The pandemic has presented challenges for companies across every sector and, as in nature, if you don’t adapt, you don’t survive. Canada Produce is doing more than just surviving. Despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19, the Etobicoke, Ont.-based company has stayed fresh during the past 18 months.
“COVID-19 was a sharp shock to the industry,” says Kristian Agostino, a partner at Canada Produce. “Supply was shored up and smooth and then COVID came and business dwindled.”
As a supplier to the hospitality industry, Canada Produce was hit hard, and there were times when the future was anything but clear. But, says Agostino, that’s where the hard work came in. For Canada Produce, that meant a pivot to home delivery.
“When it became apparent that COVID-19 would be a part of lives for the foreseeable future, we examined our business and how best to pivot,” says Agostino, “and catering directly to customers via home delivery was our next step.”
It may seem like such a transition would be a logistics nightmare but, as Agostino says, the switch wasn’t nearly as hard as it may seem and Canada Produce was prepared. “We have a large fleet of vehicles, we have the refrigerated warehousing, we have the
products and there was a demand,” says Agostino.
Following the pivot to a new market came a flood of demand, as grocery stores offering delivery services had become so backlogged that there was a gap that needed to be filled for consumers. The company started off delivering fresh fruits and vegetables to customers, as well as some select dairy items. But as nature proves, adaptation doesn’t end and again Canada Produce was given the opportunity to adapt and pivot in the face of new challenges. It could no longer satisfy all the needs of customers as an independent operator and so the next step came in the form of a partnership with Toronto-based Liberty Entertainment Group, a foodservice-and-hospitality group specializing in fine dining and nightlife experiences.
The unlikely partnership bore fruit — and meat for Canada Produce — and the two companies formed the new entity, Cibo Market. With the new partnership, Cibo Market is able to deliver the fruits, vegetables and dairy items from Canada Produce with meat and liquor items coming from Liberty Entertainment Group.
“We couldn’t pass up on the idea,” says Agostino, “I believe it’s here to stay and we’ve expanded our offerings — we’re always looking for ways to innovate and improve.”
Through these pivots, Canada Produce has set itself up for success, no matter what the future may hold, though Agostino — like many of us — is holding out hope things will go back to normal. That said, normal may look different than it did in 2019 and in this new normal, Canada Produce hopes to thrive.
“You always like to think you’re going to expand and grow; you hope that post-pandemic there will be a boom and everyone will be happy to go outside again. I like to be optimistic in that regard, but at the very least, we won’t be going anywhere any time soon,” says Agostino.”
Written by Nick Laws