Oh, Canada!

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I coordinate international marketing activities for a food and agriculture trade association. Back in September, I was given the opportunity to go to Toronto to observe and assist with a trade mission that I was involved in planning. We brought representatives from six small southern food companies to tour Canadian food retailers and to meet one-on-one with Canadian importers and distributors. Our U.S. companies promoted a variety of products including sauces, granolas, baking mixes, pepper jellies, and even some seafood.

This was the first time I have been able to attend an event like this (and it was my first time in Canada!). In February I was sent to Dubai for a major international trade show, but a trade mission is more focused and much smaller. Our companies got a great overview of the market from some industry specialists, including a firm who provided information on mandatory bilingual labeling.

My favorite part of the trip was touring the retailers. We visited the big stores like Sobey’s, Loblaws, and Longos. but also stopped by some niche stores. The Mediterranean focused store Adonis was one of my favorites. It featured a Halal meat section as well as an entire wall that was dedicated to baklava! We also stopped by a store where all of the food was Asian cuisine & noted that most of the packaging was not in compliance. Apparently some retailers take this risk, but inspectors can come in and pull products off the shelves and give out hefty fines.

In my free time, I was also able to explore a little of Toronto. It is such an international city & I immediately fell in love with it. There are restaurants on every corner featuring a different type of cuisine. I could go there just to eat “around the world”. Did I mention how friendly Canadians are? I already knew this from dealing with our Canadian consultants on a day to day basis, but it was just refreshing to be surrounded by such accepting and helpful people when in a foreign city.

I hope I get the chance to visit Toronto again soon, and for a longer period of time. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t given much thought to visiting Canada because I didn’t think it would be exotic or even foreign, but my experience has definitely changed my perspective.

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