In this episode our special guest is Melanie Morrison, CEO & Founder of BetterCart, an online grocery comparison engine that has some voodoo that captures prices on the shelves and enables retailers, brands and shoppers to compare prices, and for our popular new Trying Stuff segment, we have a fun selection of Ice Lollies from Fressy Bessie - 100% real fruit. We also tackle the state of the nation when it comes to food inflation, food allergy research and the sale of Westin Bakery to a Canadian bakery business.
Welcome to the The Food Professor podcast episode 35, I’m Michael LeBlanc, and I’m Sylvain Charlebois!
In this episode our special guest is Melanie Morrison, CEO & Founder of BetterCart, an online grocery comparison engine that has some voodoo that captures prices on the shelves and enables retailers, brands and shoppers to compare prices, and for our popular new Trying Stuff segment, we have a fun selection of Ice Lollies from Fressy Bessie - 100% real fruit.
Reminder to everyone about our YouTube channel where you can watch the entire first part of our podcast with bonus content and the whole Trying Stuff segment
Inflation Nation: Are we capturing food inflation correctly?
Latest Research from Dalhousie Agri-Food Lab on Food Allergies
The Newfoundland and Labrador government plans to implement a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages next year, .20cents a litre, raising $9Million for health education
There isn't enough strawberries in strawberry pop tarts: alleges that the products contain more pears and apples than strawberries. The case asks for $5 million in relief. BTW, there are no plums in Plum sauce either, it's mostly pumpkin!
Weston sells majority of its bakery to FGF brands for 1.2Billion: what do we know about the purchasing company?
If you liked what you heard you can follow us on Apple iTunes , Spotify or your favourite podcast platform, please rate and review, and be sure and recommend to a friend or colleague in the grocery, foodservice, or restaurant industry.
I’m Michael LeBlanc, producer and host of the all new Conversations with CommerceNext podcast and a bunch of other stuff, and I’m Sylvain Charlebois!
Have a safe week everyone!
I love working in the tech industry and in my capacity as CEO and Founder at BetterCart. BetterCart operates in the Food and AgTech space and is a big data company providing pricing data and advanced analytics to grocery retailers, manufacturers, and producers across North America. Creating disruptive technologies that help companies better understand their competitive landscapes, as well as the utility of price analytics and data science to enhance profitability, is what drives and inspires my team. Come see us at BetterCartAnalytics.com, or reach out directly anytime.
At BetterCart, we also use our technology for the local, better good. Based on our experience and observations, we know that comparing grocery prices across stores is hard to do, and that people end up spending too much money at the grocery store because they don't have adequate grocery price comparison tools. At BetterCart, we're addressing the price comparison tool deficit in the grocery space, and have developed a free price comparison web app called BetterCart.ca. Helping people save money at the grocery store so they can better meet their daily food and nutritional requirements is one of BetterCart's social impact goals.
Michael LeBlanc 00:04
Welcome to The Food Professor Podcast Episode 35, I'm Michael LeBlanc.
Sylvain Charlebois 00:08
And I'm The Food Professor Sylvain Charlebois.
Michael LeBlanc 00:11
Well, in this edition, in this episode our special guest is Melanie Morrison, CEO & Founder of BetterCart, an online grocery comparison engine that has some voodoo that captures prices on the shelves and enables retailers, brands and shoppers to compare prices, and for our popular new Trying Stuff segment, where are they, We have Fressy Bessie Ice Lollies, so we're going to be trying, these are our very special and very fun and thanks, everyone for the feedback for the trying stuff segment. 100% real fruit so we'll be trying those.
Sylvain Charlebois 00:43
Well, it's in the Fall but, you know, it would have been better in the, in the summer, but it's a Canadian product and it seems like a really good product too, so.
Michael LeBlanc 00:51
And a reminder to the listeners, be sure and check out our YouTube site where we've got some bonus content and of course, we've got our trying stuff segment that you could watch on there and we've got we've got the whole episode and then we've got a chopped up into different topics, so, some shorter some longer, so be sure and check out our YouTube site, The Food Professor podcast.
Michael LeBlanc 01:11
All right, well, let's get to it. You're just you're, you're disturbing things my friend. The inflation nation,
Sylvain Charlebois 01:18
Am I really?
Michael LeBlanc 01:19
You're making waves. This is, you know, we certainly I'm not sure if this is butter gate airy. We call this inflation gate. I'm not sure it's that, but recently came out and you and I talked a bit about this in the run up to it, but there's an article published in conjunction, I guess, or published by the Toronto Star that looked at what Stats Canada looks at in terms of reports, in terms of food inflation, and other data. So, take us through it, take us through the issues and let's, let's get started.
Sylvain Charlebois 01:51
Yeah, I mean, going back to butter gate, I mean, the common denominator for all of these things is, is basically how the cane public is served. What we offer to the public, it's always been, I've always had a problem when I know consumers are not, are the victims essentially. And so that was, that was the case with butter gate. As far as I'm concerned with, with, with the CPI with the Consumer Price Index, I've, I think we've talked about this before, I've always been concerned about the accuracy of the index. And in particular, in relation to food inflation, I don't look at other components at all, not even ecommerce, I just look at food and I've always felt that something was, was off.
Michael LeBlanc 02:38
And I've actually testified before the Senate a couple of times the last few years telling senators that I've been concerned about the CPI. And actually, I did use some NielsenIQ data to show them off the index was related to meat, produce, different products and I mean, prices are so volatile these days, it's hard to keep track. And I think there's some of that going on. But the CPI in recent months, I mean, we've been approached by this great organization called BetterCart and Melanie Morrison, who's joining us today, which is great, she blew me away. I mean, her model is amazing. They basically data mined millions and millions of dataset, every single week, which is 200 times more than Stats Can I mean, it's just a powerful tool that they have. So, immediately, when I saw what they were doing, I thought, oh, this is very good and so we started accumulating data, and basically reported to the Canadian public, a few months ago, how different the CPI is to the data being mined by BetterCart and
Michael LeBlanc 03:56
Right away, so, right away, you saw that there was a discrepancy in the data and you're, of course, quite experienced at understanding or at least trying to project food inflation, because you put it in Canada's Food Price Report each year, right. That's a long, big project with multiple universities. So, it's not like this as a casual observation for you. I mean, you, you crunched through this data and try to forecast a year ahead, right.
Sylvain Charlebois 04:18
Absolutely. So, it's, so we're actually working currently on our 12th edition for Canada's Food price report. We're actually meeting on Friday, all four universities. So that would be the University of Guelph, the University of Saskatchewan and UBC as well. So we're getting together on Friday to forecast what's going to happen in 2022. We've in the past, at the very beginning, we actually were using the CPI Stats Can's data, but we merely thought something was off.
Sylvain Charlebois 04:48
So, we started to use, get this, the St. Louis Federal Reserve's data. That's right where we actually were using American data to forecast Canadian In prices, and I've always, always wonder what's going on here. And this wonderful reporter Paul Webster from the Toronto Star, worked on, on an article investigated for about two months on this issue, was able to interview stats can only to really pinpoint what exactly the problem was and, and again, I don't want, I actually do believe that Stats Can is filled with, with highly competent people and they mean well, it's a great organization, it has a great reputation, but data capture, I, I've always felt that was the problem and, and in order to capture data properly, you need strong partnerships with, with industry. And so right now stats can, for the first time, I think has publicly acknowledged that they do have, they do face some challenges when collecting data, they deal with three grocers. We don't know who they are. But they are dealing with three grocers who are trying to sign on more, but they can't.
Michael LeBlanc 06:06
Now, it makes, it makes sense that we don't know who they are, right there.
Sylvain Charlebois 06:08
Michael LeBlanc 06:08
They, one of their, one of their paramount things is confidentiality and that, you know, for all the right reasons.
Sylvain Charlebois 06:15
And that's why that's why understanding brands and banners and all that and trying to correlate inflation with, with, what that, with what is actually going on, it's very difficult to do when you have access to only 100,000 data sets a month, which may sound a lot, but it's very small when you carry thousands and thousands of products in a store. So, we've always argued that the data set, the scope of the data set needs to be broadened way more to get a better sense of what's actually happening with the food inflation right here in Canada.
Michael LeBlanc 06:50
Well, and, and interestingly, Stats Canada, which actually put out this, subsequent to what was it on the 18th, about how they do the food price index, it's an interesting read, basically defending what they do, you know, second largest, you know, design with a coordinate standards, and so forth and so on and I echo my experience that the folks at Stats Canada has been uniformly, you know, positive, we have a disagreement, and I have a disagreement with them on, again, the same thing, how they, and what data they collect in the ecommerce side of the equation, to their defense.
Sylvain Charlebois 07:23
Yeah, your concern is with ecommerce, eh?
Michael LeBlanc 07:25
Yeah, yeah because, and the data they collect, I think is, is genuinely accurate, but it only gives part of a picture. So, it's a whole different discussion. They only basically capture what Canadians, you know, are sold in Canada versus what they're buying. And they don't even include Amazon and Wayfair in e-commerce because they consider them warehouses. So, it's a classification issue, not unlike what we're talking about here. What always interested me about how they figured out food prices is something we've talked about a couple of times the whole shrink-flation issue, where you understand, yeah,
Sylvain Charlebois 07:57
Yes, that's right, so what is it really?
Michael LeBlanc 07:58
So, what's got this reporter, what's got this report from the Toronto Star intrigued in this, was it something that, that you said or something that just, kind of, this has been percolating along for a while, but what put that investigation up.
Sylvain Charlebois 08:11
I, essentially, saw a report on comparing the CPI data with BetterCart and he called his editor, so listen, I think I think he's onto something, let's, let's write up, but let's, let's investigate further and that's what he did, and I thought he did a pretty fantastic job. He called all the grocers; he called the processors as well. He also obviously, obviously had an interview with, with Stats Can. And they were very defensive. I mean, they, they basically claimed that our approach was unfair, and inaccurate, but I don't understand why they would say that because we actually were coming for with some clear data and our raw data is, is out there.
Sylvain Charlebois 08:58
I mean, basically, we, whereas Statscan's raw data is not available, even if you (inaudible) Stats Can, they're not going to tell you which brand they're looking at, they can't they're not allowed to and so that's really the problem here transparency, and, and now I actually learned this morning, that BetterCart has been asked to meet with Stats Can, which is really great news. I think Stats Cans approach has changed for the last five years, they were very, very closed and unwilling to talk, to exchange, our goal, our goal is to help them, we want to help Statscan because at the end of the day, the CPI influences everyone.
Michael LeBlanc 09:37
They're challenge is who's filling out the data and providing them the data now, that's the one thing that jumped out to me about the article like and, and it was this. I think it was you who said this oligarchic nature. I thought that would be good. In other words, if you know there's five grocers that account for most of the grocery sales in this country by percentage, right what yeah, 80, 70%, right. Wouldn't that mean you get pristine data, if you're capturing the data or asking for the right data, because you're capturing so much you don't have to go to 100 people you can go to, I mean, by going to three, don't you get 60% of the data isn't that good?
Sylvain Charlebois 10:11
Well, that's the thing. I mean, first of all, you need people to, to, to scan the data and you, we know, we both know what's going on with the labor market. That's one thing I mean, you, you also have to think about grocers on a tight margin, I mean, is that that's extra, that's more responsibilities and they don't really benefit commercially from reporting, scan data. The USDA resolve that issues a long time ago, they basically created a, a consumer panel, they've actually hired, quote, unquote, 120,000 households, consumers are actually scanning the data for the USDA, she can look it up, you could go on their on their website, and they have a bit the scanning of all the data, the raw data is done by households. So, you kind of remove the industry, and you get to what people are seeing out there. Now, of course, it's not necessarily error free. But at least you're not putting the onus on the industry to collect and scan all that data.
Michael LeBlanc 11:14
But I just thought the, the oligarchic nature of the industry was a bit of a red herring. In other words, the real issue is what data are you capturing, not that a small amount of people who own a large share of data are reporting it to you, because that should be good. In other words, if it was done, you know, if it was done, right, you've got a much bigger base of data. Isn't that more like the case?
Sylvain Charlebois 11:35
Right? i My biggest as a scientist, my concern is the raw data, I'd love to see it. I mean, that's, that's one you'll know. Because, like, like your E commerce situation, the data they get is accurate. But it's a very small picture of what's actually going on. And that's what we've been arguing with Stats Can, all, all the time, like four or five years. We do believe that they only capture a very miniscule part of what's actually going on, which is why consumers are looking at the CPI, scratching their heads. This is not what this is. It doesn't make sense. The inflation rate is not 2.7% or 3.9%. We're seeing major hikes in the grocery store.
Michael LeBlanc 12:18
I mean, it sounds like there's a lot going on under the surface Stats Canada is certainly paying more attention now.
Sylvain Charlebois 12:25
Very, very pleased with what's going on. I mean, I must say I really commend Stats Can for reaching out to us we're meeting with them in November. There will be a meeting with, with Melanie as well, I suspect in November as well. And so, the doors are open, which is really not something I saw before.
Michael LeBlanc 12:46
All right. Well, let's, let's go a little, not exactly. Well, a little bit deeper. And let's talk, let's talk to Melanie now. Let's get, first, I want to understand. We're going to talk to her about her business and her business model, her great background and, you know, maybe just, I'm very curious about how she gets and captures your data. So let's bring Melanie on from BetterCart.
Sylvain Charlebois 13:07
All right, well, we're very pleased to have with us, Melanie Morrison, CEO of BetterCart. I've been watching this company for a while. In fact, actually, Melanie and I, we met virtually sev-, several months ago and I've always been amazed by, by BetterCart what they're doing. So, I thought we need to have her on our podcast. So Melanie, welcome to our podcast.
Melanie Morrison 13:31
Oh, thank you so much. It's a delight to be here.
Sylvain Charlebois 13:33
First, before we, we get into BetterCart, the company itself. But tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you?
Melanie Morrison 13:43
Yes, the woman behind the company. Well, I spent 11 years in post-secondary completing a Master of Science and then my PhD and my PhD is in psychology, specifically experimental social psychology and in my academic work, I've always been fascinated by the psychological science of bias. So, why people, the why behind people's discrimination, their prejudice and their stereotyping, and ultimately how this affects the psychological and physical health of others. So, I have been an academic, actually for most of my life, and I'm a full professor at the University of Saskatchewan.
Sylvain Charlebois 14:25
And you've always been at the U of S.
Melanie Morrison 14:27
Yes, I have. Okay. Yeah.
Sylvain Charlebois 14:30
It's a great, great university. I've actually worked there, as you know, Melanie, I was there for a year as the director of the Johnson Shiroyama Graduate School of Public Policy. So, it was a great, it was a great experience for me working at the U of S and by the way, the University of Saskatchewan is a partner of ours for Canada's Food Price Report as well. So, so here you are, you, you are at the U of S, you're a tenured full professor, your career is going very well. So, why bother starting a business at this point in your career?
Melanie Morrison 15:03
That's a great question. And I get asked that a lot of the time, why did you go from being in the academic world to centrally starting a company, what was the motivation, and why a tech company of all things, most people would think I would be in consulting, on some level with my background, but I can tell you, it was a burning passion for, for several years in the lead up to starting BetterCart and becoming a founder and CEO of that company. You know, I, I recognize that consumers where we started anyway, was on the consumer side. And I recognized that consumers needed access to grocery pricing data, they needed to know how they could save money, and there wasn't anything on the market at that time.
Sylvain Charlebois 15:54
So what drove you was the consumer, information given to the consumer?
Melanie Morrison 15:59
Yes, absolutely. In the lack of transparency, and I had experienced this myself time and time again, I had become a parent, I was shopping for the necessities that one needs when raising, you know, small children and I couldn't, I couldn't quite get a handle at all on where I needed to shop to save money and I would if I went to a different store, two or three days later, I realized I was spending $18, Extra $20 Extra on those essentials. And then we know that across this country, food security is such a huge social issue and health issue and trying to help people maximize the, you know, the how far their dollars can go was really something I felt committed to and deeply concerned about. And so yes, I put the wheels in motion. I had a lot of, you know, a strong, lot of, I did a lot of thinking before I started this company, I wanted to be certain about certain things and then I threw down and started it in, just, the tail end of 2018.
Sylvain Charlebois 17:08
So, it's, so, it's been three years, almost three years.
Melanie Morrison 17:12
Oh, yeah. Well, we hire-, we hired our first full time developer two years ago, so
Sylvain Charlebois 17:19
Melanie Morrison 17:19
September 2019. So, we’ve really, when we started automating everything, so I consider those first, first several months there, as, you know, started class in how to get going, how to get, how to get a tech company off the ground, and then really threw down September 2019.
Sylvain Charlebois 17:36
So, so, are you the sole owner of BetterCart?
Melanie Morrison 17:39
I am, I'm the founder and CEO, yes.
Sylvain Charlebois 17:42
So, now, here you are. You're making headlines. you're, you're, I mean, your company's
Michael LeBlanc 17:49
You're in the news, right.
Sylvain Charlebois 17:50
Yeah, you're in the news. I mean, you're, you're a disrupter a little bit. Have you ever thought that you would be, you would be in that position?
Melanie Morrison 17:56
Well, I, you know, I from the time I started BetterCart. So, even in my academic life, I've, I've ridden that wave a bit, I have, you know, been probably a little more ahead of the curve, essentially. And with that comes the establishment of new terrain and new, new ground. So, some people don't like that, always. But with this,
Sylvain Charlebois 18:19
Especially in academia.
Melanie Morrison 18:20
Yes, and you know, surprisingly, are supposed to be so progressive, but in the, in, in the business world here, yes. I mean, it's bringing, bringing transparency to the industry, it's, it's trying to help where we can to benefit grocery industry stakeholders, and their associations and organizations and I am, you know, people are contacting us to, to see how we, with what we're doing right now can benefit their, their how they touch their touch points with the industry.
Michael LeBlanc 18:51
So, imagine, Melanie, you and I are on an elevator.
Melanie Morrison 18:54
Michael LeBlanc 18:54
And we're going up the building, and you've got to tell me before those doors open, what this thing that you've launched, is, when I look at it, it looks very consumer focused, as you said, your you know, the origin story is I want to solve a problem that you thought consumers had. So, in an elevator type speech, what is BetterCard, then we'll, kind of, start pulling it apart and talk about tradecraft and stuff like that.
Melanie Morrison 18:55
Sylvain Charlebois 18:56
The building is more than three stories, by the way, just to be clear.
Melanie Morrison 19:22
Well, thanks for that question. So,4 we did start out as a consumer facing platform, helping grocery shoppers across the country and we will always keep that alive. Anything we do on the back end; we will bring to the front end to create social and health impact there. What we are right now though, is BetterCart analytics. And we are a big data company that offers advanced price analytics and competitive intelligence to grocery industry stakeholders, predominantly retailers, manufacturers and producers. And our aim is to help them with their prices. Seeing their promotions and assortment strategies, and really zero in on ways by getting their pricing right, zero in on the ways you know the eye through the eyes of the consumer ways in which to increase revenue, market share and customer and brand loyalty.
Michael LeBlanc 20:15
Let's talk about your tradecraft. So what, what do you, what are you measuring and how do you get it, you know, Sylvain and I were just talking about this whole inflation thing and I was asking him, and I'd asked you the same thing, how do you account for different pack sizes, and, you know, size that is not comparable or configuration that's not comparable and that's always been a bit of a gnarly thing is am I comparing like for like, so peel back a bit and talk about your trade craft, about how and what you're measuring and how you how you do it.
Melanie Morrison 20:44
Let's, just, I'll just put, mention here that we, you can go to bettercartanalytics.com and that is our industry side.
Michael LeBlanc 20:54
Melanie Morrison 20:54
Our enterprise side. So when we look at the difference there, you can see that, you know, the, the user group is different. With, with that said, you know, we are, we are collecting, capturing through data capture, proprietary technology, the information that is publicly available. And so, we're bringing it into our to BetterCart analytics and running it through a variety of cleaning and processing phases. And then we're ensuring that we are surfacing these analytics in meaningful ways for our users and our industry customers, essentially, we are, our scope of data is quite large. So, we have almost up to over 600 million product and pricing records. No, yeah.
Michael LeBlanc 21:47
Wow, 600 million.
Sylvain Charlebois 21:48
Melanie Morrison 21:49
So, we're gonna crash into a billion here pretty quickly and that's not
Michael LeBlanc 21:54
You're obviously a big fan of cloud computing.
Melanie Morrison 21:58
We are, we are, we are getting our stride. You know, we're you know, things are things are really coming together there and that is, that, in and of itself, is an arc for any company, you know, it's, it's a huge undertaking, it is something that is wildly novel and new and it's something that we're bringing to the industry here in Canada as a starting point. Yeah, so we have, we have a lot of data that we are working with and have the capacity then in turn, based on our resources to provide real time hyper localized, superior analytics.
Michael LeBlanc 22:38
Now, you're not, you're not exactly first in the market of trying to provide data to industries, where do you fit, your, so your, with your algorithms and your, you know, as you said, I think the innovative way you capture the data is materially different than a, you know, the other, kind of, offerings that are on the market is that your, that's your objective and that's your, how you, how you think about your product?
Melanie Morrison 23:01
Yeah, so we have, we are, you know, the, what we're doing there. You're right, you're absolutely right, there are certainly data analytics providers out there. There are some, there are some gaps there, though, just in relation to the data that they might be able to offer. So, there's, there is strong, you know, groups in the, that offer data to, to retailers and manufacturers out there. Most of them in the States and what they're often doing is providing syndicated data. So, so they're, in lies the, the rub, essentially. So, this is average data that is coming back to retailers, and so it doesn't have it's not dynamic, it's not capturing the day-to-day fluctuations. We do that, so we are, we are doing that in real time or near real time, which enables then our, our enterprise clients to adjust their pricing strategy accordingly and really work that out in near real time.
Sylvain Charlebois 24:03
And okay, so you can tell us if bananas have gone up today in Canada,
Melanie Morrison 24:07
Sylvain Charlebois 24:08
For certain regions, that's incredible.
Melanie Morrison 24:10
And so, who would, who would want that, so we're right at the, adding in there, we're at the hyper localized level. So, it's not average data that you're going to get from us, it is what's happening in your landscape, your competitive landscape, two kilometers down the road. So, this is a really wonderful tool and technology that we're bringing to people because it enables them at their desktop to see the landscape like never before, so they can avoid any manual time spent manually price checking, and that is the case for many producers, manufacturers, some retailers as well, but buy stickies, you know trying to keep up with it. You know, relying on in house historical data. So, looking back at what we have, our turkeys on last, you know, that last Thanksgiving and how did we sell, you know what didn't work out and so again, moving, moving into the, you know, 2022 with fresh eyes and real handle on the landscape.
Michael LeBlanc 25:15
This conversation that we're having, the three of us, kind of, follows after a conversation Sylvain and I were just talking about Stats Canada and how they track inflation and there's some news about that. So, what did you learn from looking at your data and is there anything that jumped out at you and that the data tells us that, that was new and interesting, and in context of in this conversation, or that part of the conversation, food price inflation?
Melanie Morrison 25:37
Yes, well, I mean, certainly prices have gone up. And that was one of the, one of the key reasons why I started BetterCart in the first place and so this, this is not going to go any anywhere, it's not going to go away for the consumer, it's not going to go and what it means is that, you know, the stores themselves, retailers themselves are going to have to get a really strong handle on their landscape, hovering around there with, with price as well is a movement toward plant based protein sources, what's happening on that front and how are those companies going to be doing and fairing in retail shelves, you know, that's going to be huge issue and whether or not consumers are going to view them as getting their price image, right, you know, whether or not I mean, are people willing to you know, to pay $18.99 or $24.99 for four burgers, you know, when package of ground, lean ground beef is $11.99.
Sylvain Charlebois 26:37
It's quite critical now, I think, more than ever to, to use predictive analytics as much as possible and I can absolutely see how a BetterCart can, can help can support grocers in that area. Listen, Melanie, on behalf of, of The Food Professor podcasts with Michael as producer and myself as the know it all, I guess. I'd like to thank you very much for joining us. So, is there, is there a way for people to reach out to you how they, how can they get in touch with, with BetterCart?
Melanie Morrison 27:14
They can go to 'Contact Us' at bettercart.ca, they can visit us at bettercartanalytics, all one word, bettercartanalytics.com and you can reach out to me personally, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sylvain Charlebois 27:28
Again, thank you very much, Melanie, and all the best to you.
Melanie Morrison 27:32
My pleasure. Thank you so much, Sylvain. Thank you, Michael.
Michael LeBlanc 27:35
Well, that was a great interview with Melanie and it's such an interesting value proposition. I love what she had to say as an academic in business. Yeah, I learned a lot. So, you know, more news to come. Right. Let's face it. More news to come. Right. All right.
Sylvain Charlebois 27:50
Yeah, she'll be part of the CDL program. I'm expecting great things from BetterCart and from Melanie and so yeah, it's great. I think what she's doing is incredibly valuable for, for both policy and business and so yeah, I wish her all the best for sure.
Michael LeBlanc 28:06
All right. Well, let's cool things down a little bit. All right. Welcome to our trying stuff segment. Lots of great feedback. So, thanks, thanks, everybody and for brands, you know, send that stuff along and we'll try it.
Sylvain Charlebois 28:17
And, we're getting a lot of requests now to try stuff, which is great. I mean, it's awesome. And we want to promote products, new products as much as possible.
Michael LeBlanc 28:29
Here's Freshy Bessie, there's thing, very generous. Yeah, we got a bunch of different kinds. We've got,
Sylvain Charlebois 28:35
Four different kinds.
Michael LeBlanc 28:35
Organic, organic mango, we have organic Canadian apples, we have tropical, and we have organic mango and Quebec wild blueberries. This is a brainchild of Jackie Kwitko. Based here, I met Jackie, actually she was on my doorstep, personally delivered, a wonderful person
Sylvain Charlebois 28:44
That’s right. That’s awesome.
Michael LeBlanc 28:44
and she tells me the life of an entrepreneur, knocking on a lot of grocery stores, trying to get them to pay attention and you know, she's got a distinct value. So, let's give it a try. So, let's start first with this, I've got a mango first. Yeah, so something, just as we're trying it, it's interesting, six per box and actually small, so very, very friendly kid sizes.
Sylvain Charlebois 29:19
But they are 25 calories each.
Michael LeBlanc 29:22
Mmm. I mean, what I noticed when I opened the package, you know, it just, it just smells like fresh fruit, right.
Sylvain Charlebois 29:28
Michael LeBlanc 29:28
You know, the aroma I get. I mean, this, this tastes like it's delicious that you could, you know, if you look at what's in it, 100% fruit, no sugar added or juice. I mean, it tastes natural, right, it does, it has a very specific taste.
Sylvain Charlebois 29:42
Absolutely, pure, certified organic, they're, they're very small and that, it's pretty striking because, you know, typically when you get lollipops in the store, they're much larger.
Michael LeBlanc 29:54
I mean, it's a nice bite size. There's, anyway, all right, I love the mango. I like that a lot.
Sylvain Charlebois 29:58
Yeah, mango's great. I got, that has my vote. What's next, Michael?
Michael LeBlanc 30:03
Let's try apple, organic Canadian apples and there's a great video on their site, by the way, of how it's just pouring literally apples from a bin into, and making them because there's nothing added to it, right.
Sylvain Charlebois 30:13
Michael LeBlanc 30:14
Tart, right. Not sweet tart like an apple.
Sylvain Charlebois 30:18
I wonder which, what variety is used for, the kind of apple, it's tarty, maybe it's a macintosh. It's probably a macintosh. What do you think?
Michael LeBlanc 30:28
I would think so because it's got that tartness. I mean, what continues to ring true about these is they're fresh fruit. I mean, they're tart, it's.
Sylvain Charlebois 30:35
I can tell you in Nova Scotia, we take our apples very seriously. We're very specific with varieties for sure, but this is good, you know, I prefer the apple over to mango so far.
Michael LeBlanc 30:48
All right, well, let's try this organic mango and Quebec wild blueberries from your LaBelle province, from your home.
Sylvain Charlebois 30:57
Le Quebec, le bleu.
Michael LeBlanc 31:00
That's my favorite so far.
Sylvain Charlebois 31:01
This is delicious stuff. My God.
Michael LeBlanc 31:04
It's really good.
Sylvain Charlebois 31:04
Every time I try one. I prefer that one. So, this gets my vote as well.
Michael LeBlanc 31:09
So far, I think, I think the blueberry, Quebec blueberry is my favorite. All right, last, but not least.
Sylvain Charlebois 31:17
The green one, the tropical one. It says tropical. It's mango, organic spinach and organic banana.
Michael LeBlanc 31:25
Sylvain Charlebois 31:26
So, yeah. The green is because there's spinach in it.
Michael LeBlanc 31:29
Sylvain Charlebois 31:30
And this is the most intriguing one. I think
Michael LeBlanc 31:33
That's an adult flavor. I don't, I don't know how many kids are gonna like this.
Sylvain Charlebois 31:37
So full disclosure. My kids try them over the weekend, when I got them, when we got them from Jackie, and they love them. Except for this one and I must say, I haven't tried them until now and it's not bad. It's not bad.
Michael LeBlanc 31:52
No, no, no, it's very good.
Michael LeBlanc 31:54
You know what's interesting, Sylvain, is some of the feedback when we post on Twitter, and you know, on her package, and it was a bit of a back and forth on Twitter and I thought it was interesting because of the predicament that some of these people are in. She basically chooses things to say that are not in it, right, on the, on the packaging, right, exactly. No, this no that and then, you know, when someone from the Twitter universe, I think it was a farmer said, hey, why didn't you say gluten free, and she goes, well, it's gluten and basically the question was, well, you're just fostering the belief that gluten is bad or whatever and, and Jackie was like, well, we're free, we're free of everything. It was a no win situation. We just picked it because people are looking for that. I guess, you know,
Sylvain Charlebois 31:54
Sylvain Charlebois 32:35
Jo-Ann McArthur, from Nourish, really explained to us a while back that we're in the no era, no this know that and it's appealing for consumers just wanting natural and I would say that Freshie Bessie is actually, just, really gets nicely into that category and, and it's great. I mean, seriously, if you're looking for a natural product, and on a
Michael LeBlanc 33:01
Sylvain Charlebois 33:02
Yeah, I can't believe it's 25 calories per popsicle. I mean, it's not bad.
Michael LeBlanc 33:08
I mean, I wouldn't do this, or at least I wouldn't tell you I would do this, but you could eat them by the box.
Sylvain Charlebois 33:13
Exactly, what, so, which one is your favorite, Michael?
Michael LeBlanc 33:15
The mango and the blueberries is my favorite.
Sylvain Charlebois 33:17
Michael LeBlanc 33:17
That's number one. Number two is the mango. Number three is the apple, but they're all, kind of, very close and number four is our spinach and banana.
Sylvain Charlebois 33:28
So, I would say blueberry, apple, mango and Spanish, but spinach could actually be number one, easily, after eight o'clock at night.
Michael LeBlanc 33:39
We're thinking the opposite. I'm like this is breakfast, right, this feels like breakfast.
Sylvain Charlebois 33:43
Michael LeBlanc 33:44
On a hot day.
Sylvain Charlebois 33:45
It's a cold frozen smoothie, natural smoothie.
Michael LeBlanc 33:49
It is, really. It's they're very good. So, congratulations, Jackie. Fressy Bessie. Go to their site.
Sylvain Charlebois 33:54
Thank you very much Fressy Bessie. Thank you very much, great products.
Michael LeBlanc 33:58
And a reminder again to the folks that, you know, we're under no obligation at all people provide us this stuff. No compensation moving back and forth, this is just you and me, trying stuff. Next week we've got soup.
Sylvain Charlebois 34:11
We’ve got soup.
Michael LeBlanc 34:11
We got soup. We got organic soup, great backstory. We'll get to that next week. Let's, let's wrap up, I got a couple of things to talk to you about, out of the lab. You did some research on food allergies, speaking of natural foods, anything, anything jump out at you, what was it, 25% of Canadians were self-reporting that they had food allergies, is that, is that what jumped out at you, right there?
Sylvain Charlebois 34:31
We actually worked on this, for this report we actually work with Food Allergy Canada, they were great, very knowledgeable when it comes to allergies and our goal was to actually come out with a study, right on time for Halloween, on allergies and we want to know how many people do suffer from allergies, intolerances, explain what the difference, differences are between the two and also, we want to know if Canadians feel that, that products are actually, you know, properly labeled, and we realize that labeling is still an issue in Canada when it comes to allergens. 35% of all recalled food products in Canada are due to allergens being mislabeled in Canada.
Michael LeBlanc 35:14
Unreported, unreported products that are in it or something, right. Yeah.
Sylvain Charlebois 35:18
So, a huge problem and so for Halloween, you know, I certainly, we certainly urge parents to be vigilant as much as possible, because sometimes, you know, you buy candies, notices would be on the outer liner, but as you open up a bag of chocolate or whatever, you don't have any signs, you don't have any labels showing the possible presence of allergens and I know that, that Food Allergy Canada is now working with Health Canada on new labels that could replace the may contain this may contain that you've seen them before, right, Michael?
Michael LeBlanc 35:55
Sylvain Charlebois 35:55
And processors use that just to basically tell people, we run many lines under one roof. There's always a risk. And they're trying to refine that to make these labels less ambiguous for the public.
Michael LeBlanc 36:09
So, something we talked about a couple of months ago, the Newfoundland and Labrador tax on sugar sweetened beverages, what is it, 20 cents a liter, 20 cents a liter and I think I read it's gonna raise $9 million, like comes into force. I'm a bit surprised they got it through like, when I remember when he first talked about it.
Sylvain Charlebois 36:27
I'm not, I'm not.
Michael LeBlanc 36:28
You're not, you're not, eh? Speak more to that and speak more, do you think of it'll have any impact or,
Sylvain Charlebois 36:34
How big is the beverage industry in Newfoundland?
Michael LeBlanc 36:36
Well, it sets a pretty interesting precedent in Canada though, doesn't it?
Sylvain Charlebois 36:40
I know most of it is imported from Ontario and Quebec. Now, if you ask me, could this happen in Ontario, I would say probably not because I mean, so it's a tax on imported products, but that tax is charged to the consumer, which is really a dangerous precedent, because you're basically taxing food and I've always been uncomfortable with that approach, frankly, and, and we've talked about this before, I mean, the UK, decided to look upstream and focus on processors to encourage processors to change formula instead of taxing the consumer.
Sylvain Charlebois 37:18
Because once you tax a product, what, what else, what is next, you know, what, are you going to tax other products, and it sets a really dangerous precedent. So, Newfoundland is an easy, I think it's actually interesting for, for the rest of the country, because it will actually become a good case study, Mexico started a soda tax a long time ago, six, seven years ago, and their obesity rate has gone up since and their rate of type two diabetes have gone up as well. What have they gained as a result of the soda tax, the evidence that it makes that a soda tax will make a population healthier is actually weak still right now, and, and perhaps for the government of Newfoundland, I hope for them that they'll be able to raise revenues, because that's really what this is about? Really, right?
Michael LeBlanc 38:12
Well, I mean, the claim, A, you're right, the economists would call this a regressive tax, right, because no matter what your income level, you're, you're paying the tax.
Sylvain Charlebois 38:19
Michael LeBlanc 38:20
B, I think they say, listen, we're gonna raise $9 million, and we'll put that into healthy food education, but as you say, New York City, a lot of places have tried this, and I don't think they've put much of a dent in anything. So, Weston sold their bakery division for $1.8 billion, not, not entirely the bakery division, because I think they're, one part of it. It hasn't yet to be sold to FGF Brands. Do you know anything about the, the company that, the buying company that bought the Weston bakery assets?
Sylvain Charlebois 38:50
I do, absolutely and I visited the plant before. Oh, yeah.
Michael LeBlanc 38:55
Sylvain Charlebois 38:55
Yeah. In North York, I must say when I, when I saw the news, I was really happy. Yeah. FGF Brands is a really good organization. It's a family run business. And I think I bought I mean, it's a, it's a big chunk for them, I'll admit, I think their cells are and this is just a guess. I think they're, they're south of a billion right now. So, buying George Weston is a huge chunk for them. Still, when you look at the leadership of, so, so it's a family, which immigrated in Canada many years ago and I had the pleasure to have lunch with Sam, the founder, along with Paul Hayes, former Vice President of Loblaws and obviously, that company was always close to Loblaws and so, so acquiring George Weston make sense.
Sylvain Charlebois 39:51
They actually understand Loblaws, they understand the business. They're already in the bread business, the bakery business, but my guess is that they're probably going to be revisiting their portfolio of products and, and I already got a lot of questions about collusion and price fixing and, and let me tell you, I think it's because of that acquisition, I think it's less likely that Canada will experience some new sort of price fixing era anytime soon, but it's a great, it's a great acquisition, it remains in Canada, it was acquired by a Canadian company as well, which is awesome.
Sylvain Charlebois 40:30
While the Western family is now committed to distribution, which is I think their, their forte and so the bakery business has become a difficult one, margins are very low. It's very competitive and frankly, when you look at bread prices of the last, I'd say, five years, they haven't moved a whole lot. We are expecting bakery prices to go up this year because of what's going on like everywhere, but in the last five years, it's been really tough for them, so I'm not surprised that they're, they're selling and, but I must say they sold a really good organization. So, I'm very, very pleased.
Michael LeBlanc 41:11
Well, yeah, great episode covered a lot of ground and for all the folks out there, if you like what you heard, you can follow us, if you're not already, on Apple, iTunes, Spotify, your favorite podcast platform, please rate and review, be sure to recommend to a friend or colleague in the grocery, food service or restaurant business. I'm Michael LeBlanc producer and host of the all new Conversations with CommerceNext podcast and a bunch of other stuff.
Sylvain Charlebois 41:33
And I'm Sylvain Charlebois, The Food Professor,
Michael LeBlanc 41:36
Great to see you again, Sylvain and everyone listening, have a safe week. Talk to you again soon.
Sylvain Charlebois 41:41
data, people, Canada, consumer, food, Sylvain, stats, Melanie, industry, products, capture, prices, bit, Newfoundland, company, grocers, bakery, mango, apple, buying, BetterCart