From November 11th to 13th, 2018, the Delegation of Quebec in Chicago (DQC) participated in North America’s largest private label food and beverage show alongside around 30 exhibiting companies from Quebec. The week prior, around a dozen companies also made the trip from Quebec to Illinois for a “Taste of Canada”, a gourmet B2B event successfully organized by the Consulate General of Canada in Chicago in collaboration with provincial partners, including the Quebec Delegation in Chicago and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food (MAPAQ)’s Market Access Office. Quebec’s Chicago Office was represented by Molly Bañuelos, Commercial Attaché for the Food and Beverage sector.
PLMA’s 2018 Private Label Trade Show – The Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) show took place at the Rosemont Center just outside the city of Chicago, a hub of the United States agri-foods industry. Benefitting from a long history of food processing, Chicago serves as the hometown and national headquarters of a significant number of retail chains and an important distribution center for the Midwest region and the greater US market.
The PLMA show attracted more than 1,500 exhibitors from 53 countries who came with product samples in hand and hungry for new opportunities to distribute their goods. On the other side of the aisle, buyers representing all sales channels— supermarkets, big box stores, drug store chains, online retailers, convenience stores, importers, exporters, wholesalers, and discounters— could be found walking the exhibitor hall floor, looking to get a taste of new products and discover potential partners.
Luckily for all there is plenty of room at the table: the private label market is expanding faster than national brands, arriving today at almost 25% of unit sales in the US. This growth is being led by retailers coast-to-coast who have taken on aggressive store brands strategies. Among them, specialty chains have recognized the value in developing their own brands as a means to build shopper loyalty unheard of until recent years1.
With geographic and regulatory proximity in their favor, Quebec’s food and beverage producers have capitalized on their position and have developed significant expertise as quality private label suppliers to American retailers. The relatively vast American market has benefitted Quebec’s small and medium-sized companies with a bounty of new opportunities to increase sales volumes while going the private label route offers the added benefit of eliminating the need to allocate considerable resources to build consumer recognition in a foreign market.
Just to name a few of the 30 or so Québécois entrepreneurs making an appearance at PLMA: Chocolat LaMontagne has dreamt up various formats of packaged chocolates and nuts in traditionally delicious flavors like its Maple cream milk chocolate bites. Levitts Foods plans to wrap up its famous smoked meats in individual vacuum-packed servings for the frozen food aisles of supermarkets south of Montreal. YourBarFactory is seeking to seduce health-conscious consumers with clean label snack foods like organic cereal, fruit, and nut bars that are customizable to accommodate the dietary restrictions du jour.
Indeed, the PLMA show lends the opportunity each year to discover the newest trends in food and beverage as well as more traditional and artisanal products, and everything in between. Innovative products made with maple, cranberry, and other provincial specialties made an appearance at the Quebec Pavilion.
Molly Bañuelos, Commercial Attaché for the Food and Beverage sector at the Quebec Delegation in Chicago, was on site at PLMA to meet with Quebec companies, lend expertise on the Midwest market, and facilitate new connections with local buyers.
A Taste of Canada — Just a week before, the hard work of Mrs. Bañuelos, Philippe Koutchenkov of MAPAQ’s Montreal-based Market Access Office, and colleagues from the Consulate General of Canada in Chicago set the stage for success of another gastronomic show at the Rosemont Center.
A Taste of Canada was an occasion to directly match Quebec companies with the 30 or so invited buyers: representatives from supermarket chains, food service distributors, and a major airline company, among others. At the end of the day-long event, 47 Canadian companies, 14 of which hailed from Quebec, participated in more than 300 B2B meetings with US buyers.
Although still too early for any major deals to have been concluded, preliminary results suggest that all this recent activity in Chicago will prove to be a recipe for success.
To read more about Canadian food suppliers and the 2018 Taste of Canada event, visit www.taste-of-canada.com.
For more information on the Chicago and Midwest food and beverage market, the latest report by MAPAQ’s Market Access Team is available online: Regarde sur le marché Chicago/Midwest (French)
Reporting by Alexandra Mendrek-Laske,
Economic Affairs Assistant at the Delegation of Quebec in Chicago