Doubletree on Dixon road in Etobicoke (Dixon Road between Martingrove and the Airport), you will find the Gluten Free Expo. There’s over 100 exhibitors – a chance to see some of the gluten free products you haven’t had the chance to try. Come out and see some of the products you may want to ask your local store to start carrying.

I’ll be there too – sneaking around, looking for new products that would sell well in our convenience store wholesale format at Canadian Alternative Foods. I may also be looking for more listings for our “By the Case” format, which will be launching this coming week with over 500 products listed.

If you recognize me while I’m there, I may have a Canadian Alternative Foods gift certificate or two in my pocket, as well 🙂

For directions and information about the Gluten Free Expo in Toronto, as well as to buy advance tickets (which I suggest you do – they’re $3 cheaper!), visit http://glutenfreeexpo.ca/on/toronto .

Hope to see you there!

September 22, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment