The Food Professor

Live at Canadian Grand Prix New Product Awards with Darell Jones, President Save-On-Foods, Margaret Hudson, CEO Burnbrae Farms & Friends

Episode Summary

This episode is recored live at the Canadian Grand Prix New Product Awards 2022 in Toronto June 1st with very special guest Darell Jones, President Save-On-Foods, Margaret Hudson, CEO Burnbrae Farms, Michael Graydon, CEO at Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada, the one and only Jim Slomka (episode picture credit to Jim!), and Errol Cerit, SVP FHCP.

Episode Notes

This episode is recored live at the Canadian Grand Prix New Product Awards 2022 in Toronto June 1st with very special guest Darell Jones, President Save-On-Foods, Margaret Hudson, CEO Burnbrae Farms, Michael Graydon, CEO at Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada, the one and only Jim Slomka (episode picture credit to Jim!), and Errol Cerit, SVP FHCP. 

We take the opportunity to congratulate and then chat with the CGP Lifetime Achievement Award Winners Darrell and Margaret, learn a bit more about them and their respective businesses and tap into their insights on the state of the food and grocery industry. 

We also talk about food inflation, the state of palm oil, countries rationalizing their food supply, food inflation, automation and much more in this extended episode, our last live episode until the early fall.  

To see the Finalists in the Canadian Grand Prix, and to see who took home the hardware click here. 


About Us

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is a Professor in food distribution and policy in the Faculties of Management and Agriculture at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He is also the Senior Director of the Agri-food Analytics Lab, also located at Dalhousie University. Before joining Dalhousie, he was affiliated with the University of Guelph’s Arrell Food Institute, which he co-founded. Known as “The Food Professor”, his current research interest lies in the broad area of food distribution, security and safety. Google Scholar ranks him as one of the world's most cited scholars in food supply chain management, food value chains and traceability.

He has authored five books on global food systems, his most recent one published in 2017 by Wiley-Blackwell entitled “Food Safety, Risk Intelligence and Benchmarking”. He has also published over 500 peer-reviewed journal articles in several academic publications. Furthermore, his research has been featured in several newspapers and media groups, including The Lancet, The Economist, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BBC, NBC, ABC, Fox News, Foreign Affairs, the Globe & Mail, the National Post and the Toronto Star.

Dr. Charlebois sits on a few company boards, and supports many organizations as a special advisor, including some publicly traded companies. Charlebois is also a member of the Scientific Council of the Business Scientific Institute, based in Luxemburg. Dr. Charlebois is a member of the Global Food Traceability Centre’s Advisory Board based in Washington DC, and a member of the National Scientific Committee of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in Ottawa.

Michael LeBlanc  is the Founder & President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company Inc and a Senior Advisor to Retail Council of Canada as part of his advisory and consulting practice.   He brings 25+ years of brand/retail/marketing & eCommerce leadership experience, and has been on the front lines of retail industry change for his entire career.  Michael is the producer and host of a network of leading podcasts including Canada’s top retail industry podcast,       The Voice of Retail, plus  Global E-Commerce Tech Talks  ,      The Food Professor  with Dr. Sylvain Charlebois and now in its second season, Conversations with CommerceNext!  You can learn more about Michael   here  or on     LinkedIn. 

Be sure and check out Michael's latest adventure for fun and influencer riches - Last Request Barbecue,  his YouTube BBQ cooking channel!


Episode Transcription

Michael LeBlanc  00:04

Welcome to our live episode of The Food Professor podcast so, Sylvain you and I, once again, I should buy lottery tickets. We're live together again in so many weeks (crossover talk), welcome everyone to The Food Professor podcast. We're live from the RCC, Retail Council of Canada Canadian Grand Prix Awards. And we have a very, very special guest with us. Mr. Darell Jones, Save-On-Foods. Welcome. Yes.

Darell Jones  00:27

Yes. Well, thank you so much for having me on The Food Professor show. It's a real pleasure. It's great to be here in Toronto. And we're very excited the great folks at RCC are great people. And it's always great to be involved with anything they have going on. And it's great to see you.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:46

Well, thank you, and, and congratulations on your award. (Crossover talk), well deserved, -

Darell Jones  00:50

Thank you. Well, I was really shocked and surprised, and obviously honored to get the award. You know, there's one thing you learned in 45 years in the grocery business. Awards are won by teams of people, not by individuals. So, I'm pleased to be here to, to accept that on behalf of all of the team members of the Save-On-Foods in The Pattison Food Group because they're the real, they're the real heroes behind you know, everything that, that happens in our companies anyway.

Sylvain Charlebois  01:19

And, and you brought some people on your team here, right? In Toronto, -

Darell Jones  01:22

We did yes, we've got eight of us here. To, to celebrate we also are taking this opportunity to go to Winnipeg and, and take a couple of stops along the way to see some of the stores we haven't seen since COVID kicked in. So, 

Michael LeBlanc  01:35

right, right, right, -

Darell Jones  01:36

we're really excited to actually be back and see people good looking people like you in person.

Sylvain Charlebois  01:42

Now how, how many stores have you opened and say in last five years because II seem from from, from, from outside. Your strategy seems quite aggressive.

Darell Jones  01:51

Well, we have opened, we've opened about 40 stores we've added since the addition of The Pattison Food Group about 80 stores to, to The Pattison Food Group in the last five years. Pattison Food Group is, is a relatively new organization. It used to be a Save-On-Foods. He used to be the Buy-Low Food Group, but we amalgamate them together in 2021 being The Pattison Food Group and we have about 297 stores in Western Canada and United States, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington.

Michael LeBlanc  02:26

I didn't realize the US, now your role has changed over the past couple of years. So, you were at Save-On-Foods? I don't want to say I guess exclusively but now you've got that broader mandate, right?

Darell Jones  02:35

That's right. We was, I was a President of Save-On, Save On Foods, now pr-, President of The Pattison Food Group. And as I said, yes, we, we recently bought stores in Salem, Oregon, and in Vancouver, Washington, which have been a great addition. You know, it's funny grocery people or grocery people, whether they're, whether they're in Winnipeg, Manitoba, whether they're in Salem, Oregon, they're all good, good, good grocery people. So, we're excited to have them join our organization.

Michael LeBlanc  03:01

All right, well, and one thing we didn't say is it's a Lifetime Achievement Award. So, winning an award like that, you, you talked about it, you know, behalf of the people, but for you personally, I mean, it's, it's a lifetime of, of work in an industry and dedication in the industry. So, what does it what does it mean to you is, you know, when you put it on the wall at home and talk about that for a bit? 

Darell Jones  03:19

Yeah, I mean, it, it's obviously it's obviously an extreme honor to be recognized by the Retail Council of Canada. You know, the grocery business is a funny I don't know if it's funny, but, in a ha, ha version, (crossover talk), you know, it's, it's I started in high school in Cranbrook BC, which is a small town, the interior probably, of, of, of British Columbia that probably most people don't know of it, except that Steve Izerman and, and the Niedermeyer’s came from here, (crossover talk), hockey, people know us but not, not much beyond that. Anyway, I started there, and you start in the grocery business, and you discover how fantast-, how, how fantastic the people are, and how engaging the business is. And I liken it to, to catching a fever that won't go away. It's just something that you love, and you stick with, (crossover talk), and I never left. 


Michael LeBlanc  04:06

And sometimes it's described retail is described as the accidental career, right? People kind of fall into it a little bit. Some people you grew up in it basically right, -


Darell Jones  04:13

yeah. And I was planning to go to university and, and become a teacher. And you know, that's what I told my mother and I had to explain to her along the way why that didn't happen. But it's ended up to be to be just great. But I was extra fortunate in that I, I went to work for the for the Jim Pattison Group, which is a privately held company and they promote pretty much strictly from within the organization itself. So, you could say that, that I had the reason how I'm here as a serie-, I always consider myself as a series of lucky breaks,

Michael LeBlanc  04:44

right. And the harder you work the luckier you get, (crossover talk), -

Darell Jones  04:48

Well, sometimes, sometimes that's the case. Yes, you, you work hard, and you make a little bit of luck for yourself. But you know if I'm, I'm very, very proud of, of where we were able to take the company and very, very proud of the people that took us there But, you know, I don't, I don't think in retail business or in any business, you can spend too much time thinking about how you got there, you almost think about where we're going to go to next. And, and always about the people that got you there and how, how you can make sure we have 30,000 people now in our company.

Michael LeBlanc  05:18

Wow, wow, -

Darell Jones  05:19

So, every day I think about we can't make any mistakes. So, there's 30,000 people are counting on us for their, for their paychecks every month. 

Sylvain Charlebois  05:26

Do you still consider, I mean, 30,000 people? That's a lot of people. Do you still consider yourself as an independent grocer?

Darell Jones  05:33

Oh, absolutely. We're independent because we have one owner, and he supports us. So, we don't we're not publicly, (crossover talk),-

Michael LeBlanc  05:41

Great Canadian entrepreneur, by the way, like Jim Pattison. I mean, you know, he's a legend. He's a legend.

Darell Jones  05:46

I, I think that's, that's absolutely an accurate statement. He is alleged to have the largest privately held company in Canada. And, and I want you guys to know, he gives most everything he makes to charities, (crossover talk), he, he really, he really takes, takes nothing for him and his family. So, it's something very special. something I'm very proud of, -

Sylvain Charlebois  06:07

For people listening in. Who may not know much about Save-On-Foods, how would you describe your company? (Crossover talk), culture, what you're all about?

Michael LeBlanc  06:12

Or even walking in the store, right? So, when I, when I walk in the store if I'm sitting in the middle of a typical Save-On what, what do I what am I looking at what, what stands out?

Darell Jones  06:12

We have 11 different banners. 

Michael LeBlanc  06:12


Darell Jones  06:13

So, it depends which, which store you step into, but Save-On-Foods, which are by far the largest, each step into a store that I think you'd see is, is mo-, is modern with lots of amenities, wing bar and a tacoria in many cases. So, something pizza, all those sorts of things. And obviously great fresh produce, a service meat case where you can get your Ahi tuna cut. If you're on the seafood side, or, or, -

Michael LeBlanc  06:57

A of ribs. Did you see, have you seen our show yet? Sylvain and I have a barbecue show? 

Sylvain Charlebois  07:02

That's right. 

Michael LeBlanc  07:03

And we cook last week, we made the Guru ribs with organic guru, organic energy drink ribs.

Darell Jones  07:09

sounds fantastic, -

Michael LeBlanc  07:10

and the week before we made pulled pork poutine because he wrote the book on poutine. So, we did a pull pork poutine, (crossover talk), -

Darell Jones  07:18

So, I love poutine. Have you ever heard of Newfie Poutine? Oh, yeah, Newfie. Poutine, I got to tell you about Newfie Poutine because I never heard of it before. And this by the way, this isn't a knock to the folks from Newfoundland. This is what they call it. What is, -

Sylvain Charlebois  07:31

It's Newfie Poutine?

Darell Jones  07:33

That's what they call it, Newfie Poutine, (crossover talk).  But what it is, is it's obviously french-fries that you that you get. And but it's turkey gravy and turkey and stuffing and turkey stuffing, and then the cheese curds and the, and the turkey gravy on top. the stuffing is kind of the, the magic, - 

Michael LeBlanc  07:56

it takes us to the next level, (crossover talk), I like that. 

Darell Jones7:57

Oh, no, no, no question. But I'd have heart paddles.

Michael LeBlanc  08:02

So, we handed out CPR manuals, (crossover talk), -

Darell Jones  08:04

Because I don't think it's very good for you.

Michael LeBlanc  08:05

We had CPR manuals after we cooked it.

Michael LeBlanc  08:07

Anyway, I was up in Fort Mac and, and they and they said what Darrell, we have to take you to get some Newfie Poutine, (crossover talk). It was it was it was fantastic. So, you guys are not only are you you're also like, like the galloping gourmets of the grocery business.

Michael LeBlanc  08:23

and Tik Tokers, (crossover talk). And, you know, they were Tik Tokers. But anyway, enough about us.

Darell Jones  08:28

Okay, (crossover talk), -

Sylvain Charlebois  08:30

That's right, -

Michael LeBlanc  08:30

Last kind of last question for you. So, it's not a history lesson. But we've been through this COVID era, (crossover talk), and, and sitting looking reflecting back on it, what do you, what do you lessons did you take away? And, and in what ways if any, did it kind of ca-, structurally change the grocery business? Like have you reflected on that? I mean, we're not quite out of it. But (crossover talk), we're past the worst part. We hope, you know, -

Darell Jones  08:51

I am certainly hope we're past the worst of it. Look I know two or three really, really big things. One, one that amazed me. It amazed me how great our people where I know we talked about people before, but you got to imagine COVID Nobody knows this going on. Yeah, we put the things up there are people came in and I mean, we, we never close the store. We never had to lessen our hours, or people came in, (crossover talk), at and, and, and, and they, they were real her-, real heroes as far as I'm concerned. So, that part was amazing. And that made me even more certain about how great and important people are. That was one big win. 

Darell Jones  09:16

The second was that we were all that we started in the eCommerce business a little bit sooner than some of the other players and, and ours is a little bit different. As we, we pick our own groceries. We have our own delivery vans. We, well, -

Michael LeBlanc  09:40

you pick you pick from the store or you (crossover talk), -

Darell Jones  09:42

No, we pick them in the store. We deliver them in the vans from our locations as well as click and collect and it was, we were overwhelmed. In fact, it shut it shut us down for the first three or four days. 

Michael LeBlanc  09:55

Too much, too much, right -, 

Darell Jones  09:55

oh yeah, just too much, (crossover talk), -. But the people but how could critical that was and, and we were we were doing business eCommerce business double what the national average for, - 

Michael LeBlanc  10:08

(Crossover talk), you came into it already well advanced?

Darell Jones  10:10

Yes, we did. And, and I and you know it's maintained, of course it's gone down since the peak. But, but that's the one thing that amazed me how quickly people, you know jumped on board and, and, and you know and made all that happen. So, that was another big that was another really big win for us, and I think the final one was that the people were very appreciative of anything that you could do to help them through that. And I think that was that was critically important. It was it was a very difficult time for a lot of people. 

Darell Jones  10:42

And I think I think the lingering effects on people's psych-, psyche and mental health are going to be around for a while it's going to leave a mark for everybody, - 

Michael LeBlanc  10:42


Michael LeBlanc  10:53

It's going to stick around. 

Darell Jones  10:54

And I think the and, and in retrospect, there was some awfully odd things done, like the governments in some provinces made you put ropes up so you couldn't go into part of the stores? They wouldn't let us sell flowers. I mean, I think I think our governments and those folks should probably reflect as well.

Michael LeBlanc  11:15

What, what grade would you, since we have a professor here, what grade? If you were a professor, how would you grade the provincial government's response on a F to an A+? What would you say, collectively? 

Sylvain Charlebois  11:27

Well, provinces as an aggregate because you're in province, (crossover talk), -

Darell Jones  11:31

Look, I, I think I'd like to, I'd like to start on this premise. I don't think as great as socialized medicine is for Canada. And I think it's a fantastic thing. I think what the government should learn from this, they have, they have not given enough money, time and effort into our hospitals into having the right things in place. They didn't have the PPP in place, they didn't have a number of things in place. So, I would say from that perspective, there's probably a lot of should probably be looking a lot of back and, and you know, and, and really reflecting on that. I think that the individuals within the, the, the hospitals did a fantastic job. The government's, it was really best to say, -

Michael LeBlanc  12:17

a mixed bag, - 

Michael LeBlanc  12:21

Well, I mean, I mean, I know for the Retail Council of Canada, we you know, Dianne and the team spent a lot of time explaining unintended consequences, right? 

Darell Jones  12:26

Yes, -

Darell Jones  12:27

but it's a mixed bag.

Michael LeBlanc  12:27

you're going to do this, but you're actually going to cause these three or four issues. But on the whole, you know, listen, we came out of it, -

Darell Jones  12:33

So, one thing I wanted to add, that I think was very well done, but if you don't mind, then we certainly (inaudible). 

Darell Jones  12:38

And that is, I'll give the, the Government of British Columbia credit for this, Julie, who, you know, who, you know, when and met, Julie, and, and some other influential people within the food industry, spoke almost daily to the Government. And before they did anything really boneheaded. We told them why it wasn't a very good idea. And to their credit, most of them listened, (crossover talk), most of the time. So, I think we fared better, maybe in BC, than some of the other provinces, simply because the, to the to the government's credit, they, they paid attention, and, -

Michael LeBlanc  12:38

Yeah, yeah, -

Michael LeBlanc  13:19

and you were pretty clear in, in your communication with them, right? Because that's also absolutely piece of it, right? Is, is a clear, listen, let's not, you know, let's not fear monger, let's not, (crossover talk), but this is what this decision could cause. And -

Darell Jones  13:33

that's it exactly you would say, if you want to do this fine. Here's what we think the consequences are going to do it (crossover talk), They said, (crossover talk), will look very good I said, then then I wouldn't do that. Because the, the potential downside is, is much better than any potential upside. 

Michael LeBlanc  13:46

Right. Right.

Sylvain Charlebois  13:47

You could tell that some provinces were listening as much as say BC, for sure, -

Darell Jones  13:51

Yes, yeah, I think that I think that's true. 

Sylvain Charlebois  13:53

Oh yeah, -

Darell Jones  13:54

And that impacted a lot of people. Maybe, maybe it didn't have to impact them the same way. Although I'm not. I'm not here to criticize, -

Michael LeBlanc  14:03

the after-show quarterback. (Crossover talk), we're not here for a history lesson, either. right? So, but let's talk about the future. So, what's, what's next for The Pattison Food Group and you? (crossover talk), and in the last minute, and then you've got to get fetted. Can I say fetted? Is that's a good that's a word, -

Darell Jones  14:04

Yeah, oh yeah, absolutely. Well, I, I think I think, you know, I think the future for us is going to be bright, you know, we're going to continue to grow we'll, we'll grow in Western Canada. We particularly want to grow our pharmacy business, which is we bought a drug distribution company a couple of years ago. So, we wanted to really grow that business because that is that is truly the, the inflation proof business of all time. I think the next 18 to 24 months with inflation are going to be tumultuous in the in the food business. You know, all that money was pumped in and so I think but, but if, but if you look at the future of the next three to five years, it's fantastic. 

Darell Jones  14:59

We live in the greatest country in the world. And we've got the greatest people. So, I see nothing but, but really great things. We will grow a bit in the states, we'll grow and will grow in the west and take the best care possible. And a big thing for us we're going to continue to focus on local because local is very important, local farmers, local growers 

Sylvain Charlebois  15:20

Do you see that in your stores?

Darell Jones  15:21

Yes. Big in our stores. Very important. And is there times if times get tough, our focus on, on local needs to be all the more, all the more important, 

Darell Jones  15:29

Help that, help that economy that you're, that you're living and working in, right?

Darell Jones  15:32

Exactly, exactly and those folks are the folks who shop in your shop in our stores and, and that's really critic-, critical for us and we're big believers in, in (crossover talk), buying local.

Michael LeBlanc  15:42

Well listen, we could talk to you for hours about this. Thanks so much for joining us on the podcast. 

Michael LeBlanc  15:46

Michael, my pleasure. And thanks for being, -

Sylvain Charlebois  15:47

(Crossover talk), thank you and congratulations, again, - 

Michael LeBlanc  15:48

You are such a great leader in the industry. Such a principled leader, you're, you're really setting the tone. So, an award richly deserved. So, congratulations again on the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Darell Jones  15:57

Thank you so much. And thank you for having me on the podcast. It's a real honor. 

Michael LeBlanc  15:58

Thank you, all right, -

Darell Jones  15:59

have a great day, fellas.

Michael LeBlanc  15:59

(Crossover talk), So, I'd like to welcome our guest Margaret Hudson from Burnbrae eggs or Burnbrae Farms. (crossover talk), The second time on our podcast, we're graced with your presence. And congratulations, you're here as a Lifetime Achievement Award.  You're just racking up the hardware, 

Michael LeBlanc  16:17

in what way you just got another award last year,

Sylvain Charlebois  16:19

Bravo, -

Michael LeBlanc  16:20

The golden pencil, you're racking up the hardware, what's going on, -

Sylvain Charlebois  16:20

So, the golden, the golden pencil,

Margaret Hudson  16:24

my dad and I were also inducted into the Grocery Business Hall of Fame.

Michael LeBlanc  16:28

man you run out of award, you're running out of awards to win,-

Sylvain Charlebois  16:31

goodness, your wall is running out of space.

Michael LeBlanc  16:35

You're running out of awards. Well, listen, thanks for joining us, - 

Sylvain Charlebois  16:37

(Crossover talk) Are you surprised by all these praises? Are you, are you shocked? How do you feel?

Margaret Hudson  16:40

I feel really it is surprising. It's been fantastic. But it's, it's a, it's very humbling. I mean, there's a lot of greats that have come before and you never really feel quite worthy. So, it's great to receive the recognition. And, -

Michael LeBlanc  16:58

tell us a little bit about for the folks who didn't hear the first interview, tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about Burnbrae. And then we just want to talk for a bit we're going to talk for 10 to 15 minutes, but tell us about yourself and, and the business you run.

Margaret Hudson  17:09

Yeah, so, I'm Margaret Hudson, and my family owns Burnbrae Farms and I'm the President and CEO, I'm a fourth-generation egg farmer I grew up on a chicken farm. And but I'm also one of the owners of, of Burnbrae. And, uh, you know, I've been in the egg business all my life. I've been working for the family business full time, for 32 years now.

Michael LeBlanc  17:34


Margaret Hudson  17:34

So, I started, (crossover talk), -

Michael LeBlanc  17:35

What did you start, what did you when you were 10 (inaudible), -

Margaret Hudson  17:37

I was still in university, and my dad recruited me on my third-year summer and I never left so I finished my degree and went to full time, -

Sylvain Charlebois  17:45

How many Avian Flus have you gone through? - 

Margaret Hudson   17:48

this is our second one, (crossover talk), for me. I actually don't, where I've managed through it. I, I think that's more than that for the businesses since I've been in it. But um, but we, we went through this in 2015 and now and now again.

Sylvain Charlebois  18:00

So, how, how, how are things at Burnbrae?

Margaret Hudson  18:03

you know, it's, it's a very challenging time for our industry. It's, it's, as soon as you get when that Avian Influenza, it starts like in Europe, like overseas, and then you fear about cases, it starts in the south of North America, you start to turn up your biosecurity, right, you, you, you start to really because as soon as, (crossover talk). So, no

Sylvain Charlebois  18:23

and biosecurity measures in Canada are very strong, -

Margaret Hudson  18:25

they are strong, but if you allow birds outside access as we do with your free-range facilities, -

Michael LeBlanc  18:30

Oh, I see, -

Margaret Hudson  18:31

you know, you're you, (crossover talk), -

Michael LeBlanc  18:32

anybody can drop by right anybody can drop by, (crossover talk), -.

Margaret Hudson  18:34

And also, we do heighten you know, our we increase our protocols during Avian Influenza, like take a lot more measures, our drivers because they go to different farms will wear, you know, more protection, you sanitize the, the wheels of the vehicle. 

Michael LeBlanc  18:51

Oh, really, -

Margaret Hudson  18:52

There's just a lot more precautions. We did have a launch event for our solar field inland, which we were planning and then we cancelled it because of the in-, influenza. So, you do reduce individuals coming into your facility. So, you, -

Michael LeBlanc  19:07

let me take you back a couple of steps, though. You are a Lifetime Achievement Award winner, it's another piece of hardware, what does it mean to kind of get this award? And yeah, you know, is it a big deal for you and the team and talk about that for a bit.?

Margaret Hudson  19:18

It's a very big deal. It's a great honor. And it really means a lot, especially now, because as you described, you know, the team is tired, we've been going through successive challenges after challenges and you know, you have, you know, the pandemic and then that results in packaging and shortages, supply chain issues. And then you know, we had floods and fires out in BC and you layer on top of that, the labor crisis and, and now for our industry, Avian Influenza, it just seems to be, it's a lot. 

Michael LeBlanc  19:54

One thing I remember from our first conversation, you had the, the eggs you didn't have the packaging like it was always one thing or another, right?

Margaret Hudson   15:59

Exactly, - 

Michael LeBlanc   16:00

So to speak, the chicken and an egg of the problem, right? You, you are running into (inaudible). So, it's a, it's a great achievement for you, -

Margaret Hudson  20:06

it's exciting to have something to celebrate in the middle of all of this, it really gives you lots of great reasons to celebrate. And it's great for, you know, our, our company, it's great for our profile in the industry. It's great. It's just amazing. 

Sylvain Charlebois  20:21

and this award comes from retailers. So, so, talk to us about your relationship with retailers, you know, what it means to you to get a reward from retailers across the country.

Margaret Hudson  20:32

That's it's a really big deal to be recognized by your peers to be recognized by your customers. I've been visiting retail customers since I was in university, (crossover talk). My dad used to take me with him to go on our famous holiday egg delivery. I take them all doubled yolk. So, I started very early on and my dad really from the very beginning, had me going with him into visit retailer from a very like early in my career. So, I have a long-standing relationship. I've, I've been dealing with them for decades and, -

Michael LeBlanc  21:04

so much respect, there's so much respect for you in, in the market. And, and let's, let's talk about the industry for a little bit. So, you've been part of the industry for decades, as, as you reflect on the COVID era, particularly the times we're in do you see any structural changes in your discussions with grocers? Like are consumer shopping different or are they buying different? Are they approaching things differently? More you know, are they looking for more value more quality? You know, anything you can anything that jumps out at you?

Margaret Hudson  22:18

Well, one big thing that jumps out and I do sit on the GS1 board, you know, (inaudible). So, the whole pivot to online and I think that was a real push to get people into online. So, and the quality of your information to the retailer is very important because if they are going to sell things online then you, you know, it needs to be good quality data that you are providing them so, I think that's probably something that has happened that will stick. Certainly, we sell both food service and retail so, we definitely saw a decline in our food service business and a rise in retail and it was that growth, sudden growth in retail that meant that we ran out of egg packaging, (crossover talk), in North America. So, now you know bigger formats seems, seems to be sticking with our retailers and, -

Michael LeBlanc  22:21

Burnbrae eggs and in that nice pack you've got the 24, right, that you, you know separated you got 12 here, 12 there now let's talk about innovation in your business so is packaging innovation top of mind? I know you got I also want to talk about your format innovation, your cracked eggs, your Sous-Vide Bites we saw we were at your booth at SIAL in Montreal we stopped by, and I talked to some of your people, (crossover talk), -

Sylvain Charlebois  22:38

Did you go to SIAL, did you have your team there, (crossover talk), - 

Michael LeBlanc  22:41

I stopped by almost ate the egg but then it turned out to be rubber, it was a prop. And, and I was like, - 

Sylvain Charlebois  22:49

(crossover talk), and you grabbed barely anything, -

Michael LeBlanc  22:51

It is, is funny because they were they were looking at something else. I'm like, oh, I'm going to try one of these food bites oh my god this all right, this isn't really, no, don't, don't eat that. It was pretty funny. But you know, like I think about eCommerce and your product and all products. You know, the standard format of packaging to retail is not amenable always to eCommerce. So, talk about what innovation looks like at, at that Burnbrae Farms.

Margaret Hudson  23:11

Innovation. Well, I you know, I in terms of some of the things we're working on, I'm really not at, at liberty to discuss, (crossover talk), but certainly, you know, if, if more and more packaging our products are going to be purchased through you know, delivery then, then that is an area for probably where (crossover talk), our industry to do some work. So, to make sure that those eggs can make it to the consumer, you know, in good shape through on, you know, through a delivery format. It's funny because if you think way back like we used to, used to be a milkman an egg man, and even when I was little there still was a guy who delivered coffee to our home. It's interesting. It's interesting and, and what a lot of the Toronto, (crossover talk), -

Michael LeBlanc  23:53

That's Uber Eats now though, though, you get a Starbucks, right to your door. (Crossover talk), - 

Margaret Hudson  23:57

But if you think about it, a lot of the houses were built with these little boxes, you know that so the groceries or the milk or the eggs could go in the box and then it would stay chilled in there like a lot of the older homes have that so it's I always say it's, back to the future, back to the future with home delivery. Back to the future even with the egg industry with people moving into like our, our, my dad started on the range more pasture raised. You know, things moved inside for animal welfare reasons, poultry got moved inside to avoid disease risks to avoid the elements to avoid predators. And now you know, consumers want to know that their chickens have outdoor access. So, we're moving back into, (crossover talk), -

Sylvain Charlebois  24:36

So, you're, you're feeling that animal welfare pressure at the business?

Margaret Hudson  24:40

Oh, it's been there for some time now, (crossover talk), and we've definitely been adapting all of our systems. The whole industry is shifting away from you know, the conventional housing and, and we've certainly been going at rates. We launched free-run eggs over 20 years ago it was 1998 that we launched free-run or more open (crossover talk), - 

Michael LeBlanc  25:02

you we're ahead of market, you're way ahead of the market.

Margaret Hudson  25:04

We we're way ahead, - 

Michael LeBlanc   25:05

I mean, you, you developed a brand and we talked about this in the first episode, there's very few brands of eggs, right, that people go out looking for you're like very distinct in that. So, it's, it's really been a lot of hard work and innovation is I think at the core of that, because I look at my grocery shelf, I see lots of cracked egg solutions. And I like the quiche, the quiche with the spicy quiche with the meat. I make those all the time in the microwave. So, it's fantastic. Is that do you see, you know, there's a lot of innovation happening in your category. There's some plant-based competitors. There's a couple actually nominated tonight. Are they kind of encroaching? Are you, how do you see them just growing the category of egg consumption or they're not eggs? But how do you see the plant-based egg products?

Margaret Hudson  25:13

It's, it's interesting. We've certainly, you know, are taking have been taking a look at that. I would say that there's more to an egg than just you know, they talk about protein. Even though the mung bean is missing two of the essential amino acids, -

Michael LeBlanc  26:00

and it's the mung, it's a mung bean that is the central ingredient in most of these, (crossover talk), plant-based eggs, right? 

Margaret Hudson  26:01

Yeah, and many beans are missing at least one, two essential amino acids. There's only nine like you can't be missing any they're critical to bone or to muscle to organ, to hormones like so I, I do feel that having that perfect protein that's found in an egg is critical. If people are worried about you know, resource use chickens, it's like two pounds of feed one pound of eggs. There's no more efficient way to get protein than through an egg or milk. And, and when you eat an egg, you get a lot more nutrients like you're getting choline, folic acid, vitamin B12. You're getting all of DHA, Omega 3, fatty acids, you're getting all of these things that you don't get from eating, - 

Michael LeBlanc  26:48

It's perfect food and it's been around for a long time (crossover talk), now we've, we've tied you up for a few minutes. We just wanted to congratulate you in person, you're such a leader, such principled leader and such an inspiration to the industry. So, we get to fete you again. we said we came up with that word we fete, celebrate you.

Sylvain Charlebois  27:04

But Margaret had a lot prepared. So, I don't know if there's anything else that you would like to say, -

Michael LeBlanc  27:10

(Crossover talk), If there's anything else you want to say, (crossover talk), -

Sylvain Charlebois  27:11

Michael will bombard you with questions, but, - 

Margaret Hudson  27:13

No, it's all good. 

Sylvain Charlebois  27:14

Yeah. Okay, good, -

Michael LeBlanc  27:15

it's all good. All right. Well, thank, (crossover talk),  -

Sylvain Charlebois  27:16

Take it all, take it all in, -

Michael LeBlanc  27:17

take it all in, -

Margaret Hudson  27:19

Just thank you so much for you know, recognizing me, congratulating me. (crossover talk), and I really appreciate spending some time you guys.

Sylvain Charlebois  27:26

We invite you every time you win an award, we invite you so, I'll see you next week. 

Margaret Hudson  27:33

So, much fun, thank you so much, (crossover talk), . 

Sylvain Charlebois  27:36

two great guests to start, start things off tonight.  (Crossover talk), So, and we're going to invite, how do you want to work this? So, this is the red-carpet folks, -

Michael LeBlanc  27:45

Yeah, you can see it behind us the red carpet is out, -

Sylvain Charlebois  27:48

they can see, - 

Michael LeBlanc  27:49

Oh, yeah, they can see a little bit the red carpet right back there, red carpet. Well, I thought what we do is kind of just chit and chat about, his is our last, live episode for the summer. Lots of bonus episodes to come with actually people (crossover talk), from Canadian Grand Prix, and also from SIAL, I started lots of bonus episodes from SIAL, (crossover talk), I thought we'd kind of hit the high notes of what what's on your mind right now and for the rest of the summer kind of thing. So, you know, what did we got it covered Avian Flu. You were on the stage today, - 

Sylvain Charlebois  28:17

You could tell that Margaret, I mean that her business is under a lot of pressure and now with the Avian Flu. So, that's why I had to ask the question. I mean, how you doing? Because I know. I mean, just yesterday, I was actually talking to (inaudible) And there are done for a w-, a year. All ducks are gone (inaudible), same thing in Ontario done for a year. So, they lost all their genetics, everything. Yeah. So, Feds out to come in or they're out.  So, so, with, with so a business-like market, vertically integrated, very well organized. I got to tell you, I mean, these, these folks know how to handle biosecurity. So, I'm not too concerned. Of course, it's going to hit them hard, but they can recover very quickly in a matter of weeks, perhaps a couple of months. So, they'll, they'll be fine. And they, - 

Sylvain Charlebois  28:18

But she said it was your second run of this (crossover talk), the second time, right?

Michael LeBlanc  29:11

right.  Now, you were here at the Regional Council of Canada store conference, this evenings the gala, you were on the stage with Caddle, (crossover talk), this afternoon, dropping some wisdom. Hello, everyone. Hello. People are just coming in, -

Michael LeBlanc  29:21

last big one was in 2015, -

Sylvain Charlebois  29:24

(crossover talk), a lot in coming in right now. 

Michael LeBlanc  29:25

Very good. Coming in for the award ceremony.

Sylvain Charlebois  29:27

So, that was a great, it was a great talk over lunch, and you had lunch while you listened to us, (crossover talk), -

Michael LeBlanc  29:34

watch and learn, it's like a Trying Stuff episode. (crossover talk), -

Sylvain Charlebois  29:39

Colleen Martin, I mean, she's great, dynamite, lots of experience, lots of industry experience. And so, I basically allowed her to take the lead, present some great data, some new data, and I just commented as she was going through the data. So, it was it was great fun, but was basically 20 minutes yesterday at the panel. Again, it was, -

Michael LeBlanc  30:01

you kicked off the whole event on a panel the state of the industry panel.

Sylvain Charlebois  30:06

Yeah. No, I wasn't. Honestly, I, I felt a little bit odd because I'm a food person and RCC is about retail.

Michael LeBlanc  30:16

Well, I yes and no, I mean, and, and for the listeners out there, the panel was supposed to have three people and a moderator and Ira Kalish, Chief Global Economist from Deloitte. He came down with COVID, (crossover talk), in the UK, away from home, traveling, it's funny, because if you tuned in to The Voice of Retail podcast, I interviewed Ira, -

Sylvain Charlebois  30:34

you did, - 

Michael LeBlanc  30:35

on Friday. And one of the things I asked him I said, hey, do you like traveling again? And he says, oh, I love travelling. I should call him up, do you still like traveling Ira? But it, it my point, (crossover talk), that was before his test. Now my point, though, is that the, the idea for the for the panel was a little, let's say, you know, a little more balanced, right? Because -

Sylvain Charlebois  30:52

and, and you're, you're the engineer behind the, - 

Michael LeBlanc  30:55

behind that content, - 

Sylvain Charlebois  30:56

yeah, the whole show. 

Michael LeBlanc  30:57

Yeah, not, not exactly the whole show. But a lot of structure. Yeah, it's part of what I do for Retail Council. I advise them on content, strategy, and stuff and I said, let's kick it off with state. Let's talk about grocery and food. Let's talk about global economics. And let's talk with an analyst from CIBC, Patricia from no, Scotia Bank, - 

Michael LeBlanc  31:15

Patricia Baker, yeah, (crossover talk), she was great.

Michael LeBlanc  31:17

Here's what we look for as organizers during these things. I don't know what you look like when you look into the audience, what I look for, for an engaged audience, people holding up phones, taking pictures. In this case, there wasn't slides and writing notes and the two people on my desk they were writing notes furiously when both of you were speaking, So, - 

Sylvain Charlebois  31:33

I look for tomatoes. Or shoes. Depending on where you are in the world, (crossover talk), -

Michael LeBlanc  31:42

That could be that could be not so good. 

Sylvain Charlebois  31:44

Hey, Michael. 

Michael LeBlanc  31:45

All right, Michael Graydon, -

Sylvain Charlebois  31:47

Come on over, how are you doing, (crossover talk), -

Michael LeBlanc  31:48

Michael. We're live streaming here, (crossover talk), put your headphones on, - 

Sylvain Charlebois  31:53

Put your headphones. 

Michael LeBlanc  31:54

So, we have another returning guest, (crossover talk), We just had Margaret Hudson, another returning guest to the podcast, Michael Graydon, how are you? 

Michael Graydon  31:59

Very good, Michael, you Sylvain, nice to see you, -

Michael Graydon  31:59

Very good, -

Sylvain Charlebois  32:02

another, twofer.

Michael LeBlanc  32:04

Another twofer. So, we're just kind of trolling for guests a little bit here. live, recording the podcast. So, tell, tell the people who you are and what your organization does. And then you've got to be a few of your members here tonight nominated, right?

Michael LeBlanc  32:16

I hope so, sure, -

Sylvain Charlebois  32:17

it's the first time we've seen each other in three years at least. 

Michael Graydon  32:19

three years, I, know it's been craziness. But no, I'm Michael Graydon. I'm the CEO at Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada. And we represent the majority of food health and consumer manufacturers in Canada. So, yes, many of our members are here with the opportunity to win some awards tonight. But more importantly, is the recognition of Margaret Hudson tonight Burnbrae Farms, -

Sylvain Charlebois  32:42

but having you here showing support to our retailers is just great.

Michael Graydon  32:46

You know, it's we work very hard at it. I think, you know, the relationship between retail and manufacturing needs to continue to improve and get better than it has been and maybe get back to places it used to be many, many years ago and that there's a lot of people in the industry working hard to achieve that. So, -

Sylvain Charlebois  33:03

So right now, what's top of mind for you, as CEO? What's, what's really keeping you up at night? We're almost post-COVID, I guess. And so, what's what looking on the, (crossover talk), -

Michael LeBlanc  33:13

I guess, code of conduct is probably up there somewhere.

Michael Graydon  33:16

Right there. I think you know, the thing that's keeping us awake is supply chain, just you now, (crossover talk), product, inflation, labor, -

Michael LeBlanc  33:24

Okay, actually a question about supply chain. So, on a scale of one to five, one being, it's okay, not normal, not pre before time, five being a disaster, like the first couple of weeks of COVID? Where, where do you sit?

Michael Graydon  33:37

I would say it's between three and four. Michael, it's still really, really bad. And if inflation is just, it's getting worse, and you know, we're just, 

Sylvain Charlebois  33:48

it is going to get worse, -

Michael Graydon  33:49

it is, you know, we're, we're just now sort of started the agricultural season and the planting season, you know, here in the province of Ontario, about 70% of what's produced is, is from an agriculture perspective is, is processed by our members. Fertilizer costs are through the roof, diesels through the roof, carbon taxes. So, the input costs are going to go up, remarkably, I think in the fall. So, there's this continued trend of inflation and we're not seeing any relief in, in labor, either from a supply or from a cost perspective as well. So, it's pretty challenging right now.

Sylvain Charlebois  34:28

I'm going put you on the spot. Tomorrow is election day in Ontario. And food processing is a huge sector here in the province. What are your expectations from for the next Government of Ontario?

Michael Graydon  34:39

You know, I think they need to continue to spend a little bit more time and attention on the manufacturing sector that exists here. It's a very significant part of the economic stability of the province of Ontario. I don't think it gets the attention that it deserves. And I think this new government, whichever it is ending up to be, needs to focus on the sustainability of, of manufacturing in this province, and find ways to grow it and not necessarily make some of the larger manufacturers think that repatriating manufacturing capacity to the United States makes sense. Make it worth your while to stay here and employ the 1000s of people that we have employed in this province.

Sylvain Charlebois  35:22

Did we during the campaign, did we talk about food manufacturing at all? 

Michael Graydon  35:26

Not the Conserv-, -

Sylvain Charlebois  35:27

We talked about food security, food affordability.

Michael Graydon  35:30

Yeah, the Conservatives did not to any great extent. The NDP did a little bit and the Liberals a little bit, both of those organizations were came out in positive supportive a code of conduct. We did not hear that in the platform from the Conservatives. But in our discussions within they're supportive in as much that they would like industry to find a solution.

Sylvain Charlebois  35:50

I actually thought I missed it. But they did not include the code in the platform, because I didn't notice that the NDP had it and Liberals as well. 

Michael Graydon  35:59

So, no, it's, it's unfortunate, but I think some of that is they're a little closer to it, because they're actually engaged and participating in the process, either through the Minister of Agriculture and the Federal, Provincial territorial working groups. So, you know, that could be part of the rationale for it, at that stage. But, you know, these are, you know, it's just one piece of the puzzle in regard to getting some stability in the industry, and the code is successful in coming through and we are able to navigate a industry solution, I think it will have an impact on the relationship, I think it's going to have some impact on inflation. And it's going to have some impact and economic cer-, certainty within the manufacturing sector.

Sylvain Charlebois  36:38

Any hopes, in terms of seeing the labor situation improving?

Michael Graydon  36:42

There needs to be a co-operative approach between the federal government and provincial government, we just need faster opportunities to bring foreign temporary workers into the marketplace. But there needs to be a strong focus in regard to economic immigration in this country. You know, we've got 30,000 plus vacant positions within food and consumer goods manufacturing, 

Michael LeBlanc  37:06

30,000, 30,000, -

Michael Graydon  37:07

30,000 across the country. So, it's challenging, and that's growing, unfortunately, and not slowing down. So, it makes it very difficult for organizations, one to keep pace with the demands of the consumer and the retailers but two, to keep pace with costs, because you continue to need to increase your wages to retain the people that you've got and attract new, you know, there's only so much from a margin perspective that people can absorb before it has to be passed on to the consumer and, and that, that is included with retail, you work in a retail store today. There are not stacking shops as often as they use to, there's not many people on the floor, transitioning to self-checkout. It's a solution around a labor problem that exists in this country, people don't want to do these jobs. 

Sylvain Charlebois  37:53


Michael LeBlanc  37:55

and Sylvain, you've often talked about technologies, as, as, (inaudible), - 

Sylvain Charlebois  37:58

Well, at lunch, that's what we talked about a lot. I mean, we have to accept the fact that automation and robotics are part of the future. I mean, at some point, and then many of your members are looking at automation much more, much more seriously now than just two years ago. 

Michael Graydon  38:14

They, they have to the challenge, though, Sylvain, Michael, is that there is a significant capital cost to that. And you need economic stability and an economic certainty before those sorts of levels of capital investment are made, -

Sylvain Charlebois  38:29

Just to buy those investments. 

Michael Graydon  38:30

Yeah. And so, until there's a little bit more certainty in regard to the relationship with retail, the attitudes towards the government around taxation as it relates to capital investment and innovation, people are going to hold back a little bit, but it's not an overnight solution. These things take time. They're very costly, and, and while I think they are a good solution, to a certain extent, having people on the floor still is an important aspect of a manufacturing process and still required. Maybe it's just an adjustment of how those jobs are executed. They're more skilled, with more skilled traditionally comes higher pay, which is good for the economy. So, some circular components to all of this as well.

Michael LeBlanc  39:14

Well, listen, we're keeping you we're between you and cocktails. So, thanks so much for joining us kind of ad hoc. It's wonderful to see you in person, -

Michael Graydon  39:20

good to see you, good to see you both in person, -

Sylvain Charlebois  39:22

(crossover talk), You are good at Improv, Take care, Michael,

Michael LeBlanc  39:26

a nice visit from, -

Sylvain Charlebois  39:27

Michael Graydon.

Michael LeBlanc  39:28

That was Michael Graydon, Michael Graydon visiting is live on the podcast. So, so, yeah, you talked about technology today. Anything else like so we're going into the summer now and we're just going to riff here a little bit and, and you're going we're going into the sum-, what's on your mind as you're go into the summer. We're going to reconvene back in September. But you know, what would you leave the listeners with? I mean, I'm sure they're going to see you on TV once or twice, but what's on your mind for the foreseeable future? 

Sylvain Charlebois  39:55

I must say, I mean, I have to echo some of the comments that we just heard from Uh, from Michael and Margaret, I mean, input costs are a problem. Inflation is a problem. I think we're just seeing right now, the evolution of, of the perfect playbook to a food crisis around the world. And I'm not I'm not I'm, I'm picking my words very carefully here. You know, you had you have climate change, a pandemic, the pandemic really weakened supply chains around the world, then you have the war, the war just makes commodities even more expensive. 

Sylvain Charlebois  40:32

And then finally, you have countries hoarding, India, did it wtih sugar four days ago, yesterday was Malaysia with chicken. Last week it was India again with meat. There's going to be more Michael, I'm going to be looking for those kinds of things, because the governments will get nervous.

Michael LeBlanc  40:52

How are you feeling about cooking oil? You seem, I, I thought you were a little optimistic. Because was it Indonesia that kind of pulled back on some of their constraints? Or did I, -

Sylvain Charlebois  41:02

Yeah, palm oil, -

Michael LeBlanc  41:05

Because we need more palm, palmitic acid, (crossover talk), -

Sylvain Charlebois  41:07

Yeah, I, I know a lot of a lot of people are concerned about the environmental, you know, value of palm oil. But the reality is that palm oil is the cheapest vegetable oil in the world, -

Michael LeBlanc  41:18

which I had no idea of like, it's funny. I, I knew it as like Nutella. But I didn't understand its full scope and scale for the rest of the economy, (crossover talk), - 

Michael LeBlanc  41:18

I mean, it's in the tub, because it's cheap, 

Michael LeBlanc  41:28

right, right, right, -

Sylvain Charlebois  41:29

Yeah. And palm oil isn't everything. You know, it's in everything if you look, margarine and everything. And so, why? Because it's a cheap ingredient. And it, it doesn't, it, it, it allows food scientists to give it any flavor they want, (crossover talk). So, it's very easy to work with.

Michael LeBlanc  41:46

What would you what would you call it? It's not food (inaudible), It's a good vector. 

Sylvain Charlebois  41:49

Exactly. (crossover talk), -

Michael LeBlanc  41:50

That, that would be great.

Sylvain Charlebois  41:51

It's a filler, a good vector. It adapts very well to any sort of, I guess, cocktail of ingredients, I guess, the depending of what you want to create. So, that's why really, that was a big blow. They did announce that they were exploring again, but it is Indonesia. So, nobody's really sure what the announcement meant. So, it is what it is. Because you have got to give government's credit for going public and saying we're, we’re issuing an embargo on this product is being exported, like Malaysia yesterday with chicken. They, they are, they're honest, they're open, they did it. But a lot of countries out there right now are hoarding without saying anything, -

Michael LeBlanc  42:00

What are you hearing from farmers in terms of planting? Because we're in the middle of planting season? What are you hearing?

Michael LeBlanc  42:34

Interesting, interesting, -

Sylvain Charlebois  42:35

you know, and that would be I hate to say that, but that would be China's style, you know, for example. But China has reserves, Ukraine has reserves too, - 

Michael LeBlanc  42:45

they just can't get them in the water, right? I mean, - 

Sylvain Charlebois  42:46

Yeah, and the Kremlin this week actually did announce that they're, they could allow the support to reopen to actually get that those reserves out. But when you look at the future market, futures for wheat went up, it means nobody, nobody believes the Kremlin.

Sylvain Charlebois  43:08

That's tough, I mean, planting season is, is the most expensive in history.

Michael LeBlanc  43:13

The most expensive in history. 

Sylvain Charlebois  43:15

Yes, and a lot of people think it's going to be the same next year and so this is tough. So, prices are high, which will motivate farmers to plant. But if you're a low scale farmer, what are you going to do you let's say for example, halfway through harvest, halfway through the season, there's a drought, you got nothing to sell. And you put all that money in the ground. 

Michael LeBlanc  43:40

A lot of risk, right? 

Sylvain Charlebois  43:42

You got lots of risks, so, so a lot of farmers, some farmers unfortunately, did not plant as a result of higher input costs. That's the reality. Hey, Jim, hey, -

Michael LeBlanc  43:51

Hey, Jim, come up (inaudible), can you see if you are going to get picture of us.

Sylvain Charlebois  43:54

He's the legend. Hello, Michael

Jim Slomka  43:55

Hello, Michael and Sylvain, - 

Sylvain Charlebois  43:57

The legend right here, (crossover talk), on our podcast-

Jim Slomka  44:00

I listened to this podcast well a number of times, I actually went online and made sure that I listened to the podcast from SIAL. 

Sylvain Charlebois  44:09

Wow, really? Okay, -

Michael LeBlanc  44:10

Of course, very good. Well, we've got lots of bonuses, -

Sylvain Charlebois  44:12

and I didn't see you at SIAL 

Michael LeBlanc  44:14

I saw the booth. I didn't see you though.

Jim Slomka  44:16

You can't be everywhere. Although Sylvain tries and comes very close. However, I was going to Vancouver for six nights where I joined the COVID club when I was out there, which wasn't the intention. So, again, as you know, both of you guys are very active. There are lots of events in lots of places, including of course tonight. And I think all of us are genuinely excited to be back in the saddle.

Sylvain Charlebois  44:44

Yeah, absolutel. So, just for your listeners, our listeners. This is Jim Slomka from Grocery Business Media.

Jim Slomka  44:52

Sylvain has been a regular contributor for a couple of years now. We very much enjoy having him on the team.

Sylvain Charlebois  44:59

Yeah. well, thank you. Yeah, you know, it's a great magazine that I mean, the, the product itself is so beautiful. 

Michael LeBlanc  45:05

It's first-class, it's first-class, (crossover talk), first-class, - 

Sylvain Charlebois

And it's a pleasure to read for sure. (crossover talk), congratulations.

Jim Slomka  45:08

Thank you. Thank you. It's an exciting business, as you know, and there's no shortage of things, including tonight's Grand Prix Awards. I believe this is my 35th Grand Prix event, - 

Sylvain Charlebois  45:22

35th, wow and can we get an applause?

Jim Slomka  45:27

If anybody's counting out there, they might think that Jim's never bought a meal in his life. You know, this used to be as you guys are well aware, -

Sylvain Charlebois  45:35

Have you ever missed an event? 

Jim Slomka  45:39

You know, listen I'm, I'm, on the back nine of my career. And I chose to continue to work. And I love the business and I love the people. And hopefully I can add value and, and continue to connect the dots and help celebrate my friends in the industry on both sides of the fence. And there's Errol Cerit from FHCP. Do we have, -

Michael LeBlanc  46:01

So, all right, so you, you covered up the GR stuff for Government Affairs,

Errol Cerit  46:06

Industry Affairs to all the work with retailer and with our manufacturers on all the operational commercial fun stuff. And I also head up our membership development events.

Michael LeBlanc  46:16

Fantastic. Fantastic. Well, welcome, -

Errol Cerit  46:18

Lots of Fun, (crossover talk), thank you for having me, -

Sylvain Charlebois  46:20

Errol knows his stuff on policy.

Michael LeBlanc  46:22

So, how do you two guys inter-, interact? Is it discussion on policy? Like, -

Sylvain Charlebois  46:26

we had discussions about the code for a while, I think, yeah, -

Errol Cerit  46:30

At several of our events. Sylvain was speaking on a variety of topics, -

Sylvain Charlebois  46:34

That's right and, I'll be speaking at your event, on June 13, or 14th. Yeah, -

Errol Cerit  46:40

I didn't know this, -

Sylvain Charlebois  46:41

in two weeks, -

Michael LeBlanc  46:42

What's, what's the what's the event? What is it?

Errol Cerit  46:44

A Sales and Marketing symposium. So, back to in person after two years of virtual of course, like everybody else. (crossover talk).  So, yeah, should be fun. A great day to get all the folks together, -

Sylvain Charlebois  46:54

So, I mean, you're the policy junkie. So, what what's top of mind right now? What are the things that you're looking at right now? What's on your radar?

Errol Cerit  47:03

Yeah. I'll speak to more from uh, I think industry in general, not necessarily policy. But I think regardless of, you know, what side of the fence you're on, or where you are in the supply chain, I think two things that are top of mind for every company is inflation and supply chain disruption. Number three, which should be top three, I should have said, is mental health burnout. And those three together I think is occupying, if not 95%, probably 100% of the CEOs time. It's that big of, of a concern. And I think, you know, depending on the company, depending on the category, of course, there's variation. But I think as we project to the end of the year, there's probably more disruption to be had more inflation to be had. And I think it is, a time where, -

Sylvain Charlebois  47:49

it's going to get tougher, - 

Errol Cerit  47:50

it's going to get tougher before it gets better. And I think it just means, 

Errol Cerit  47:53

we have to work closer together, like we did when COVID first hit. This is another crisis. whereas as an industry, we do have to work together to make sure we have products available at affordable prices as much as possible. Focusing on efficiencies collectively. 

Sylvain Charlebois  47:53

everyone knows it, -

Michael LeBlanc  48:08

Right, right. 

Errol Cerit  48:09

So, it's an interesting time in an, -

Sylvain Charlebois  48:10

But your mental health comment is, is, I think, an important one to underscore. Because we often think about, yes, supply chains and inflation, things that are really driving or affecting our businesses, but mental health is affecting people who run our businesses. And you're absolutely right. I think it's after two and a half years, and you know, we just had that Margaret Hudson on about an hour ago. And may-, when you think about eggs, you know, COVID, Avian Flu or influenza. I mean, he's just, just what it just goes on and on and on. And, and a lot of companies are just facing one crisis after another, which is really unprecedented. 

Errol Cerit  48:12

100%, when you don't see a light at the end of the tunnel. I think it just adds to it. And I think events like these help, it brings people together.

Sylvain Charlebois  49:03

Is this your first live event, since COVID? 

Errol Cerit  49:07

No, well, me personally, I was at the CHFA event, (crossover talk), -

Sylvain Charlebois  49:11

All in Vancouver. Okay, yeah, (crossover talk), I missed that one. I was actually at SIAL. (Crossover talk), I did SIAL and I couldn't actually do both, unfortunately. Yeah, we had our podcast at SIAL, -

Errol Cerit  49:21

Oh, that's right, -

Michael LeBlanc  49:22

(crossover talk), we had a great time at SIAL, great hosts very gracious hosts, -

Sylvain Charlebois  49:24

Oh, yes, absolutely. And how and how was the show in Vancouver?

Sylvain Charlebois  49:27

and you participated in that, yeah, -

Errol Cerit  49:27

Great. It was two shows back-to-back. It was a CHFA first and then, (crossover talk), and independent CFIGs annual conference there as well. It was good to have them back-to-back, -

Errol Cerit  49:36

yeah, it was really good. And I think again, it's, it was a great opportunity for people to get out there. And you know, we're all facing the same three issues. And just to talk about how do we work better together on those sometimes you have to get out and talk to people in person first and look him in the eye and have discussions. You know, the virtual, emails, there's just too much of it. So, I really believe these types of things help and I believe over the last two days, some of those relevant speakers and those insights add to it. Now that the weather's getting better as well, right. Hopefully it gives people an opportunity to take the vacation, take a break, (crossover talk), -

Sylvain Charlebois  50:11

But in your to role I'm sure that like hallway discussions, like impromptu meetings and things like that they pay off a lot, which is something you didn't get for two years. Yeah, and, and I get it. Because I, I make my gravy by meeting folks like you telling me what the hell's going on. Because often you have, you know, some information provided by media. But it's not the whole picture. Yeah. So, it's great to see you, -

Errol Cerit  50:40

You too. (crossover talk), Thank you.

Michael LeBlanc  50:42

Nice to meet you. We keep we're, we're between you and cocktails, so, -

Sylvain Charlebois  50:46

That's right. So, (crossover talk), go, go and enjoy and I'll see you later.

Michael LeBlanc  50:49

All right, and we got to get going because we're a sponsor. And we're going to be handing out some hardware to some great to brands, and many of whom I'm going to be interviewing, you're going to be interviewing, we've got some great, had interviews going. So, final thoughts before we kind of I don't want to say not sign up for the summer is still here, but any, any lasting thoughts? I mean, I think we've had a great season together.

Sylvain Charlebois  51:10

Well, we've been working together for two years. But I must say this spring, we, we've been lucky and, and, and frankly spoiled, just because I've been able to see you way more often. We saw each other at a couple of events, we, we did some barbecuing together. It was a lot of fun. And so frankly, I'm very, very grateful to have spent a lot of time with you, in-person. And yeah, this is going to be a great evening too so, we're, we're all about food innovation. And it's always it's going to be nice to see the faces, the people behind innovation. We talk about every single episode.

Sylvain Charlebois  51:24

Yeah, very good. Very good. Well, it's always my pleasure to see you. It's such a treat to do this with you. 

Sylvain Charlebois  51:38

All right, take care, - Thank you. So, listen, we're going to sign off and go give it some hardware. Everybody, enjoy your summer, you'll be hearing from us. But we'll be back in early September, and all of those tuned in to the live stream. Thanks for tuning in. We'll be doing it again because we'll be back together. I think the next time we are together actually is the Coffee Association of Canada. 

Sylvain Charlebois  52:09

That's right. 

Michael LeBlanc  52:10

You and I are going to be together there because I'm podcasting from there. I meant to tell you that, -

Sylvain Charlebois  52:14

you are, -

Michael LeBlanc  52:15

because Robert, (crossover talk), Robert Carter stopped by and we had a good chat at Restaurants Canada and he invited -

Sylvain Charlebois  52:20

He didn't stop by, -

Michael LeBlanc  52:21

he did stop by after (inaudible), if you're if you've been listening to and we sit, we did chit and chat and I said hey, why don't I come there? Arlene Dickinson so we're going to get Arlene on the mic because she is speaking, as well, -

Sylvain Charlebois  52:30

yes, I'm speaking 

Michael LeBlanc  52:32

you're, well you're right. So, once I think that'll be the first time we'll get back together, if not sooner. Coffee, -

Sylvain Charlebois  52:37

I love that show, -

Michael LeBlanc  52:38

I love Coffee. And it's at the Globe and Mail building. If you've and it's, - got so much downtown,

Sylvain Charlebois  52:43

(crossover talk), and it's downtown, -

Michael LeBlanc  52:43

Beautiful venue, beautiful venue.

Sylvain Charlebois  52:45

Because the last time it was here, -

Michael LeBlanc  52:47

It's at the Globe and Mail. It's a beautiful venue, nice views. Anyway, we, we digress. All right, that's our show this The Food Professor podcast. We're available on all major platforms. Stick with us all summer. We'll have bonus episodes from all the great brands, months and months of bonus episodes and content. Thanks for supporting us. Thanks for subscribing. Tell your friends who are in the industry to tune in. And until then, let's pack up and let's go hand out some hardware.

Sylvain Charlebois  53:14



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