The Food Professor

Fairtrade Canada CEO Julie Francoeur, the global food supply chain and Trying Stuff with Gin & Tonic

Episode Summary

Back on the mic together, so much going on - and in fact you and I were quoted in the same article yesterday - a first! All about supply chain…we’ll get to that a bit later…we’re going bananas over our great guest, Julie Francouer from Fairtrade Canada, and of course our very popular segment, Trying Stuff!

Episode Notes

Welcome to the The Food Professor podcast episode 33  I’m Michael LeBlanc, and I’m Sylvain Charlebois!  

Back on the mic together, so much going on - and in fact you and I were quoted in the same article yesterday - a first!  All about supply chain…we’ll get to that a bit later…we’re going bananas over our great guest, Julie Francouer from Fairtrade Canada, and of course our very popular segment, Trying Stuff!

Julie talks about the evolution of fair trade, from its roots in the global coffee industry through to putting a variety of products on the shelves of engaged retailers and more and more customers every day.  We talk about the process behind fair trade, how it benefits the communities who adopt it, and how consumers are increasingly both recognizing the impact their purchases have around the world and demanding choice in the product they buy. 

Let’s jump right in…hot of the digital presses, new research from the Dalhousie Agri-Analytics lab!  More than 2 Canadians in 5 have changed their behaviour to save money at the grocery store compared to 2020…I see switching behaviour, substitutions, format changes, Albertans reducing their purchase of meat…what did you learn with your partners at Caddle?

Let’s talk about the global supply chain issues and food…so what?  Isn’t much of what we consumer made in North America, a truck drive away?

The upside of shrinkflation…less waste…will this be a call to action for consumers?

QR codes - the ugly little app that could..everywhere now, but you have privacy concerns?



If you liked what you heard you can subscribe 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 Voice of Retail podcast and a bunch of other stuff, and I’m Sylvain Charlebois!

Have a safe week everyone!


Episode Transcription

Michael LeBlanc  00:04

Welcome to The Food Professor podcast episode 33. I'm Michael LeBlanc.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:08

And I'm Sylvain Charlebois.

Michael LeBlanc  00:11

Well, we're back on the mic together so much going on Sylvain and in fact, you and I were actually quoted, I think, for the first time in the same article yesterday, so our worlds collide again. Right, first talking about, talking about supply chain. We'll get to that a bit later. And, we're going bananas in this episode over our great guests Julie Francoeur from Fairtrade Canada. And of course, we also have our new popular segment Trying Stuff. So, we, we've got a great product. Today to try little preview. We've got Levenswater, bespoke Gin, with Fitch and Leedes Soda Water. We'll talk about trends around all that. And, then we'll do that as a separate segment. But let's jump right in. So, hot off the digital Press, new research from Dall with your partner, some cattle, I believe, 

Sylvain Charlebois  00:58

Yeah, that's right. 

Michael LeBlanc  00:59

More than two and five Canadians have changed their behavior to save money at the grocery store. And I see switching behavior or I see substitution behavior. I see format changes, I see Albertans being, leading the country and reducing consumption of meat. That took me by, surprise a little bit. What did you learn and tell me about the study?

Sylvain Charlebois  01:16

Well, first of all, you know, as you and I, we go into a grocery store, it's a bit of a lab for us, we walk around, we observe. But we were wondering if Canadians actually felt the same, they, are they noticing something different and noticing higher food prices and overwhelmingly 86% Canadians, actually, have noticed that prices are much higher than six months ago.

Sylvain Charlebois  01:40

That's one thing, but the other thing that we noticed that was really interesting is that the older you are, the more likely you have noticed that prices are higher. The younger generations like the millennials, and the generation zeds, they've noticed but not as much. And I think it has a lot to do with the fact that, and I teach to young, young consumers myself and, and they know something is going on, they know that prices are going are moving. However, they may also appreciate why they are moving and why we're slowly departing from this era of cheap food, cheap calories really ain't because you and I, when we grew up, it was all about buying whatever's on sale, really at the grocery store. And it was really about cheap food. We didn't know it then in the 80s and 90s. It was really about cheap food but now it's different, and we are expecting the average household to spend that 9, 10% of its budget on food, but more like 12, 13, 14% and a few years from now. So, that shift is being felt, I think across the board.

Sylvain Charlebois  02:49

The other thing that, that I thought was interesting with this new site is that for the first time, we actually asked questions about shrink-flation. You and I last time we spoke, we chatted about translation. But we want to know whether or not people were actually noticing, are they people, are you noticing smaller packages? But prices aren't moving. And three out of four Canadians have actually noticed that true inflation is actually happening, which is, which is more than I thoughts, so. And, in that report, we also asked Canadians about, you know, the usage of fliers the use of coupon whether or not they're actually buying discounted products at the last minute, if the best before date is like today or tomorrow there. Are they going to be buying the 'enjoy tonight' products? 

Michael LeBlanc  03:42

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sylvain Charlebois  03:43

and things like that. And absolutely, I mean, a lot of Canadians have actually changed their ways of buying food overall more than a grocery store, which is really, it's about, it's about hedging, right like well hedging against inflation, and you want to save a bit of money and people are taking advantage of it.

Michael LeBlanc  04:03

Well, it's about being a savvy consumer. And, and, you know, you also mentioned this upside, so to speak of string inflation is that it might reduce the package size, it's something that we, that creates less waste. I mean, we probably buy too much in too big a size. You and I've talked many times on the podcast about how much are you wasting, you've done research on how much consumers are wasting. So, I guess the upside is I mean, when people are buying closer to best before dates, that's good, right, because after our best before date has passed, that's not going to be sold that's going to be thrown out and there's probably nothing wrong with it right in many instances.

Sylvain Charlebois  04:36

I don't know how you see it, Michael, but the way I see it is that the grocery, grocers are I think trying to empower consumers to become better food rescuers. You remember, a few months ago we interviewed Lori Nikkel from Second Harvest. I mean her business is about food rescuing but now I think because of this food waste agenda. The food industry is actually empowering, because of food inflation obviously, the industry is starting to empower the consumer to become a better food rescuers overall, giving food a second or third life, I guess. 

Sylvain Charlebois  05:15

And it's quite timely because as we exit this pandemic, we're, we're more fully literate, we know more recipes.

Michael LeBlanc  05:22

Yeah, yeah.

Sylvain Charlebois  05:22

We can explore, try new things. And it's not like I remember in 2014, when beef prices went up 25% in a month, people walked away from the meat counter only for like a month. And then, of course, prices kind of stabilize. And we all went back to our barbecues and, and we all ate meat. But this time around, I mean, the market is where different people can actually walk beyond the bean counter and do other things with different ingredients.

Michael LeBlanc  05:55

Interesting. And let's talk about the role of government a little bit because the best before date is a federal government mandated regime. Now the government the government's taken the approach recently have we better do a better job educating people what that means, in other words, just because it says that in your fridge, don't throw it out on the next day but for retailers, they really can't put a best before date product for sale after the date that's marked on it. Is there a role in government to kind of start tweaking that programming, is it even the wrong language, I mean, how do I, how do we, how do we even get a, get our heads around that? 

Sylvain Charlebois  06:28

Yeah. If you've ever spent time at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, but they're I mean, risk aversion is rampant. If I, they do not want to talk about this, they want to limit risk as much as possible. But I'll tell you what I mean, on October first in Toronto is a new restaurant that's going to nominate a new restaurant, but new store, which will be opening up, it's pay what you want, pay what you think is worth food store, I think the name of the store is pay what you think is worth, that's the actual name of the store. And I can't remember on which street but it's actually opening up on October 1, you walk in, you buy what you can what you want, and then you pay with no prices, you pay what you think it's worth and a lot of these products, while the expiry date is very close, and so, so it's going to be interesting to see if if that becomes a popular trend. I'm not sure it will be successful because grocers are actually doing that already. And the food industry is trying to do that already. But yeah, there's, there's all sorts of things happening all at once. Flash food, different app, they're getting you to buy products like that. Yeah. So, it's so, it's happening quite a lot more than, than, than before.

Michael LeBlanc  07:48

Let's talk about the ugly little app that could QR codes, I see them everywhere. Now. you've highlighted some, some issues around the great they're doing a great job QR codes for a variety of reasons. I was in a restaurant in Kingston, and you pop it in and you fill out the you know, contact tracing stuff, but are you concerned about privacy or you've read something, 

Sylvain Charlebois  08:10

Do you have a problem doing it?

Michael LeBlanc  08:11

No, not at all.

Sylvain Charlebois  08:11

A lot of people online contacted me and said to me, I always have some issues with QR codes. They don't work for me. My phone doesn't read them properly. There was one friend of mine who's a restaurant expert. He told me that he went to a restaurant and read the QR code, I ended up on the Hyundai website.

Michael LeBlanc  08:33

Would you like to buy, would you like a car with that appetizer, yeah.

Sylvain Charlebois  08:36


Michael LeBlanc  08:37

Well, I think, you know, advantage to the big companies, right, so I was at a big chain restaurant, and you know, it's seamless, I typed in my information, texted me back a code number that I gave to the woman at the front, you know, seamless. Let's talk about privacy. Do you have any concerns around, other than functionality, around QR codes and the data they may be collecting?

Sylvain Charlebois  08:58

Yeah, so the Canadian Press actually called us for an interview about QR codes. And I did say I'm not a privacy cybersecurity expert, you may want to talk to someone, and they did actually. So, in the article, there is a cybersecurity expert quoted and I actually think that, that QR codes are highly vulnerable to piracy. And it can be an issue because they, you can actually trick them, you can actually change them, you can get a QR code very easily. And so certainly, the beauty of QR codes, it can contain a lot of data way more so than UPC barcodes, which is great, even double, double layered, UPC bar barcodes, they're great. To contain data when you think about transparency when you think about making the entire supply chain more transparent. A lot of companies are embracing blockchain technologies now. I mean, if you want to offer a portal to consumers, QR codes are perfect for that if you want to tell the story of your food sort of thing. But at the same time, I mean, you got to think about well, okay, well, why are we exposing the dark supply chain to more risk if you like just thinking about what happened this summer with GBS with, with $11 million ransom. I mean this this is certainly a real issue. Cybersecurity is a real issue for the food industry. So, I think it's great. It has potential but we also need to be careful about, about cybersecurity issues.

Michael LeBlanc  10:31

Yeah, and for the listeners out there that may not be aware GBS was held ransom with ransomware, cybersecurity and they their systems are locked out food producer food processor and eventually paid $11 million

Sylvain Charlebois  10:43

They paid a ransom of $11 million. You know, work. That's the worst part.

Michael LeBlanc  10:48

Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, far beyond the scope of this podcast, but you know, this is the downside, severe downside to cyber currency, right, digital currencies, it's the currency of crime. All right. Speaking of fun, our fun new segment, Trying Stuff, our fun new segment trying stuff. And on this segment, we've got, we're getting into alcohol and libations and all that stuff we have from our friends here in Ontario, Levenswater Gin. So, this is a Levenswater, sent to us. My friend Paul Allenby sent it to us, there it is. It is a bespoke Ontario made gin. And as you and I talked off mic, there's lots of amazing gins there's I'm certain lots made in Nova Scotia. I happen, we happen to be trying this one and we're mixing it. 

Sylvain Charlebois  11:39

Absolutely, yes.

Michael LeBlanc  11:39

We're mixing it today with Fitch and Leedes tonic water, which comes in all kinds of different flavors. 

Sylvain Charlebois  11:45

That’s right.

Michael LeBlanc  11:45

So, a bespoke tonic water, so why don't we give it, now it’s from sou-

Sylvain Charlebois  11:49

It's from South Africa? 

Michael LeBlanc  11:50

It's from South Africa. So, global, global trade, so why don't we crack one open now we're recording this later in the day. So, we're not doing morning drinking here and that's just for the listeners, if they're wondering,

Sylvain Charlebois  12:03

Let's hear this. There we go.

Michael LeBlanc  12:07

There we go. A little bit of that. Now I've got my gin. So, I'm going to do a bit of a bartender pour here.

Sylvain Charlebois  12:16

Yeah. Love your bartender look, Michael, for today.

Michael LeBlanc  12:20

you, you're well dressed for our occasion, I did a bit of a bartender to a pour which is kind of fun. And by the way, for those listening on the podcast, this is all on our YouTube channel. 

Sylvain Charlebois  12:32


Michael LeBlanc  12:32

As is our conversation so be sure and tune into that All right, well let's, let's give Levenswater. A taste. Cheers. Cheers. Yes, you know, I have to admit, I never liked gin. I didn't

Sylvain Charlebois  12:45

Oh, god. 

Michael LeBlanc  12:46

I didn't like gin. I did not like gin until these, these gins came along so, it's got a flavor to it, right, it's got a nice botanical flavor it's got rose sips and 34 other things so.

Sylvain Charlebois  12:59


Michael LeBlanc  12:59

This isn't your, this isn't your father's gin, right, this is now a class of gin. It's very refreshing.

Sylvain Charlebois  13:07

It is refreshing, yes. Through scrunching I like the kick from the gin for sure I actually happen to like gin, I don't not, I'm not a big fan of tonic water, but tonic water goes so well with gin. So, it makes, it makes for a really lovely drink. This is kind of, this is nice. It's very refreshing.

Michael LeBlanc  13:27

It's refreshing it's light and we should talk about this whole tonic water thing this is a Fitch and Leedes there's other kind of bespoke I mean that that's happened recently where everybody says well listen, you know, this is so much of the drink let's, let's, it's kind of, like, you know, when I go to restaurants and I see them put cheap bread on the on the table, those who put bread on the table still and I'm like why would you do that you charge me $50 for a main but you're putting like cheap bread up the scale and, you know, this kind of quality. You know, it's probably a good opportunity for us to talk about all the things that are happening in the beverage category, I mean, when you and I were growing up. 

Sylvain Charlebois  14:03

before you go excited just yeah, also informed the listeners that there are other types. There's also grapefruit tonic, which I tried it which is actually not bad either. It's a very good, it's a very good, very good sparkling drink as well and so there are a few flavors, so thank you very much for sending this along by the way. 

Michael LeBlanc  14:25

Yeah, thanks to two lemons, water and Fitch and Leedes and we should remind the folks that were under no obligation to do these reviews people just send us the stuff and, you know, we try it and that’s, Trying Stuff 

Sylvain Charlebois  14:36

That's right, exactly.

Michael LeBlanc  14:37

You know, we should probably, we should probably talk about in this trying stuff segment, what's going on in the beverage category. You know, when you and I were growing up, we had a choice of, of, of Labatt Blue or Saint Cant. Right, we didn't have much

Sylvain Charlebois  14:51

Room temperature.

Michael LeBlanc  14:52

And it often was a, you know, in stubby little bottles and there's so much choice today. I mean, I've just got a few bottles. I just pulled you know, you've got your, your big category your pre-prepared, ready to drink mixed drinks. This is a Negroni. And then of course, we should probably talk about this cannabis infused beverages. 

Sylvain Charlebois  15:11

Have you tried it?

Michael LeBlanc  15:11

Cannabis infused beverages. Yeah, I've tried a few of them, it's hard to get a good taste, you got to have a good tasting beverage, right, I mean, that's where it's difficult. I know, initially, there's a lot of enthusiasm around cannabis beverages, but they're really netting out to be four or 5%. I mean, they're not as big as everyone hoped they would be and I think they're, they're slow growing category, you know, in the cannabis sector. 50% is still dried flower, and the rest is all these different things. But, you know, as you sit back and look at it from your chair on the growth and the changes, it must be pretty interesting to watch this, kind of, explosion of choice, because it actually gets back to what we're talking about in the podcast. You've got so much choice. So much. So many changes, the small players become big players, big players become smaller players. And there's room for niches, maybe it instructs us to, to the future of food in some small way. 

Sylvain Charlebois  16:02

Yeah, I think so. The beverage industry is really, really important in Canada, but it's a really competitive category. You're seeing some CPG companies dumping some brands, as PepsiCo did with Tropicana, for example. You're seeing some consolidation, but at the same time, you're also seeing new innovation, you just presented a few very, very interesting products. And there's, there's going to be more of that happening. We just, I had the pleasure last week to be in Montreal at CL, virtual CL. And we were talking about food innovation for the entire morning in the beverage industry. It is bound to do very well next few years because it's a, it's a category, it's portable. There are different layers you can explore, it’s always something new.

Michael LeBlanc  16:53


Sylvain Charlebois  16:53

Whether it's cannabis or doing ingredients you can actually incorporate and it's a, it's a, it's a nice way to introduce new flavors. It's a very passive way to introduce some favors in the marketplace in Canada.

Michael LeBlanc  17:05

All right, well, that was this episode's Trying Stuff. Now, it's a perfect time to bring on our guests. Julie Francoeur, from Fairtrade Canada. Let's have a listen.

Michael LeBlanc  17:15

Julie, welcome to The Food Professor podcast. How are you doing this morning?

Julie Francoeur  17:18

Very good. Thank you for having me.

Michael LeBlanc  17:20

Now, I think you're coming to us from Ottawa. Do I have that great?

Julie Francoeur  17:24

I'm actually in St. Adel, just north of Montreal today.

Michael LeBlanc  17:27

Okay, but I think fair trades based in Ottawa. 

Julie Francoeur  17:30

Yes. Our office which nobody works in is in Ottawa.

Michael LeBlanc  17:35

Thing formerly known as an office. 

Julie Francoeur  17:37

So our place where we used to meet yes,

Michael LeBlanc  17:39

Right. My, my, my hometown. So

Sylvain Charlebois 17:43

By the way, Michael is originally from Ottawa but Sainte-Adèle is brought in maybe an hour and 15 minutes away from, from Ottawa. Maybe an hour and a half. 

Julie Francoeur  17:50

It's not that far, yeah.

Michael LeBlanc  17:52

It's basically a Toronto commute.

Sylvain Charlebois  17:55

Pretty much. Yeah.

Michael LeBlanc  17:57

Well, listen, welcome. Thanks again for being on the podcast. I mean, this interview came up, and we'll talk about this later, you had responded to an interview we did with, with Jenny Longo. And we're talking about Longos and I think I enjoy their, their bananas. We were talking about that specifically. So, we're like, hey, let's get you on the podcast and let's learn all about Fairtrade and ask you a bunch of questions. So, why don't we start at the beginning. Tell us about yourself your background and your role at Fairtrade Canada. 

Julie Francoeur  18:21

Yeah, so I grew up in Trois-Rivières, which is halfway between Quebec City and Montreal and I come from a family, typical story in Quebec, where, you know, your grandparents were farmers and then the farm was sold off and your parents did something else but you have this connection to the land, not foreign to the backgrounds of farming was, was interesting to me from growing up with this part of my family. I studied international development wanted to understand how to make the world a better place and went and lived abroad for a number of years and working in different things but worked really early on in Fairtrade. So, I was leading for over 10 years of field work. So, producer services in Latin America and in the Caribbean, and came back to Canada about four years ago, and I'm now the Executive Director of Fairtrade Canada.

Michael LeBlanc  19:08

Tell us about Fairtrade. What, what do you, what do you do, what's your organization, what's the mission, what, what drives you and the team? Tell us all about it.

Julie Francoeur  19:14

We like to say that we're a movement to change the way trade works. So, that's looking at the social justice aspect and the trade justice of how our supply chains are built. We work primarily in agricultural goods but also in the mining industry and a few other industries too, but mostly with the agricultural supply chains and wherever they end up so whether that's in food or in clothing, or cosmetics, but where, you know, agricultural goods end up and we work on ensuring that there's better prices, decent working conditions, sound environmental practices, and strong transparent business relationships built into the mix. And so, it’s a certification system. We work certifying the entire supply chain from the Farmer Co-op at origin to the final product that is in Canadians hands, so putting the Fairtrade logo on the final product. That gives the guarantee to consumers that the whole chain has been audited against the serious standards. And we do a lot of campaigns and advocacy to raise awareness around trade justice and social justice issues.

Sylvain Charlebois  20:15

So, we're off. Of course, this podcast is really about food. So, what is what is Fairtrade food.

Julie Francoeur  20:22

We start, I was going to say we start with the agricultural part, right, so it's understanding the supply chain from first step of it. So, the production and really, we start from the premise that we know consumers wants to know, you know, the story behind what they buy, they want to know if it's more environmentally sound, or what's in it, or who made it. And having a mark on a product, whether it's an organic mark, or a third trademark is something that really enables them to make that choice and to, you know, shop according to their values and in for the farmers on the other end. So, if you're talking about a banana co-op in Ecuador, or a cooperative of cocoa farmers in Ivory Coast, they also want to be able to tell the rest of the supply chain about what they're doing better, what they're doing well, and how they're set up in a transparent way, and how they're doing it democratic practices and environmental protection or social protection or, you know, fighting child labor in their community. So, that's a way for the whole chain to talk to each other. And we really work with companies too, in food, mostly in Canada. So, the majority of what we do is with food companies, whether for the entirety of what they do, so if it's with coffee companies, it's all the coffee beans, but then we work with, let's say, a granola company, then it might be that we work with the cocoa, the sugar, or the elements of the granola. And then some other ingredients are local, and we don't certify locally we certified in developing countries.

Michael LeBlanc  21:41


Julie Francoeur  21:41

So, we work in understanding really the whole supply chain and even analyzing things like the contracts that people sign are those contracts benefiting producers equally, and protecting the full custody of where these things come from. So, that's how we

Sylvain Charlebois  21:55

So, you're really getting, you get into the relationship, contractual relationships that farmers have with the rest of the supply chain.

Julie Francoeur  22:02


Sylvain Charlebois  22:03


Julie Francoeur  22:03

So, we set standards for farmers to implement, so we have standards for small organizations of farmers. So, cooperatives typically are federations of farmers or plantations as well so those covers things like environmental protection, social protection, working conditions, they'll look at things like how the co-op is set up, how they make decisions, how they invest their funds, but we also have standards for what we call traders but everyone else in the chain so we'll look at you know so if we work with a Canadian company, we'll audit them both on traceability so you know if you're saying this final banana is fair trade, let me see, you know, your contracts on purchasing those volumes and the prices that were paid to really audit what you're saying.

Sylvain Charlebois  22:47

So, what, what are the main food commodities that are, that are in scope with Fairtrade Canada, what are the top say, five?

Julie Francoeur  22:57

So, we have a tough one that's way beyond the others. So, we started with coffee in Fairtrade. This is also the farmers we started with, it was with coffee farmers in Mexico 30 years ago, so, it's normal that that's the commodity where the farm is with and we're a nation of coffee drinkers. So, it makes our job in Fairtrade Canada a bit easier that there's so much interest in coffee to work with coffee companies, that's by far our biggest commodity than its cocoa, sugar, bananas is, are our big ones, too, that we work with. So, sugar from sugar cane, cocoa, and so they typically end up in chocolate, but other commodities to our products and you know, final products that use those bananas is growing really rapidly. And tea is also a big one that we work with. And then there's a series of much smaller ones, too, that come in. Flowers is starting to be an interesting portion of the mix as well.

Sylvain Charlebois  23:46


Julie Francoeur  23:46


Sylvain Charlebois  23:47

Oh, really? 

Julie Francoeur  23:48

Yeah. Roses from, I mean, a lot of the flowers we sell in Canada are all imported, right. So

Sylvain Charlebois  23:53


Julie Francoeur  23:54

Yeah. So imported from Kenya or Ecuador, typically.

Sylvain Charlebois  23:57


Michael LeBlanc  23:58

Interesting. I hadn't, I hadn't thought, I hadn't thought of that of that piece. 

Sylvain Charlebois  24:00

Me neither. So, I guess this is the one question that, probably, you get a lot. Why, why should Canadian consumers and retailers care about Fairtrade?

Julie Francoeur  24:12

And that's a funny question, because we test that assumption a lot. And we actually research it every couple of years. And last year, we got we did a lot of research, even during a pandemic to see how that is shifting. And to us by now, it's not so much why they should care. It's just knowing they actually do, they really do care. So, we know why they do we could research that and more metaphorically, I think it's done in line. It's a really human connection. Canadian consumers care, you know about dairy farmers in Canada, they care about other types of farmers, so why wouldn't they care about others producing their food elsewhere. So, that connection is really strong. 

Julie Francoeur  24:47

We, we did a study with LeJay, just about the peak of the pandemic I would say in the summer last year in August 2020. And it showed that up to 75% of Canadian consumers were actually willing to pay more for their food, if it was Fairtrade certified. So that was you know influx, how the awareness of Fairtrade, we have, this is, we've been tracking this for over 10 years now and it went from, you know, 20% awareness of the mark. So, how many people recognize the logo and we're now at 42% which we're really happy about. So, this is the general population who recognize the mark, when they see it and their level of trust too, which is really what we care about is ensuring that there's a high level of trust in the mark keeps growing year on year, so we're close to, I think, 68% of Canadians who, who trust a mark and an even higher numbers of people who say actually this makes my vision of a brand improve, if it has the Fairtrade mark on it so 

Sylvain Charlebois  25:45

And the volume of Fairtrade certified products in the Canadian marketplace is growing. 

Julie Francoeur  25:51

Yeah, yes, very rapidly.

Sylvain Charlebois  25:53

In the last 12 months, so you know how much it has grown, approximately?

Julie Francoeur  25:57

I don't know up to today, so, what we were able to track all of 2020 and how that performed versus the rest of retail and when we the last two quarters, like, in winter and spring and the summer have been really strung to so, we're trying to see the last numbers in that but just one, one data for, to give you an example, so, coffee and retail. So, most coffee companies that are in retail because obviously within the coffee chain that was a whole you know, other aspects as they were closed during COVID but those focus in retail grew by 17% in the last year versus it in a very small growth otherwise in the category.

Michael LeBlanc  26:34

Let's talk about, let's talk about how our conversation began essentially which is with Longos, how did that relationship come about? And, what are the retailers do you work with and just talk about generally your, your discussions and meetings with retailers but let's start, let's start with Longos because I'm, I'm a, I'm a consumer and I noticed the Fairtrade, I'm very intrigued about how that came about.

Julie Francoeur  26:57

So, we, we started working with Longos a few years ago, they did, you know, they had other products of other brands on their shelves obviously Fairtrade brands of others that they were carrying, and some of their, their own but then the banana trial started they had a trial a couple of years ago. We were talking with them and with [Inaudible] to who was pitching trialing Fairtrade bananas and then that worked really well. So, they changed all of their organic bananas to Fairtrade and organic bananas a few, I think two years ago, and then that went really well. And they was saying like, actually, can we can we push this even further and say that even your non organic bananas your conventional, regular banana, can that become a Fairtrade conventional banana because we have farmers who are certified organic and Fairtrade and others who strive really hard to keep in many really high environmental practices don't really have the certification. 

Michael LeBlanc  27:49

Yeah, the two don't need to go together right. So

Julie Francoeur  27:51

No, no.

Michael LeBlanc  27:51

We shouldn't substitute Fairtrade with organic they're two different things, right?

Julie Francoeur  27:54

Exactly. And I think that's really where we're pushing now, next, and we can talk about this later but with, with retailers, it doesn't have to be a niche within a niche. A lot of farmers work with, for different reasons, can't be certified organic and work conventional but are certified as Fairtrade. So, it was good to see Longos take that step, in saying both my bananas will be Fairtrade. I'll have a Fairtrade organic and a Fairtrade conventional and to see the response and that's been really good.

Michael LeBlanc  28:21

What to retailers, is that something retailers get wrong and in terms of the conversation is assuming that Fairtrade equals organic or is there any lets you know, are there any myths you bust in the early meeting about Fairtrade talk about that a little bit. 

Julie Francoeur  28:34

Yeah, I think this is one that we're really definitely getting to be able to start busting with retailers is this concept that third has to be a niche that it needs to be you know, a sub-portion of your natural aisle where some, for a while it was it was, kind of, stuck in that place to see brands really get out of that area and go beyond you know, be, yes, be in a natural organic aisle, but also be outside in front and center and to start seeing it as a sustainability partner to say okay, well if I work with Fairtrade, so, when we work with retailers, whether it's the, the main ones, when we work with Loblaws and for them to say, actually, this is something you should think about for your private label too, for, not just brands who carry. 

To say, actually in the conventional space, there's a lot of room to grow, we just saw this year one really interesting thing that happened to similar to the Longos banana one, is Walmart in Canada, decided to switch its own. So, they have a like their, their lower priced, private label. And then we have Our Finest which is there in a more premium, private label. And they switched all of their coffee and Our Finest to Fairtrade with conventional, not organic. So, that allowed them to go to a lower price point and it was 17 SKUs all at once, transition. So, it was good to see retailers pushed down and stop that assumption that it has to be very niche and there's a lot more, and it's also the other thing that sometimes some of the larger retailers were getting wrong is we were able to get data to prove that wrong in saying well okay but that's, that's the Longo buyer or that's the, you know, Farmboy buyer but my buyer in, you know, bigger retailers doesn't necessarily care as much about sustainability and can actually say like that's, that's just no longer true. All Canadians wherever they shop care about sustainability now. So, we really, you know, Canadian retailers need to make sustainable choices more easily available on their shelves.

Sylvain Charlebois  30:25

I agree. And when we see it on our numbers, more and more Canadians actually do care about sustainability. They may not know exactly how to care. But certainly, you are providing a solution, rather, which is readily available to them.

Julie Francoeur  30:40

Yeah, and that's what we see, especially in the younger Canadians like the 18 to 34, you know, or even younger, did say one of the main reasons they buy Fairtrade is that it allows them to shop alongside like, along with their values, like an easy, it's not too hard, you'll understand you see the mark and it goes along with what you believe in. So, it makes shoppers lives easier and I think for retailers to make that choice available to their consumers, makes that even easier that you know, consumers don't have to go out of their way to fancy independent store, they can if they want to, but if they want to go to one retail place to go do most of their shopping, and that it can be available there too.

Sylvain Charlebois  31:21

So, so, how do you see as CEO Fairtrade Canada? How do you see the future of fair trade food products in Canada after, you know, we're, we're kind of exiting the pandemic right now, I, I do want to emphasize the word 'kinda'. But, how do you see the future of Fairtrade certified food products in Canada?

Julie Francoeur  31:41

So, the, the market is really growing. I think we're seeing brands and retailers really take it on board, not just as the 'Oh, this is a coffee thing'. But say, like okay, this is something that makes sense.

Sylvain Charlebois  31:53

This is occurring.

Julie Francoeur  31:53

across categories across products, you know, that, that if consumers know this and understand this, how do we use it beyond this. I think it's really, we're excited as a team in Fairtrade Canada, because we're finally seeing like, getting out of that niche space. And really saying, like, fair trade can be mainstream. You know, we work with, with Loblaws with, you know, the PC organics, is almost all Fairtrade by now. And so it's trying to discuss them like, hey, how about we get into, like, conventional space to or working with choices supermarkets out in BC are with spud, blushing group in Calgary, and or federated co-op and getting more and more of those retailers to to really own it and own their own version of Fairtrade, and be able to tell their own story of the impact they're having with their banana farmers, their cocoa farmers, and explain that story to consumers. I think it's really exciting to see.

Sylvain Charlebois  32:42

And you've been in, in these countries over the past few years, correct?

Julie Francoeur  32:47

Yes, yes, I was based in, I was based in Bolivia, I was based in Argentina, and in the Caribbean for over 10 years. So, to see the impact of that Fairtrade has, you know, for coffee farmers in Colombia, or in Peru, or to see the impact of banana farmers. So, the increased prices in a fair trade, one of the basic principles is there's an insured, better priced to farmers, and that allows them to cover their costs of production to really invest in good agricultural, environmental practices to pay better decent, you know, working conditions to their workers and that just creates a completely different community, like a completely different village a completely different, even sometimes national reality.

Michael LeBlanc  33:28

Transformative. It's transformative, right, I mean, it really transforms entire communities, and lives.

Julie Francoeur  33:33

Exactly, yes.

Michael LeBlanc  33:33

Where can, this has been great. I mean, I'd love it was great learning about Fairtrade, because I as well sometimes would substitute organic with Fairtrade. So, it was great way for us to talk about that. Where can where can consumers go to learn more about the work you do, and, you know, understand what is unfair trade and understand what the differences between what you do and the standards and I think that's important for consumers to understand what does it mean, what is fair trade mean, you know, what, what actually is and how I'm happening. So, where can consumers go to learn more?

Julie Francoeur  34:06

They can definitely come to to just follow or follow up on any of our social media platforms. But increasingly, they can even go on their own retailer’s platform and Google Fairtrade in their product search and we're working with retailers to make that easier, so that you know, they can highlight the Fairtrade products they have if they want to learn more, with us is probably the easiest place to go.

Michael LeBlanc  34:26

Well, I like that idea because, you know, every retailer might explain things a little differently. So, it's nice to have, kind of, a, you know, a single point of reference

Sylvain Charlebois  34:36

A go to place, yeah.

Michael LeBlanc  34:37

Yeah, I think that's, that's very important. Your, the work you do is so important, even from that perspective, right, what is Fairtrade, let's set some standards and common grounds for understanding, so

Julie Francoeur  34:47

Yeah. Because otherwise we use the word sustainability to do all sorts of different things and not necessarily in a very serious matter sometimes.

Michael LeBlanc  34:55

Yeah, yeah. right. Well, I think it gets confusing and in inherent, and consumer confusion is, 'Oh, I can't figure it out'. I'm not sure I trust it. Is it real, is it this, is it that? So, congratulations on your work. And congratulations on your success so far. And thanks so much for joining us on The Food Professor podcast a real treat to talk with you and understand and thanks for listening, by the way.

Julie Francoeur  35:16

Oh, and thanks for having me. It's a It's a pleasure to be on this side of the conversation. And I've been listening to the other ones too

Sylvain Charlebois  35:25

Merci beaucoup, Julie

Julie Francoeur  35:26

Merci, Sylvain. Merci, Michael.

Michael LeBlanc  35:29

And we should talk about supply chain. I mean, this is a nice kind of segue into one of my last couple of questions. So, you know, global supply chain, how does it affect food, I know there are types of whiskey from Ireland, I go to Ireland quite often. And you can't get them here anymore. They're just, they're nine months away, they just cannot get them at all. And you're saying that's Ireland, so it's this traffic jam knock-on effect. Who, why should we care, from a food perspective, I know a lot of our food comes into Canada, but mostly from North America, right, or am I, am I not thinking about this clearly? How big, or how important is the supply chain troubles to what we eat or find on our shelves in Canada? 

Sylvain Charlebois  36:10

Well, you know this, Michael, very well, I mean, the disruptions are pretty significant. The concern that I have, and I suspect that you share the same concerns, it's, it's how long this is going to last and the fact that it's costing more to transport food, because of the fact that there is a, there is a shortage of labor. I actually listened to your interview with CGOB in Winnipeg, and you use the analogy of a car wreck. And I think it's a really good one, to get people to understand what's actually going on. It's a car crash on a very busy highway, and you're stuck. And so your whiskey is stuck somewhere, it's going to, it's going to get to your destination to the destination, but it will take longer. And that's kind of what people are experiencing restaurant operators, retailers. They're ordering stuff, and they only get half of their order. And so, so there's, there's, there's different ordering strategies happening because they know they won't get everything. That's why now you're hearing different companies encouraging people to order for Christmas, like right now, if you're if you're if you want to order a Halloween costume. It's too late, all right. I mean, I actually looked into it for my daughter's mid-September, and it was all of the costumes they wanted, it was either out of stock, or they weren't going to get them in November or something so that you can as a consumer, you kind of have to pace yourself a little bit. Is that what you're hearing though, Michael?

Michael LeBlanc  37:53

Yeah, very much so and I think, I think that the year will be governed by substitutions. So, in your example, you may not be able to buy a costume, but you can probably buy some makeup and DIY a costume and maybe consumers’ willingness to substitute I think will be the hallmark of our years. How long is this going to last, I think 2025 is my bet. 

Sylvain Charlebois  38:13

Whoa, wow, I was actually thinking 2022 but 2020-? Why, why, why so long?

Michael LeBlanc  38:19

Well, not at the same intensity. But if you look at nations, like the entire continent of Africa, they're not projected to be vaccinated until the end of 2023. If all, if all goes well.

Sylvain Charlebois  38:29

So, you're looking at the virus, you're looking at COVID I'm looking at capacity. I'm looking at labor particularly. 

Michael LeBlanc  38:36

Well, I think what's happening, you know, one of the things is, is you know, whether it's Vietnam or China, they get, they get an outbreak, they shut down ports, they shut down factories, and it won't always be at this level. But you know, Vietnam is only 30% vaccinated. the continent of Africa is like 4%, you know, how much stuff do you source from Africa? It's just this Domino knock on effect. So, I don't think it's going to be like this. I think this will resolve by the end of 2022 like a traffic accident.

Sylvain Charlebois  39:03


Michael LeBlanc  39:03

But as people take detours and other things, I think it could be we could be dealing with it in one way shape or another through to 2025.

Sylvain Charlebois  39:11

And that's why, last week, I had a talk with some investors in Montebello, and they asked me about logistics, global logistics, what's going on, and I actually do think that nearshoring and onshoring are going to become more popular, it, I suspect, many companies will be enticed to think differently about their supply chains and, 

Michael LeBlanc  39:33


Sylvain Charlebois  39:33

and they'll be thinking about getting their distribution, getting their processing closer to home. Instead of, you know, buying whatever in Argentina, get it packaged in Malaysia and consume whatever you're producing in Canada. So, the, and, and to add to what's happening with logistics you have to also consider in the Western world, the effects of Pricing Carbon I mean pricing carbon is going to wreck the economics of global supply chains, so companies won't have a choice but to reconfigure how they do things overall.

Michael LeBlanc  40:14

Well, it's gonna be a very dynamic time, we're gonna have lots of chances to talk about it over the next number of episodes. I think, let's, for time, let's leave this episode where we are today. We have lots of stuff to talk about. We'll have more guests coming up don't forget another shout out to our, our listeners and viewers check out the YouTube site and for the YouTube watchers, check out the podcast.

Sylvain Charlebois  40:36

Cheers to our listeners.

Michael LeBlanc  40:38

Cheers to our listeners and viewers. That's right, thanks to Levenswater and thanks to Fitch and Leedes for today's product, we got, we got some cheese coming up, just a bit of a hint, our next episode has a bit of cheese. Looking forward to that, I like me a good cheese.

Sylvain Charlebois  40:52

From our friends from like Dallas, right?

Michael LeBlanc  40:54

That's right,, which is their direct-to-consumer site and Lactalis together.

Sylvain Charlebois  41:00


Michael LeBlanc  41:00

But you'll see some very good, niche flavor. Anyway, enough about that. We'll talk about that next episode. For now. If you like what you heard, you can subscribe on Apple, iTunes, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform please rate and review, be sure to recommend to a friend or colleague in the grocery food service or restaurant industry. I'm Michael LeBlanc, producer and host of The Voice of Retail podcast and a bunch of other stuff.

Sylvain Charlebois  41:24

I'm the Food Professor, Sylvain Charlebois

Michael LeBlanc  41:26

Sylvain, have a great week. Enjoy your beverage, perhaps later in the week as well and I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Sylvain Charlebois  41:34

Take care, Michael


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