The Savvy Shopper – 1000 Tastes of Canada

Back in November I attended an event hosted by Loblaw/President’s Choice to promote the launch of their Holiday Insider’s Report and the associated products. Shortly after that I wrote a post about the whole premise of the Insider’s Report, how it was modelled after a similar publication by a US company called Trader Joe’s, and how, as in the case of the original publication, most of the stories were not true.

In my blog post, I pointed out that the Insider’s Report contained many stories about how President’s Choice food developers travelled the world in search of new food items, but how they didn’t really need to, because most of their new products could already be found in the shops and restaurants of the many neighbourhoods of Toronto. I also noted that if President’s Choice was really sourcing their recipes from some Toronto (or Canadian) restaurant, bakery or chocolatier, wouldn’t it be a better marketing tool (not to mention a generally nice thing to do) to give props to the real inspirations behind those dishes instead of pretending they came from some little town in Italy or Mexico.

These concerns actually continued in a fairly extensive email conversation with a representative of the PR firm that arranged the event I had attended.

Fast forward six months and lo and behold, there is Loblaw president Galen Weston on my TV talking about how President’s Choice celebrates Canadians and how they take their inspiration from “some of the country’s most diverse neighbourhoods”. Their new campaign “1000 Tastes of Canada” is based on exactly the premise that I ranted about to their PR firm.

I’m not complaining – I think it’s a great campaign (after all, I thought it up) – and I think it’s great that the company is listening to their critics and taking good advice to heart. I am amused by the change in direction in terms of marketing, though, because it was a risk. Some corporations are hopping on the “local” bandwagon but there’s a lot of (well-deserved) backlash as they try to make it seem as if their chips or mayonnaise is locally grown or produced.

But in a time when buying local products is popular; supporting small businesses is big; and, in the face of the “Buy American” campaigns to the south, buying Canadian is almost an obligation, Loblaw has its finger on the pulse of what will make people try a new product. In a recession, nobody wants to hear about how a corporation sent their product developers to Italy or Hong Kong. But giving props to small local businesses where people are working hard to make a living – people just like the potential Loblaw customers sitting at home – that’s pretty golden.

I haven’t tried any of the new products in the latest edition of the Insider’s Report, so I can’t speak to their quality – Loblaw works on an enormous scale, so the factory versions of the original handmade artisanal products are never as good as the originals. And I would also like to see a campaign (and not just from a marketing standpoint) to have more of the products made in Canada from Canadian-grown ingredients (are you listening Mr. Weston? We’d like more Canadian-grown organic wheat in your line of organic products, please! And so would Canada’s organic wheat farmers!). But in the meantime, I’m pleased by the new President’s Choice campaign – I think it’s real and down to earth and speaks to the concerns of Canadians while celebrating and giving props to the many fabulous artisanal food producers our country is so lucky to have.

Now… just wondering if I’m owed a consultancy fee.

Image from the President’s Choice 1000 Tastes of Canada website.