The Food Professor

Price Freeze's Big Week, Big Grocery Merger, and Special Guest Yanick Gervais, Olymel's CEO

Episode Summary

Recorded live together in person in Toronto, we start with a retrospect on the past two week discussion around grocery price freezes and key take-aways from all the discourse around the price of food, the people who sell it to consumers, and the people who sell it to the grocers. Our excellent guest interview is with Yanick Gervais, President ad CEO of Olymel, the Canadian leader in producing, processing and marketing pork and poultry meat. We talk about the Kroger and Albertsons proposed merger, spooky halloween research, and Alberta's new premier and their agricultural sector.

Episode Notes

Welcome to The Food Professor Season three, episode 4!

We recoding this episode live together in Toronto at T3 Sheraton hotel - great to be together again in person for the show!  First we start with a retrospect on the past two week discussion around grocery price freezes, and all the energy that went on in the media, industry, and government, and reflecting back on a particularly active week, what Sylvain takes away from all the discourse around the price of food, the people who sell it to consumers, and the people who sell it to the grocers?

We also talk about  the tradeoffs between first mover advantage and owing an industry-wide issue - putting yourself in the front window so to speak. 

Our excellent guest interview is with Yanick Gervais, President ad CEO of Olymel, the Canadian leader in producing, processing and marketing pork and poultry meat, with 15,000 employees serving the Canadian market and exporting products to over 65 countries. They have over 30 plants in five Canadian provinces. 

We then head south for a few minutes and talk about big grocery mergers…specifically, Krogers and Albertsons $25 billion U.S. deal - together would have 710,000 workers, 5,000 stores and sales greater than $200 billion with a B.   Move it to No. 2 with 13.5% share versus Walmart’s 15.5%…What say you about the dynamics that created this deal, and thoughts on the likelihood that it will actually happen.  They will spin 400 stores and create a new rival to get past antitrust …

Our excellent guest interview is with Yanick Gervais, President ad CEO of Olymel, the Canadian leader in producing, processing and marketing pork and poultry meat, with 15,000 employees serving the Canadian market and exporting products to over 65 countries. They have over 30 plants in five Canadian provinces. 

Lastly we talk about spooky halloween research, and Alberta's new premier and their agricultural sector.


About Yanick

Yanick Gervais was appointed President and CEO of Olymel on November 11, 2021. He succeeded Réjean Nadeau, who passed away on October 14 of the same year after leading the company for nearly a quarter of a century. When La Fernandière was acquired in 2016, Yanick Gervais joined Olymel and first became Vice President and General Manager of this new division, which focuses on the production of fresh sausages.

In 2018, Yanick Gervais was appointed Senior Vice President, Operations, in addition to overseeing the Engineering and Logistics departments. In this capacity, he had the key responsibility to oversee the operations of more than 30 plants located mainly in Quebec, but also in four other Canadian provinces. Before joining Olymel, Yanick Gervais was co-owner and general manager of La Fernandière for over 10 years. He was the grandson of one of its founders.

Trained as an accountant and tax specialist, Yanick Gervais previously worked with the accounting firm Dessureault, Leblanc, Lefebvre, C.A. from 2001 to 2005. He has been very active on various committees related to the chartered accountancy profession, particularly on training and recognition of the next generation of chartered accountants. Yanick Gervais volunteers for several charitable organizations and is very involved in his community. He holds a graduate diploma and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, as well as a master’s degree in taxation (MTax) from the Université de Sherbrooke.

About Us

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 venture for fun and influencer riches - Last Request Barbecue,  his YouTube BBQ cooking channel!

Episode Transcription

Michael LeBlanc  00:04

Welcome to The Food Professor Podcast Season 3, Episode 4. I'm Michael LeBlanc.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:09

And I'm Sylvain Charlebois, the Food Professor.

Michael LeBlanc  00:10

And we are, live here and in person, 

Sylvain Charlebois   00:12


Michael LeBlanc  00:14

Face-to-face right across the boardroom table. We're actually in Toronto at the Terminal 3 Sheraton so thanks to the folks at Terminal 3, and they have some great meeting rooms here. So, we're sitting in this meeting room, (crossover talk), 

Sylvain Charlebois   00:21

It's actually not bad, yeah, it's very professional. 

Michael LeBlanc   00:24

Very. It's very good. And we you and I are ships passing in the night you're off somewhere from here, right? You're heading up north from here?

Sylvain Charlebois  00:31

I'm off to Deerhurst, Muskoka, 

Michael LeBlanc  00:35

Yeah, very nice. 

Sylvain Charlebois    00:38

I'm talking to the Ontario Tourism Association. So, I'll be talking about tourism tomorrow morning as a keynote. 

Michael LeBlanc    00:41

Oh, very good. Very good. 

Sylvain Charlebois    00:43

I have a gala tonight. With, with people in tourism, I assume it's going to be great.

Michael LeBlanc  00:51

I assume they know what they're doing. 

Sylvain Charlebois   00:55

In Muskoka. 

Michael LeBlanc    00:57

In Muskoka, it's going to be beautiful up there, the leaves will be turning. I'm myself. I'm up to Vancouver tomorrow. All right. 

Sylvain Charlebois   01:08


Michael LeBlanc   1:09

Let me see if I got this straight. So, that is the recent history of time here. So, a couple of weeks ago, you posted something around that European grocers are freezing prices. And that maybe it's not a bad idea for Canadian grocers to look at that idea. Because there seems to be some reputational stuff going around with people who are thinking or blaming grocers in one way shape or another for prices. So, and that ignites a firestorm of fun to say, the, to say the least on both sides and five different sides. And then this past Monday, Loblaws initiates a price freeze on fif-, what was it 1500 private label products,

Sylvain Charlebois  01:42

1500, yeah, which is the largest campaign I've seen so far around the world. I think (inaudible) probably had about 500 products. This one is 1500, which is quite a lot.

Michael LeBlanc  01:53

Now, and then and then in the in the midst of all this Metro makes kind of a strange statement at the same time

Sylvain Charlebois  01:59

Everyone thinks that Metro froze prices, they didn't 

Michael LeBlanc   02:05


Sylvain Charlebois    0:206

They basically wanted to undermine Loblaws announcement by saying, well, we all do this every year, but it came out so wrong suggesting that, (crossover talk).

Michael LeBlanc  02:14

And you used the C-word, you used the C-word, (crossover talk), which ignited anoth-, you basically, you poured kerosene on the fire.

Sylvain Charlebois  02:20

And I, and I did it on purpose because I knew what the intent was from Metro. And, of course, we chatted the next day. Metro and I had a really good chat, but I think it was just bad communication. I think that I think the statement, it wasn't a statement. It was an email sent to reporters of all people, both CTV and CBC shared with me the email, 

Michael LeBlanc   02:37


Sylvain Charlebois    02:38

That Metro Sunday was just poorly worded. But Metro really hasn't. Well, because when you think about when you understand the economics of private labels in the grocery business, really only Loblaws can do what it did last Monday, really, I mean, when you look at, (crossover talk).

Michael LeBlanc  03:02

Costco, Costco can do that. 

Sylvain Charlebois    03:04

Yeah, Costco could, could but it doesn't. 

Michael LeBlanc   03:08

That's a name that's not coming up very often. They are the third largest grocer in the country.

Sylvain Charlebois  03:11

Third or fourth, depending on the numbers. Yeah. But they're, they're, they're, they're I think they're at 15 or $16 billion worth of food sales every year. So, they're a very important player. 

Michael LeBlanc   03:23


Sylvain Charlebois    03:24

Costco could do it but it doesn't fit their model. Their margins are pretty high. It's 15%, it's 3000. SKUs at 15%. So, they have a limited number of SKUs, unlike Loblaws. And, and their, their rules are pretty clear with Costco. And they play the same rule with everybody. And, and so they have their Kirkland brand. 

Michael LeBlanc    03:39

Yeah, they get their model. 

Sylvain Charlebois   03:41


Michael LeBlanc   03:42


Sylvain Charlebois   03:43

But they don't have 1500 products, labeled Kirkland. No Name is, I think, perfect for the macroeconomic context we're in right now. Because it's all about shifting verticals. Consumers are looking for different brands. And when you're thinking about saving money, no name is an attractive proposition. I think Loblaws did the right move, but probably a month or two too late. And, and you feel that means that the announcement was actually greeted with mixed reactions.

Michael LeBlanc  04:17

Yeah, I want to, I want to get to the strategy around that because I think that I want to get your opinions. I have some thoughts on the strategy. 

Sylvain Charlebois   04:22

Sure, go ahead. 

Michael LeBlanc   04:25

Of that. But at first, I want to, I just want to say after the past, what three weeks as you reflect back on the last three weeks? What are the kinds of the three observations that you would make about what's gone on in the past three weeks? Is there anything that jumps out at you and says, you know, based on the discourse that both you've had with the grocers, you've had with manufacturers who have a big pla-, a big role to play and this is what you've been watching on social media and beyond social media because we know social media is a very small snapshot of feedback. But do you have any, any thoughts on, on you know, coming out of this we're here on a, on a Monday, things are calming down a bit any, as you reflect back on the past couple of weeks any, any conclusions about the market, about how people feel about groceries and about the future?

Sylvain Charlebois  05:05

Well, I think in the last six months, many people have actually politicized food inflation. But over the last month to your question, I think those people have been quite successful. Because they've simplified the message. They have a target, they have an enemy, the grocer, and the grocer, is a very easy concept to understand, for many people. 

Michael LeBlanc    05:30

Everybody walks in their door, 

Sylvain Charlebois   05:32

It's the portal.

Michael LeBlanc    05:35

All the time, right? 

Sylvain Charlebois   05:37

It's the portal. 

Michael LeBlanc  05:39


Sylvain Charlebois   05:40

People understand the portal. And it's, so it's an easy thing to do to get Canadians to hate grocers. You and I know it's, it's a silly concept. I mean food inflation is much more complicated than that, (crossover talk).

Michael LeBlanc  05:47

Well, and much of it is imported from around the world, really. (Crossover talk), I mean,

Sylvain Charlebois  05:50

And now you have Parliament looking into the matter.

Michael LeBlanc  05:53

Which you don't consider necessarily a bad thing, because, 

Sylvain Charlebois  05:57

No, it's not a bad thing. 

Michael LeBlanc   05:59

Because then, then it gives the chance to understand. 

Sylvain Charlebois   06:02


Michael LeBlanc   06:03

To the degree it's politicized, (crossover talk).

Sylvain Charlebois  06:02

And the Competition Bureau just decided this week to look into this as well. And I think it's great because it allows institutions to get (inaudible) understand that we've worked with the Competition Bureau on a couple of files ourselves. And, and to be honest, the approach is very different than in the US. And so I think the more we look into this matter, the better we'll understand, I think, really, the biggest challenge, or the biggest concern I have is that a whole lot of people just don't understand how things work.

Michael LeBlanc  06:33

Yeah. I'm not sure how much an investigation is going to change that outside in the, in the grand, I was with some friends on the weekend. And their biggest concern was that Loblaws didn't have the brand of chips for a while that they carry. 

Sylvain Charlebois   06:47

Yeah, exactly, yeah. 

Michael LeBlanc   06:49

I don't know how much I don't know how much this is reverberating in the real world versus the social media world. You certainly were on television enough times. So, it certainly has captured media interest. And, 

Sylvain Charlebois   07:00


Michael LeBlanc    07:01

And lots of people are, are, are watching. What I thought was super interesting was the strategy of the grocers around who goes first. And I'd say first mover advantage, in other words, let’s be the, 

Sylvain Charlebois   07:05

With, with the freeze. 

Michael LeBlanc   07:07

With the freeze first mover advantage, I will be, (crossover talk).

Sylvain Charlebois  07:10

Were you expecting someone else?

Michael LeBlanc  07:12

I wasn't sure who because there's a pro and a con to being first. Being first is your own issue. The con is you own the issue. So, now when people think of food inflation, they think of Loblaws because they now are kind of in the front window of that. So, I think a lot of that was going on in their minds it#s like who's going to go first? Ostensibly, it's an advantage, right? But it's also a bit of a disadvantage, because from now on Galen Weston, who sent out a note to everybody, is seen as the guy. He's, he, he, he's in the front window of food inflation. Do you, 

Sylvain Charlebois   07:31


Michael LeBlanc    07:32

Do you think about that? I mean, the other grocers have been very quiet, by and large and I mean Empire hasn't spoken to it. And as you said, metros, not freezing prices. So, I just think that strategy is just super interesting, as, as we think and reflect upon, you know, the, the very smart folks in all the businesses are thinking about, hmm, what are we going to do about this? 

Sylvain Charlebois  07:48


Michael LeBlanc    07:49

How do we approach this, and that the risk and reward I think was just a fascinating, (crossover talk),

Sylvain Charlebois  08:07

When you look around the world, I mean, prices have frozen for private labels, that's it. And so, when you look at Canada, who's the player, I think Loblaws is the only player to execute,

Michael LeBlanc  08:20

But they've all got private la-. I mean, you know, (crossover talk)

Sylvain Charlebois  08:22

No, but Loblaws is corporate, that's a big, that's a big advantage over everyone else. Metro has hundreds of independent operators. Sobeys has, has hundreds of (inaudible). 

Michael LeBlanc    08:28

I see, I see. 

Sylvain Charlebois 08:30

When you operationalize a strategy like that, it's much easier for Loblaws to do it, than others.

Michael LeBlanc  08:43

I think franchisees will, (crossover talk), right?

Sylvain Charlebois  08:45

Oh, of course. But when you look at the discipline around private labels, Loblaws is hands down the leader by far I mean, I think, 

Michael LeBlanc  08:54

I don't know, I think Empire would have something to say about that.

Sylvain Charlebois  08:56

But when Michael Medline took over, they had 400 private labels.

Michael LeBlanc   08:59

Yeah, yeah. 

Sylvain Charlebois    09:00

It's a mess. It was. 

Michael LeBlanc   09:01

It was a mess. 

Sylvain Charlebois   09:03

And now it's getting better. So, you got Panache. And you have more discipline around private labels now at Empire, Sobeys, but they're still a long way from, from one President's Choice in Brampton. You know Loblaws headquarters. I mean, I actually think that I think that's the President's Choice. And No Name is one of Canada's most powerful superclusters. I mean, it's just, 

Michael LeBlanc   09:19

(Inaudible) one of the world's really, I mean, 

Sylvain Charlebois   09:22

It's incredible, I mean, I’m in awe when I see that super cluster of innovation and I hope that one day, Metro and Sobeys will catch up to them to create some sort of competition. I think that's what they're trying to do. Because for many years, as you know, Michael, a lot of Canadians just saw private labels as being subpar, less quality and just walked away. But more and more,

Michael LeBlanc  09:52

Until the chocolate chip cookie came, right. The President's Choice chocolate chip cookie, (crossover talk), until Dave Nichols, right?

Sylvain Charlebois  09:57

Dave Nichols actually changed everything, (crossover talk).

Michael LeBlanc  10:00

And he imported that strategy a little bit from the (inaudible), of the world, but,

Sylvain Charlebois  10:03

He was traveling around the world, came back with new products.

Michael LeBlanc  10:06

Schezwan sauce. 

Sylvain Charlebois   10:07


Michael LeBlanc   10:08

I mean, they have just done an amazing job. And a couple of things. You know, I don't want to dwell on this too much. Goodness knows there's lots to be said. Lots have been said and lots to be said. I mean, how many? How many media interviews did you do last week?

Sylvain Charlebois  10:18

Oh, last week was crazy about 60?

Michael LeBlanc  10:21

60, six, zero? Wow, I saw your interview with Jim Stanford on CBC. I thought it was good you know; I always know what Jim is going to say. He's a super smart guy, but at nine times out of, (crossover talk).

Sylvain Charlebois  10:31

Jim was great, CBC, eh. 

Michael LeBlanc   10:33

I mean, (crossover talk). 

Sylvain Charlebois   10:35

Obviously, I have some good friends at CBC but sometimes you get set up to really, 

Michael LeBlanc    10:39


Sylvain Charlebois   10:40

Be disadvantaged and, and, and I knew that, and I knew that and because of course, they want to target grocers, they are simplifying the issue. And in five minutes, you can't really possibly explain to an audience a very complex situation when you have to answer the same goddamn question three times. But your answer doesn't fit the narrative.  Yeah. But you know what, I appreciated the notwithstanding all that which is, which was pretty clear to me.  I'm sorry if I said that, I just realized I swore for the first time.

Michael LeBlanc  11:15

I am going to have to change the ranking of podcasts now. Suddenly, we're the hurly burly podcast. 

Sylvain Charlebois   11:18


Michael LeBlanc   11:19

You know, I think I think it was a good you know, it's a good, it was a good dialogue between the two of you. I mean, I always know where Jim is going to come from basically. And the interesting thing I think, consumers don't really know where, I'm not always sure they understand your role as an academic because you, you know, he defends the industry. But then at the same, in the same interview, you criticize the industry, like people don't really understand your role as an academic. 

Sylvain Charlebois    11:48


Michael LeBlanc   11:49

Which is, which is interesting. And that's why I think people love listening to you so much, because they, but then sometimes they're like, oh, I thought he was, I thought he was on our side. So, there's no sides, right? You don't have sides, you're an academic.

Sylvain Charlebois  11:53

Well, I have one side, that's the consumer, 

Michael LeBlanc   11:55

That's the consumer, right. 

Sylvain Charlebois   11:57

Yeah, and the, and the taxpayer. Since I started my career, I've always done that. I mean, that's my starting point if the consumer loses or a taxpayer loses, that's a problem for society.

Michael LeBlanc  12:07

Let's go south for a bit. So, I think there's some lessons to be learned from what's about going to, going to happen with Kroger and Albertsons. Yeah, so you mentioned that. So, just to bring the listeners up to speed in case you haven't been paying attention, if you're an industry person, you would. Kroger and Albertsons have talked about a 25 billion, with a B, US deal would have 710,000 workers between the two of them, 5000 stores, sales greater than 200, 

Sylvain Charlebois   12:34


Michael LeBlanc    12:35

Billion dollars, what's, what's Loblaws like about 40-50 billion something like, 

Sylvain Charlebois   12:37


Michael LeBlanc   12:38

Big player, but now you know, this is a big player.

Sylvain Charlebois  12:43

34% of the market, Loblaw’s does.

Michael LeBlanc  12:45

Yeah. Now it's a different market in the US because Walmart's the leader, and I've got some stats here, because everybody looks at this difference basically, Walmart's the leader. A couple of interesting things. I mean, it was, (crossover talk).

Sylvain Charlebois  12:56

Well Walmart's leader by default.

Michael LeBlanc    12:59

Yeah, I mean, 

Sylvain Charlebois   13:00

Because it's a massive (inaudible) player. 

Michael LeBlanc  13:02

They are still the leader, right? I mean, they have a lot of stores, and they own I think, I mean, I've seen different numbers, but somewhere in the 25% range. And this would put them up to number two, it's funny when I was reading the press releases, they're like, we got to get ready for Amazon. Amazon is a big player in everything, but it's good to bring them up as to spook, you know, to spook people. 

Sylvain Charlebois   13:18

That's right. 

Michael LeBlanc   13:19

What do you think of this, what do you think of it? What do you think of this merger? I think there's lessons to be learned on both sides of the border and around the world. So, it's a good thing to talk about, I thought, what do you, what's your first impression of the, of the merger?

Sylvain Charlebois  13:34

It's 15% of the market share, both combined. So, Kroger and Albertsons both combined would be 15%. We have two companies, at least two companies with more than that in Canada, Empire and Loblaws. And so that's, that's an indicator that it shows really, that the market in Canada is very consolidated compared to the US. Very consolidated, (crossover talk), you have just, 

Michael LeBlanc  13:57

Yeah, the US is very, actually, I've got, I found the numbers here. We're in person and I'm just looking through my phone. Usually, I do this when you can't see me when I'm doing this. But now you can see me looking at this. The top US groceries by share of total dollars spent so like I said, everybody looks at different things. So, Walmart is 21%, Kroger, 10%, Costco, 7%, Albertsons, 5.7%. And then there's just a whole cast of characters. I mean, for example, Amazon is 1.6% and Whole Foods, 1.3.%. So, you know, Wegmans at 1%. And like, it's a really fragmented market, right?

Sylvain Charlebois  14:29

Yeah, it's a, it's a, it's a very different market in the US. It's much more regionalized, similar to Europe's and I actually do think that in Canada, we're in the situation we're in now because of three major transactions, Loblaws when it bought Provigo in 1998. When Sobeys, when Metro bought A&P in 2005, and when Sobeys bought Safeway in 2013 and that led to a highly con-, consolidated grocery business sector in Canada,

Michael LeBlanc  15:04

I was going to say what situation are we in now? Don't we have consumers getting better prices because you have more buying power in the market?

Sylvain Charlebois  15:12

And I would say yeah, exactly. And, 

Michael LeBlanc   15:15

So, are we in a good situation? 

Sylvain Charlebois   15:17

I would say, so you can flip things around. But the narrative right now is saying there's too much concentration. My concern since day one, our independence, the independent grocer, 

Michael LeBlanc   15:20

Tough to be an independent, 

Sylvain Charlebois     15:22

It's tough to be independent.

Michael LeBlanc   15:24

It's tough to be an independent anything, 

Sylvain Charlebois   15:27

And independents tend to bring new products to the market, it gives a choice, it gives a chance for (inaudible) to get into the market. In Canada, the problem is that if you want to do business, if you want to have a shot, you have to deal with the big three,

Michael LeBlanc    15:36

Or the big five, 

Sylvain Charlebois   15:42

Or the big five,

Michael LeBlanc  15:47

I mean, we talk about the big three or the media talks about the big three, but they're

Sylvain Charlebois  15:51

Metro and Costco and Walmart, they all pretty much have the same volume. 

Michael LeBlanc   15:54


Sylvain Charlebois   15:55

So, they have different models. But really, it's tough to get in. And because I'm you know my, Mike, Michael, I've always come from processing perspectives. So, how do we support farmers? How do we support the processing we need; you need democracy in retail. And I'm not sure we have that. Because we saw a lot of independent grocers disappear over time. So, there's nothing wrong having a Loblaws in the marketplace, or an Empire or Metro. But these small players really need to be protected. And I actually think that the Competition Bureau re-allowed some transactions to go, and they could have actually done a little bit better. A Lot of them happen, what's going to happen with Kroger, and Albertsons pretty simple, lawmakers are pushing back already, 

Michael LeBlanc    16:35


Sylvain Charlebois   16:36

So, I suspect that the deal would go through, but Kroger will have to sell off some (inaudible).

Michael LeBlanc  16:46

Well, they've already said I mean, which would probably happen anyway. Because they, you know, they probably have stores right beside each other because they're actually in the same region. Now, they've already said they're going to spin 400 stores and create a new rival to get past anti-trust. So, I think that's the opportunity for you and me to get into the grocery business. Because there's going to be a whole new brand.

Sylvain Charlebois  17:06

But this is the, these are the things we don't see in Canada, we just don't see. It's because what I think is going on in the US is actually a good thing. And so you want companies to buy each other fine. But here are the rules. And for each region, we're going to look at how we can actually give an advantage to the consumers. So, the consumer can actually have more choice, not less. And the other thing we need to be realistic here is that we are in Canada, Canada is a tough market to serve. We're,

Michael LeBlanc   17:34

A vast nation. 

Sylvain Charlebois 17:37

38 million people and one the largest countries in the world. 

Michael LeBlanc   17:40

(inaudible) popular, 

Sylvain Charlebois    17:42

You know, it's something that a lot of Canadians don't appreciate. It's, it's tough to be a grocer as well in Canada, I mean, to and to be profitable. And I've always said it. I mean, when you look at profit margins of, of the top grocers in our country, it's two to 4%. The same in the US, by the way, because we've looked at Kroger's and other players in the US and it's all two to 4%. It's, it's, it's a tough business to be in. And often Canadians under-appreciate that.

Michael LeBlanc  18:12

It's pretty quickly, my observation is pretty quickly how the worm turned. In other words, thank God for feeding us during COVID. And now they're, now they're pilloried as you know, as the evil capitalist.

Sylvain Charlebois  18:22

Well, actually with, with a" hero pay" thing. They were easily targeted, (crossover talk),

Michael LeBlanc  18:28

Right, price fixing. I mean, that's, that's left a mark, right, amongst some.

Sylvain Charlebois  18:31

You know what I was under so, I didn't forget the bread story. I actually assumed Canadians did too. But for some reason, the Loblaws announcement last week, kind of, 

Michael LeBlanc  18:43

That's what I meant about owning an issue like this. Because it brings back a few ghosts of the past, at least in social media. I don't know about the average Canadian. I don't know.

Sylvain Charlebois  18:53

But, but, to me, the bread story is unfinished business. 

Michael LeBlanc   18:56

That's true. 

Sylvain Charlebois    18:57

Because you saw Loblaws throw everyone else under the bus. Let's face it. 

Michael LeBlanc    18:59


Sylvain Charlebois   19:00

And I see all the time I see on Twitter, everyone's saying everyone's guilty, guilty, guilty. In actuality, only two companies admitted guilt. Only two.

Michael LeBlanc  19:14

Well, what is the Competition Bureau calling it a race for the door strategy, right? So, the first person to put up their hand gets (crossover talk) immunity.

Sylvain Charlebois  19:21

But Loblaws got immunity. And seven years later,

Michael LeBlanc  19:25

The second person gets less if they admit it. 

Sylvain Charlebois   19:28

The investigation started in 2015, Michael. 

Michael LeBlanc   19:30

Yeah, it takes a long time, right? 

Sylvain Charlebois   19:33

Seven years. 

Michael LeBlanc   19:34

I mean the board of what was the last one the board the Toronto Board of Trade was like starting it was like seven or eight years, nine years

Sylvain Charlebois  19:38

In October the White House last year accused meat packers of collusion by January GBS was writing a check.

Michael LeBlanc  19:46

Yeah, interesting. 

Sylvain Charlebois   19:48

It's pretty fast. 

Michael LeBlanc   19:50

All right. So, you think if I would summarize and then we'll get to a great interview with Yanick from Olymel. 

Sylvain Charlebois   19:52


Michael LeBlanc  19:53

Do you think it's going to go through? 

Sylvain Charlebois   19:55

Oh yeah, (crossover talk) with conditions. 

Michael LeBlanc  19:58

With conditions and you think the mark It will be better for it.

Sylvain Charlebois  20:02

I think so, yeah, absolutely, I think it's I think American consumers will be better served with, with the outcome.

Michael LeBlanc  20:09

All right, well, let's get to our great interview with Yanick Gervais.

Sylvain Charlebois  20:15

Well, we have the pleasure to actually welcome Yanick Gervais the CEO of Olymel, welcome to the podcast, Yanick

Yanick Gervais  20:22

Thank you for having me as well, Sylvain and Michael.

Sylvain Charlebois  20:24

Yeah, that's great. I mean, you're, you must be a busy, busy man these days, we always see Olymel in the news. Olymel is a well-known company in Quebec, known outside of Quebec, but not as much as it should I think. And now you are the CEO of Olymel. You were president of La Fernandière, which was bought by Olymel a few years ago. And that's how you got into the company in the first place. Your path to becoming CEO is quite impressive. Why don't you walk us back and tell us more about your journey in Olymel and how you got to the position you're in today,

Yanick Gervais  21:10

As you were saying, we were bought. I was the CEO of La Fernandière, and we were bought in 2016. It was the family business. So, I was there, I was for, I would say 15 years, but earlier than that I was there when I was like, 12, working on the production floor. So,

Sylvain Charlebois  21:28

Yeah. And I had the pleasure to tour the plant with you. I think it was probably 10 years ago, I guess.

Yanick Gervais  21:36

Probably, yes. You toured the new plant. So, it was probably in 2013, or 14 or something like that. 

Sylvain Charlebois   21:39

That's right. 

Yanick Gervais   21:41

So yeah, so I, as I was saying, as I was in the food business, pretty much all my life, I'm a CPA. So, I took over from my uncle in twel-, and in 05 at La Fernandière, we grew from a regional company to selling coast-to-coast via Costco and Walmart and Loblaws. So, we were bought out in 2016. It was, we were not up for sale, but I was pretty convinced by the business plan that Olymel put, put together for La Fernandière and I was the value of Olymel, it struck a chord with me. So it was, it was a no brainer to go down that, that I was then with the company for, I would say, maybe 18 months to integrate all the sausage production into our (inaudible) plant. And then to start a sausage production also out west at our Red Deer plant in Alberta. After that, I took a well-deserved break with the kids. It was supposed to last a year, it lasted for months. I was maybe six but then I was back, back with Olymel as Senior VP of Operations. So, I was in charge of all the, of all our plants, logistics, engineering and everything. So, it was, in 2018. And it was, it was pretty much the plan to be groomed as the new CEO. So, I was, I was close to Rejean Nadeau and unfortunately, we had to be a bit quicker than the original plan when the, 

Sylvain Charlebois   23:19


Yanick Gervais   23:20

When he died last, last fall, it's pretty much a year ago. On this day, it was last week. So, so now, it was, (crossover talk) It was last week. I was wondering, with Mike, I was talking about Rejean and I wasn't sure exactly when he passed. And so it's been a year, (crossover talk).

Sylvain Charlebois  23:32

Yeah, I was, I would say on the 14th. Yeah, on October 14th last year. Wow. Can you give our listeners a sense of Olymel's scope. Where you are, what's your market? Because I mean Olymel is a highly internationalized organization. So, could you describe to us exactly how big is Olymel?

Yanick Gervais  24:03

Yeah, we're pretty much, I would say three businesses rolled into one. We have a big pork, fresh pork portfolio. So, we export to more than 65 countries mainly in Asia. So, in Japan, we have a big business there. It has been 20-25 years; a lot of value-added products have gone down to Japan. And we also exported to the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Australia. So, on the fresh pork side, we have a big. It's upwards of 150,000 pigs per week that we slaughter. Then we have all the process pork sites. 

Yanick Gervais   24:35

So, we have a portfolio of more than 10 brands on the retail side. As you'weresaying, we're mainly in Quebec, Ontario, we sell to, we sell coast-to-coast, but I would say right now, the main market is let's say eastern Canada. So, as far as processed pork we do bacon, sausage pretty much, (inaudible) pork portfolio as far as processed pork product. And then we have a big chicken production also we slaughter upwards of 2 million birds per week in Quebec. And then on the, in the Maritimes in, in New Brunswick and Ontario. So, again we have a big fresh, fresh poultry business and then the process, processed poultry also on the foodservice side and on the retail side with brands like Pinty's, Flamingo, yeah, at Olymel.

Sylvain Charlebois  25:37

How many chicken plants do you have? How many poultry plants do you have?

Yanick Gervais  25:40

We slaughter in four plans, 

Sylvain Charlebois   25:42

Four plants. 

Yanick Gervais   25:43

Four plants four, four chicken plants and one turkey plant that we have. We were in a partnership with Exceldor on the, on the turkey side. So, we have one in Cobourg. We have one in St-Damase, one in Blainville and one in Clair in New Brunswick.

Sylvain Charlebois  26:01

Okay. And you're involved in food service as well. You provide to different restaurants, restaurant chains, I suppose.

Yanick Gervais  26:08

Yeah, we do a lot on the process side, I would say it's 50-50 as far as food service versus retail. So, we were dealing with the big distributors like GFS and Cisco, but also with big, big chains, like Wendy's, Burger King and KFC. And so, we're a big, big player as far as food service. And we also do business with our own brand on the foodservice side.

Michael LeBlanc  26:34

Well, it's impressive, I mean, an impressive global company, impressive successes, it's been choppy, to say the least coming out of the COVID era. And, and you know, I don't think food service has really got up to where it was before. There's lots of different things happening global events, and you know, climate change, and there's so much going on, increased costs, supply chain, so to speak. Last week, you announced a bit of a reset. Talk about the thinking that went into getting the business ready. Talk about how you see the future and, and what you're doing to the business to get to (inaudible), to current events and get ready for the future.

Yanick Gervais  27:09

As you were saying, there's been a lot of things going on as far as supply chain and geopolitical issues with China and, and pressure on the on the model because it's, it's getting so tough right now to get the product to, to the end user because of a problem as far as trains and we had some problems also with the ships going to Asia, it's usually, I would say for the past 10 years. They were like 5 to 10 ships a week. And now it's done, it's down to one. So, if we miss the, this particular ship. It's, it's tough to get the product to the user in Asia. But, but yeah, we as you were saying we did a kind of a reset, I would say it's more that we're trying to optimize the business model. We had a lot of acquisitions in the past 10 years. And there were some,

Michael LeBlanc  28:03

Redundancies like,

Yanick Gervais  28:04

Yeah, redundancies, you're right. It's it, there was some and we, we had to, to build a better model for the future. So, that's the reason we decided to go ahead with, with this announcement, but more than this, we had to change the way we do business. We, we sold some, some assets, not core assets, but assets that were acquired with acquisitions in the past couple of years. Just to again, try to optimize, try to do more with, with less. So, I think it's going to be the way to go. Because yeah, we, we, we still control a lot of birds, a lot of pigs, but we're on a global scale of (inaudible) fresh pork. So, we have to be better than the others. It's, it's tougher to do this kind of business out of Canada because wages are higher, it's tougher to get some new employees. So, we have to reinvent ourselves more with value added products. That will be a key for, (inaudible).

Sylvain Charlebois  29:02

The number of acquisitions in the last couple of years. I mean, your list is pretty long. One of them is F. Ménard in Ange-Gardien, by the way, just so you know when I, when I was a kid, used to work for F. Ménard in Ange-Gardien, which is about five minutes away from Farnham. So, how is that integration coming along?

Yanick Gervais  29:19

It's, it's pretty, it's very good to be honest. There's a lot of F. Ménard was doing a lot of farming. So, it was control-, we're controlling, I would say right now. Maybe 25,000 hogs come into the Ange-Gardien plant every week from our farm at F. Ménard. But it was pretty easy to be honest, for us right now, the model is integrated, I would say 95%. For us it's more Olymel plan that is the F. Ménard model. So, we, we do it, we, we use the same client portfolio, same (inaudible) salesforce, we integrated it into our Japanese model and to our export model also. So, I know the integration is, is doing pretty,

Sylvain Charlebois   30:07

That's great. 

Yanick Gervais    30:08

It's going pretty good. Yeah.

Sylvain Charlebois  30:11

I have to ask a question about your, your majority shareholder Sollio, which is, which used to be coop for the day, a very well-known La Coop fédérée, one of the largest in Canada, if not the largest. Being CEO of a company and having a cooperative as a major shareholder. How does that work? Because a lot of our English listeners may not be familiar with the co-op concept. Maybe you could tell us a little bit more from a (inaudible) perspective, how, how, how do you work with a co-op as a majority shareholder?

Yanick Gervais  30:47

Yeah, it's, it's something special to be (crossover talk). But, but in a good way, because there's a lot of good, good value as far as the cooperative model. It's they're, they're businessman/businesswoman, they have their, their own farm, their own company. So, I think that all the discussions are pretty great that they, they know, they understand easily, the, the, this decision process. But still, we do have our own board. So, we have some minority shareholders also. So, we have to, to, to be aware of all the, of all the people at the table, but as far as, as the co-op, it's more I would say on the fresh side, because they are chicken farmers, they are pork farmers. And for the majority of them, they could be any type of farmers. But when we, we make a decision, we make it for Olymel. But still, there's some things that we have to keep in mind because it's going to affect, I'm not sure of the word in English is, It's (inaudible). But kind of the pork.

Sylvain Charlebois  32:01

The pork sector. Yeah

Michael LeBlanc  32:03

Well, (crossover talk) you're such a big player. You're such a big, big player, right? Every, every decision you make has reverberations across the industry, right? Yeah,

Yanick Gervais  32:10

Yeah, there's impact on, on farming, but also impacted on grain, depending on the decision that we will make. So, yeah, we have to look into all of this. But again, the main thing is to do what's best for Olymel. To do it in partnership with, with Sollio, (inaudible) the majority shareholders,

Sylvain Charlebois  32:30

I want to talk about proteins or the future of protein, you're, you're in the protein business, you're in the livestock industry. There's been a lot of talk about the future of proteins, what people are eating, and what's your perspective on, you know, where the needle is going, I guess when it comes to protein consumption and, and the livestock industry in general?

Yanick Gervais  32:52

The protein industry is going up everywhere in the world. I don't think Canada will, will be, will be different from the rest of the world. Maybe two, two years ago, there was a big buzz as far as plant protein. And you've probably seen what, what went on with the, the, all the stocks, all the plant protein stocks, and (inaudible). Yeah so, we, we decided to stay aside on that. We did not jump into this,

Sylvain Charlebois  33:22

Unlike Maple Leaf, because they went, Maple Leaf went really, (crossover talk). 

Yanick Gervais   33:24

Pretty much all in on that. 

Sylvain Charlebois   33:26

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Yanick Gervais  33:29

Yeah. Because my view on that is that people still want to eat good pork and good chicken and good beef, to be honest. I think they will maybe eat less of it. But when they're going to, they will want to eat it. They won't want to eat the plant burger; they will want to eat a real burger. They will want to eat a real sausage; they will want to eat real bacon. And Bacon consumption is going up. Sliced meat is going way up. Processed chicken is going way up also. In Quebec and in Canada chicken, the chicken business is doing very good. I think in Quebec you could eat chicken like four, maybe four meals a week and you will, I will find a recipe to do so.

Michael LeBlanc  34:14

Well, I know where you are. I know where you can find some good recipes, anyway.

Sylvain Charlebois  34:17

Yeah. Because Mike, Mike, has a YouTube show called Last Request Barbecue and he uses a lot of chicken.

Yanick Gervais  34:24

Yeah, pretty. Yeah. And I'm pretty glad that you, you made pulled pork.

Sylvain Charlebois  34:28

That's right. Yeah,

Michael LeBlanc    34:30

That's right. That's right.

Yanick Gervais  34:33

So, I think the protein, the, the, the protein is here to stay, the animal protein. There's a lot of as you were saying, there's a lot of pressure with the, the feed cost is going way higher. It's getting tougher and tougher with environmental laws and everything to, to go to, to go all in on livestock, but still we're, we're there to we're to stay. And again, I think the value added is going to be the key, we don't want to be in the commodity business, we're, we're trying to compete with people, giving wages of like five bucks an hour and whatever Brazil. So, we have to do value added, we have to debone more, we have to do more processed products. But in the long run, pork and, and poultry are, are still pretty cheap protein if you compare it to veal or beef. And so, I think in the terrible, tough time like this by what we're seeing right now with inflation and everything, or we're I think we're, we're with the two best proteins for next couple of years, to be honest,

Michael LeBlanc  35:39

Let me, let me follow up on a couple of things you said. I'm super interested in what innovation looks like you, you talk about, you know, value added products. So, I'm super curious about how you approach innovation, creating brands. So, you've got both brands on the food service side, and you've got brands on, on the consumer side. But when you sit back, you and your team sit back and you say, okay, we've got an innovation runway, we've gotta get out, you know, a piece of our business is going to be commodity-based proteins. But you know, what does innovation look like? And, importantly, what is that process for you and the team? How do you, where do you start? And how do you conceptualize that?

Yanick Gervais  36:18

Some innovation is coming from the clients. So, we do get some, let's say, let's look into this, we want to do something special, we want to do something different. So, that's one way to look at it. On our side, we have an innovation team that's monitoring what's going on around the world. But if you ask me what innovation will look like in our sector for the next couple of weeks, I think it's going to be more on packaging, trying to be more environmentally friendly, and things like that. Because to be honest, there's only a couple of ways that you can reinvent, let's say, sausage, or you can do a fly by shaver.

Michael LeBlanc   36:41

Sure. Sure. 

Yanick Gervais   36:43

It's going to last for a couple of months, but you always will be back to my Italian sausage, (inaudible) Italian and pork and beef. And so it's, it's important to, to get some innovation into the market, just to keep the buzz alive. But I think it's going to be more on the packaging side.

Michael LeBlanc  37:17

So, I think there's some really interesting things around ribs and pork. I mean, is that the kind of thing you look like? Do you send your team down to Austin, Texas, to go, you know, to go on the barbecue trail and see what people are doing with your product? Is that where you kind of, you know, that green (inaudible) go down and say, well, we had no idea that they were using our product to do the following things. You kind of mentioned that, right? The ideas kind of come from the end user. Is that, is that in, in the plan? Or is that something you guys keep an eye on?

Yanick Gervais  37:42

Yeah, we always keep an eye on that there's a lot of food shows and let's say there's an event with GFS or Cisco the, 

Michael LeBlanc    37:46


Yanick Gervais    37:47

Out west and more people is going to be there, and they will, they will come back with a lot of ideas as, as management we, we just have to, to, to be to try to try to not, not kill the emotion but just, just to refocus all the, all the team on what's, what's important. But, but you're right, there's going to  be a lot of again, for me ribs are value-added. So, you could, 

Michael LeBlanc   38:12


Yanick Gervais    38:13

You could put it in sauce right in the plant. You can size it, you can.

Michael LeBlanc   38:15


Yanick Gervais   38:16

Try to have one more meaty one. It's 

Michael LeBlanc    38:23

Yeah, yeah.

Yanick Gervais   38:25

It all depends on what, what the end user is looking for.

Michael LeBlanc  38:28

I mean, turk-, 

Yanick Gervais   38:30

For sure, would, yeah. 

Michael LeBlanc   38:32

Yeah, I mean, turkey is having a moment. I made a turkey covered in mayonnaise, and then hot honey. And it's just, 

Sylvain Charlebois    38:36


Michael LeBlanc    38:37

Yeah, it was, oh, let me tell you, it was amazing. 

Sylvain Charlebois   38:39


Michael LeBlanc    38:40

And I got this idea from this restaurant in Texas, right. Like they're just doing such interesting things with products, right, like turkey. 

Sylvain Charlebois   38:45


Michael LeBlanc   38:46

Yeah, you know. So, listen, I'm going down to Austin. So, you know, I'll bring a camera with me and I'll send you a few pictures maybe

Yanick Gervais  38:53

Send me some pictures for sure.

Michael LeBlanc  38:56

Wait, I think it's now going to be, (crossover talk) sponsored. 

Yanick Gervais   38:59

You won't charge us though. 

Michael LeBlanc  39:02

I was actually going to hit you up. It's to the Austin tour sponsored by Olymel and (crossover talk). Hey, listen, Yanick this has been fantastic. I mean, when Sylvain suggested that we chat with you I didn't, I knew of the company, but I didn't know the scope and scale, and the sophistication. So, it's really great to learn about all the great things you're doing here in Canada and exporting in a global business. So, thanks so much for joining us. It was a real treat to get to know you and get to know the business. So, you know I wish you continued success and, and we'll, we'll.

Sylvain Charlebois   39:29


Michael LeBlanc   39:30

We'll kind of touch base in the, in the months and years to come to see what happens. But until then, thanks for joining us on The Food Professor podcast and have a wonderful rest of your day.

Yanick Gervais  39:41

Perfect. Thank you very much.

Sylvain Charlebois  39:43

Best of luck, Yanick.

Yanick Gervais   39:44

Thank you Sylvain.

Michael LeBlanc  39:46

A great interview, I mean it's such an impressive business I had no idea, 

Sylvain Charlebois   39:48

Such an impressive guy. 

Michael LeBlanc   39:50

Very impressive all around. I had no idea of the scope and scale the business and you know I love his ideas around value add because you know how are you going to produce? How are you going to compete its just pumping out commodity product, right. So, 

Sylvain Charlebois  40:04

He's pulled in many different directions, you can feel like he's very pulled towards Farm-gate, right? He's got, he's got, he's wor-, he's working with farmers in the livestock industry. But you can hear in Yanick's language, it's not about livestock. It's about a product. It's about value add. 

Michael LeBlanc   40:15

Yeah, yeah. 

Sylvain Charlebois   40:17

So, the language is very refined for the consumer. And that's why Olymel has had some great success over the years.

Michael LeBlanc  40:29

Yeah. Great business. So, thanks for, thanks for hooking that up. We have a new Premier in Alberta. 

Sylvain Charlebois  40:33

That's right. 

Michael LeBlanc   40:35

We have a new Premier in Alberta. It seems to be early days setting the bar low and tripping over it, basically. Now I don't, Danielle Smith, Premier I knew, I never heard the name before you I think we're on,

Sylvain Charlebois   40:44


Michael LeBlanc   40:45

I have never heard of her. Now, you were on a show of hers.

Sylvain Charlebois  40:51

Oh, yeah. I mean, several times. Yeah. I spoke to her. You know, I've, I've given her probably at least 20 interviews over the years. Yeah, she's delightful.

Michael LeBlanc  41:00

Okay, so, okay. That's not the sense got from some of the things she says, not the sense I get.

Sylvain Charlebois  41:07

Well, I'm as, as a host, as a host, she was great, (crossover talk).

Michael LeBlanc  41:11

Well, you know, anyway, this isn't a political podcast. But let's talk about agriculture, not the biggest sect-, sector in Alberta. I think it's like 10th or 11th. In terms of size. It's not a big sector. Any thoughts on her views on the agriculture sector from you've talked to her a bunch of times? Like, what, what seems to be her interest in talking to you for 20 times, for example?

Sylvain Charlebois  41:31

Well, I mean, I can see, I think she sees the value in agri-food and even before she came, became Premier. I think that, that Jason Kenney really focused more on agri-food, beyond oil. 

Michael LeBlanc    41:35

Sure, sure. 

Sylvain Charlebois  41:36


Michael LeBlanc   41:38

Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Sylvain Charlebois    41:40

Because that's the problem with Alberta. They rely so much on oil, they don't think beyond oil, ever. And so, 

Michael LeBlanc   41:50

They tried with cannabis, 

Sylvain Charlebois   41:53

But now I think there's, there's the Buy Local program in Alberta. (Crossover talk) There are more investments. There's this, there's the CDL-Rockies that I'm part of as an incubator for agri-food businesses. And there's a couple,

Michael LeBlanc  42:13

Arlene Dickinson's business is based out of Alberta, out in Calgary, right?

Sylvain Charlebois  42:17

That's right. And, and I'm actually, I mentor some companies in that program as well. So, there's lots of things that I don't see Danielle Smith ending all of this.

Michael LeBlanc  42:27

Do you see it generally good for agriculture? (Crossover talk) as Premier? Okay, okay.

Sylvain Charlebois  42:31

I think, I think there's some great things going on in Alberta that gets unnoticed because of the noise we see in (inaudible), in Ontario and Quebec. That's the nature of being, I was out west for seven years. 

Michael LeBlanc    42:35

Sure, sure. 

Sylvain Charlebois    42:37

We were just undermined by everything going on in central Canada. But I actually think that Alberta from an agri-food perspective is an up-and-coming province. I don't think that Danielle Smith's regime will change any of that.

Michael LeBlanc   42:51

I don't think so. The politics are, in my view, a little bit weird right now. I mean, I because she's been Premier for a couple of weeks, and it's been, it's a rough start. 

Sylvain Charlebois    42:58

It's been awkward. 

Michael LeBlanc   43:00

It's been, 

Sylvain Charlebois   43:02


Michael LeBlanc  43:03

That's charitable. 

Sylvain Charlebois   43:05

But like I said, as a host, she's delightful. It was, we had great conversations, but as a politician. Let's wait until she gets elected, and you know, go through

Michael LeBlanc  43:23

Premier, she's Premier not Premier elected, but she doesn't hold the post. So, that we have, no one's elected her in the way that these things happen. So,

Sylvain Charlebois  43:30

She doesn't, she doesn't even have a seat yet.

Michael LeBlanc  43:32

We'll let the people speak. 

Sylvain Charlebois  43:34

Yeah, exactly. 

Michael LeBlanc   43:37

Anyways, so it's about seven. I'm just (inaudible), a $7 billion business in Alberta, which is about 16th. But anyway, so from your perspective, neutral to good for agriculture,

Sylvain Charlebois  43:43

I think there's, there's a, there's a hidden entrepreneurial spirit and Alberta needs to be stimulated a little bit and, and so and I think conditions are there to get it going. And honestly, I don't think anybody, nobody cares about what goes on in Edmonton. Really, I think it's all about people and the business community working together. And that's what I've seen in the last few years.

Michael LeBlanc  44:09

Okay, yeah. A reminder, by the way to everyone we'll be podcasting live and interviewing a whole slate of guests at the upcoming Canadian Coffee Association Conference at Globe & Mail Centre in November, November 14th. So, if you run and don't walk you can see us in person, we're going to be doing some interviewing and you're going to be speaking there. So, get your tickets today. Last but not least, new from the lab. Some scary results about Halloween, 

Sylvain Charlebois   44:34

Scary, Boo. 

Michael LeBlanc   44:36

I had to get that one at the increased price of candy 13%. You think,

Sylvain Charlebois  44:44

You are going to open up the door for some trick or treaters.

Michael LeBlanc  44:46

We are this year for the first time,

Sylvain Charlebois    44:47


Michael LeBlanc   44:48

We are this year again. 

Sylvain Charlebois   44:49


Michael LeBlanc   44:50

And there was some noise, 

Sylvain Charlebois  44:51

How do you buy your candy, like how do you select your candies?

Michael LeBlanc  44:55

By what we like, basically because yeah, it says right in the survey, I select the candy. But we. 

Sylvain Charlebois   44:58

I was surprised. 

Michael LeBlanc   44:59

Rockets I love rockets. 

Sylvain Charlebois   45:01


Michael LeBlanc   45:02

I eat rockets one time of the year. I'm big, I'm a big rocket guy. No apples coming out of my house.  You know, it's great, I'll put a link in the show notes, lots of interesting stuff, 80, 84% of parents go through their children's candies, you know which people don't. But it's all prepackaged now, I mean, when I was a kid, (crossover talk), 

Sylvain Charlebois 45:17


Michael LeBlanc   45:18

People are tossing apples in and then you, you know, you quickly just toss them out, but anyway, not what you're looking for. So, but let's get back to a little more, implications, you think it, I mean, it's a big event now for retail. It's one of the biggest events in North America because it's religious, agnostic. Everybody can participate. There's giant 14-foot skeletons now that are,

Sylvain Charlebois   45:44

Oh, yeah, 

Michael LeBlanc   45:45

It's just crazy. You, you think, and you mentioned the survey might be a bellwether for food pricing and, and the economy a little bit. Is it, is it a canary in a coal mine kind of thing? Is that what you were thinking when you, (crossover talk), 

Sylvain Charlebois  45:53

Sort of, you know, I mean, but candies, candy. I actually think that I told my kids this year, you know, chocolate, you may actually have fewer bars this year or smaller bars. Because you know, like Hershey and different companies, they made an announcement about Halloween candy.

Michael LeBlanc  46:14

And they said that, but I found it everywhere. Like, 

Sylvain Charlebois  46:17

But, not, not Halloween wrapped. 

Michael LeBlanc   46:19


Sylvain Charlebois   46:20


Michael LeBlanc   46:21


Sylvain Charlebois   46:22

You've done, really?

Michael LeBlanc  46:22

Every, time I see it, I take pictures of it. 

Sylvain Charlebois  46:24


Michael LeBlanc   46:25

I don't know, whatever. 

Sylvain Charlebois  46:26

So, you think it was a, it was (crossover talk),

Michael LeBlanc  46:28

I don't know. I think, I think the, the groceries knew what they were doing, it's what I think. I mean, there's lots of Halloween candy to go around. As you said, don't be scared, there's no shortage.

Sylvain Charlebois  46:36

Well, the problem this year is that I mean, the last couple of years, we've missed out on some lucrative Halloween's because they were on weekends.

Michael LeBlanc  46:44

Oh, and then people weren't opening their doors. I mean, (crossover talk), you know.

Sylvain Charlebois  46:47

They weren't opening their doors so, so demand went down and, and retailers were stuck with, with, with, with surpluses. This year it is on a Monday. So, they want to cash, they wanted (crossover talk),

Michael LeBlanc  46:57

It should be a good, It should be a good day. So, you're thinking if it's not a spectacular day, that tells us something else?

Sylvain Charlebois  47:01

I'm not sure concerns about COVID are still psychologically there even though COVID is still here. I'm not sure psychologically, people are still there. And secondly, of course, you know, it's all about Halloween. It's about the kids and going out and so it'll be interesting to see how it goes.

Michael LeBlanc  47:20

What are you dressing up as?

Sylvain Charlebois  47:21

I will not? I will, as a professor because I won't be in-town that I hate when we, when Halloween is on a weekday, I'm rarely at home. That's the problem. I hate that on weekends, I'm there, but typically I dress up as Where's Charley? Oh, yeah. 

Michael LeBlanc   47:37


Sylvain Charlebois   47:38

Charlebois, Charley. 

Michael LeBlanc   47:40

Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Sylvain Charlebois   47:42

Get it?

Michael LeBlanc  47:43

Yeah, I can see you as Beetlejuice, actually. 

Sylvain Charlebois   47:45


Michael LeBlanc   47:46

Yeah, yeah, I can see you. 

Sylvain Charlebois  47:48

How do you dress up?

Michael LeBlanc   48:49

I think I'll dress up as a Competition Bureau this year.

Sylvain Charlebois  47:50

If you dim the lights, I'm, I'm, I'm sure you're a scary fellow.

Michael LeBlanc  47:54

Well, on that note, let's wrap up another great episode, The Food Professor podcast. If you're listening to us now, you're probably listening on one of the most popular podcast platforms. We're available on Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Google all the popular platforms. If you can give us a rating and review and be sure to tell your friends all about us who are in the grocery, food service, restaurant industry.

I'm Michael LeBlanc Growth Consultant, Maven Media, and a bunch of podcasts and you are?

Sylvain Charlebois  48:23

Sylvain Charlebois, The Food Professor.

Michael LeBlanc  48:25

Fantastic to be here in person with you. I love doing this in person. Won't be the last time we'll be together again at the Coffee Association. Looking forward to that for everyone listening. Have a great rest of your week and enjoy the rest of your day safe travels

Sylvain Charlebois  48:38

Take care people.


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