As grocery stores grappled with the ‘hoarding effect’ at the beginning of the pandemic and the border between the U.S. and Canada closed, the lockdown forced many consumers to review their purchasing habits and get creative in the kitchen. At the same time, it affected the buying, selling and sourcing of many food businesses. During that time, with more time on our hands, we got to wondering about how our favourite foods got from the manufacturing company to the cereal aisle, and why grocery stores in America always seemed to have more food options than the ones back home.
A large part of that has to do with the way the food is negotiated between the food manufacturer and the retailer who brokers deals to get our favourite foods from Point A to Point B. Food brokers are the middle men between food companies and retail grocery stores. They connect your favourite cereal brand with the right grocer or convenience store so the shelves are always stocked, and the consumer has new options and reliable favourites.
That part of the grocery industry is dominated by multi-generational established family businesses with many of the original hard-working founders now taking a backseat as they enter retirement, leaving the business to the younger generation who are left to lead during one of the most disruptive times for the food brokerage industry.
Redefining the food brokerage and CPG industry are two brothers: Louis and Simon More. At only 23 and 26 respectively, Simon and Louis are two of the youngest food brokers in North America who saw their business soar during COVID-19. Louis and Simon started More Corp, their food brokerage, with little to no money, a car and a cell phone. They drove around making calls, talking to local grocers and, eventually, closing deals until they finally became one of the leading food brokerages in Canada bringing in over $50 million in sales. More Corp has negotiated deals for products like My/Mo mochi vegan mocha ice cream, Simply Gum all-natural gum, Boostball Keto energy bites and No Whey vegan chocolates. With COVID-19 forcing all industries to adapt, the More brothers had to stay agile when it came to adapting their business strategies to match consumer preferences during COVID-19.
Grocery stores also had to adapt quickly. While there were immediate changes like plexiglass and signage, there were also subtle changes. “Retailers are going towards cleaner floor space plans,” said Simon More. “Which means far less bulk products (think Bulk Barn) and more packaged, ready-to-go snacks. People are more aware of their grocery items now. They don’t want things that have been out in the open or easily touched.” According to the More brothers, the shift in consumer habits comes from how much they’re buying, not necessarily what they’re buying.
“I don’t think that people’s diets have changed during COVID.
I think the amount of food that people are buying has increased. If you were typically an unhealthy shopper and you go to the snack aisle and fill up your cart, you’re doing the same thing you’re just getting more of the same stuff,” said Louis.
Restaurants also had to adapt to the current COVID-19 landscape as regulations changed constantly.
Morgan Bellis, Executive Chef at the Bisha Hotel, noted that the mandated lockdown meant that growers weren’t fully planting fields and the traditional needs of a restaurant were not there.
“When we entered Stage Two, consumer desire to get outside and on to a patio was massive.
To accommodate this influx of diners, it takes months of preparation that simply was not able to happen. The demand for local and seasonal products skyrocketed across all restaurants at the same time, driving the prices up in an industry that already has razor thin margins. While many of us were making up for months of minimal revenue, the last thing we wanted to do was increase menu prices,” said Bellis.
“Consumer purchasing trends have shifted rapidly during the pandemic in the foodservice and hospitality industry,” said Dean Harrison, National Marketing Director of Aburi Restaurants. “Most of our revenue has historically been generated from experiential culinary offerings and hosting guests in our bricks-and-mortar spaces. We have had to adjust our offerings and consider off-premise purchases and make products that can function more like CPGs (consumer packaged goods).”
Submitted by: Elizabeth Ononiwu