Darrell Jones, president of Save-On-Foods

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures; grocery retailers and food manufacturers have implemented such measures to ensure that Canadians continue to have access to safe food. Grocers have modified their in-store practices and suppliers have changed manufacturing processes and their supply chains to address unprecedented demand. “In Their Own Words”  brings the behind-the-scenes stories to Grocery Business' readers.

Darrell Jones, president, Save-On-Foods

Crisis leadership initiatives 

We took action early on in the pandemic to preserve the health and safety of our team members and customers. We immediately suspended all company events, business travel and non-essential work. We followed all government recommendations regarding self-isolation and self-monitoring for symptoms right away, and continue to work with local health authorities whenever needed. We also implemented new procedures for cleaning and sanitation at our stores, offices and warehouses – raising our already high standards on cleanliness and food safety.  

Right from the start, we stayed plugged into the needs of our communities – in addition to working around the clock to ensure that our stores were (and are!) being replenished quickly and with as much locally purchased inventory as possible, we adjusted our operating hours to provide a quieter, more comfortable shopping environment for our seniors, essential service providers, and shoppers who are differently-abled.  We also adjusted our eCommerce ordering system to accommodate special requests for these same groups.

We took also took immediate steps to make sure that we were able to provide continued support, including the provision of food, to charity partners who rely on us for support all throughout the year. From providing additional support to local food banks to helping provide meal support to vulnerable kids in our school communities to arranging special orders for first nations and remote communities, we have done our very best to provide resources, tools, information, and broader community connections to those in need.

Impact on the supply chain

As you know, the supply chain in Canada is strong; it’s one of the strongest in the world. We are working around the clock to keep our shelves stocked with the products our customers want the most, but because of the increase in demand on certain items and in some cases, overbuying, we aren’t always able to keep all shelves full. It’s critical that Canadians understand there is no shortage of food. We are doing our best to move it as fast as we can and for the most part, we’re doing a good job of that. We ask that our customers shop like they normally would and avoid overbuying in certain categories such as toilet paper or sanitizer.

We are very grateful to our supplier partners who continue to work closely with our teams to limit any supply disruptions.

Your business takeaways from this experience

As a 105-year-old grocery company who counts people, service, innovation and integrity amongst our core values, it’s about making sure that every day, we continue to earn the trust that our customers and our communities put in us.

For us, the key business takeaways are:

  • the workforce who keeps our food system strong in this country, including our front-line retail workers, is essential;
  • we need to do everything possible to support our neighbours and communities as we move through this crisis;
  • to keep our businesses strong in this incredibly tumultuous and uncertain time, we need to be able to adapt quickly and effectively with our partners in industry to meet customers’ changing needs.

Although our top priority is always the health and safety of our team members and customers, this pandemic quickly showed the world what we already knew: that our team members are doing essential work. They are the ones leaving their homes to help their neighbours get food on the table, and it’s so important that they’re recognized for their commitment to their communities.  

When it comes to our commitment to our communities, at Save-On-Foods, our goal remains the same: to deliver always customer first service, every day. Community is everything and supporting our communities – including our more than 2,500 local grocers, producers and suppliers – is one of our biggest priorities.

So whether we are selling products to customers in our bricks and mortar stores, through our eCommerce platform or advancing health care delivery options through our pharmacies in innovative new ways, we continue to be focused on giving customers what they want, where and when they want to get it – and that includes more of a focus than ever on supporting production of local food and consumers goods.

Right now, by necessity, we are seeing the return of production and manufacturing of food and consumer goods to our country, and we welcome this change.

As Canada’s largest western-based grocery retailer, we consider ourselves very fortunate to have an already strong network of trusted local and national partnerships.

We believe that now is the time to put all of our collective weight and effort into supporting business that do business in Canada and we look forward to work with our partners in business to advance this effort. 

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