Together For Good: Throughout COVID-19, Calgary Co-op and local businesses have been working together to bring food to Alberta’s tables while building back the economy
June 19, 2020 – Calgary – Calgary Co-operative Association Limited (“Calgary Co-op”) is encouraging Calgarians to shop local this summer, by seeking and purchasing Alberta-made products that will help make the economy stronger. Calgary Co-op is home to nearly 2,000 local products, ranging from produce to Alberta-only beef, chicken and lamb to dry goods, personal products and more.
Calgary Co-op also recently launched its own line of exclusive private label brands. “Cal & Gary’s” products have been curated specifically for the tastes and preferences of Calgarians and “Founders & Farmers” is the new everyday line of products rooted in quality.
“It’s such a positive experience to work with so many local vendors and producers, not only during COVID-19, but at all times of the year,” says Ken Keelor, CEO of Calgary Co-op. “When we say Together For Good, we mean it. It’s part of our commitment to Calgary, and we’re proud to be a leader by carrying a wide range of exclusive and local products that support small businesses, entrepreneurs and local family enterprises.”
Many Calgary-based businesses encountered swift closures, transaction cancellations, business operation changes and layoffs with COVID-19, but having a steady local supply chain with Calgary Co-op allowed them to continue to move forward with business operations during difficult times.
Says Russ Prefontaine, CEO of The Fratello Group, which supplies Analog, Fratello and Divina coffee products to Calgary Co-op stores, “When COVID-19 hit, we had to downsize our company from over 100 staff to 6, with corporate sales down 92 to 95 per cent. Having Calgary Co-op customers continue to purchase our products allowed us to keep our key employees working. What Calgarians support today will be what their options are for the future.
For Remo Trotta, Sales and Marketing Manager at Spolumbo’s, the pandemic meant their business had to pivot quickly. Says Trotta, “Shop local means everything to our business – over 90 per cent of our business happens in Alberta, with over half of our product being sold fresh, so it doesn’t have a very long shelf life. Buy local has been a pillar of our business since day one, and we are proud to offer a uniquely Calgary premium product to shoppers.”
Spolumbo’s Sausage is a staple on many Calgary grills.
Alberta’s farmers have also been affected by the COVID-19 situation, and for Paradise Hill Farm, their fresh tomatoes can’t wait on the vine forever. Produce growers Tony and Karen Legault have been supplying fresh products to Calgarians through Calgary Co-op for 20 years. Says Legault, “We pride ourselves on growing local produce with local labour and shipping it within 24 hours to local retailers. It feels great to still have people on our payroll and doing our small part to help keep the local economy breathing.”
Fresh basil from Paradise Hill Farm in Alberta.
COVID-19 forced Paradise Hill to quickly adjust their operations so they could keep supplying product to Albertans. “We revamped our packing area to accommodate physical distancing, added extra cleaning and sanitizing, closed our green houses to the public and divided our teams into different groups. We were able to keep local products flowing to stores the day after it was picked in our greenhouses. We look forward to one day welcoming the public back to our facilities, but for now, we thank Alberta for thinking and shopping local.”
Bakery staples were also an important item to keep on the shelves when the pandemic hit Alberta. For Louis Bontorin, Owner of Calgary Italian Bakery Ltd., they leaned on local partners to keep their business operating. Says Bontorin, “We were hit hard when restaurants closed down, but we have done everything we can to keep nearly 95 per cent of our staff employed. We keep hearing that “we’re all in this together”, and that couldn’t ring more true. When someone spends a dollar on Calgary Italian Bakery products, they know that dollar is staying in Calgary.” Calgary Italian Bakery was started by Louis’ parents, Myrl and Luigi, in 1962.
Dpb Baking Company is another local Calgary business that was impacted by COVID-19. Says Paul Ahsmann, whose parents opened their first bakery in Calgary in the 1970s, “It’s so important that Calgarians seek out local, particularly during challenging times. They’ll benefit from being able to choose fresher products, supply lines are shorter, and we can refine our products based on local tastes.”
Dpb sells ready to eat, frozen and prepackaged baked goods including muffins, Danish, cookies, cereal squares, croissants, dessert bars, cakes and cake decorating ingredients.
Local and regional products are easily identifiable in Calgary Co-op stores with “Made in Alberta” and “Best from the West” labelling.
For more information, visit calgarycoop.com.
About Calgary Co-op
Owned by members, Calgary Co-op is one of the largest retail co-operatives in North America. Our locations in Calgary, Airdrie, Cochrane, High River, Okotoks and Strathmore include: food centres, pharmacies, gas stations, car washes, commercial cardlocks, home health care centres, wine, spirits and beer locations, and cannabis. We also own and operate Community Natural Foods. With over 400,000 members, 3,850 employees, assets of $627 million and annual sales of $1.3 billion, Calgary Co-op was recognized as one of Alberta’s Top 75 Employers of 2019, and is committed to delivering an exceptional customer experience through inspired team members.