Michael Medline, CEO of Empire, said he plans to “blanket” Toronto and its surrounding suburbs with the upmarket grocery chain. Sobeys’s parent company acquired Farm Boy in 2018; it currently has 28 locations in Ontario. (Financial Post)
Talking point: Grocery is one of many sectors facing a dumbbell effect: growth in the high-end or specialty and discount categories, leaving mid-market players struggling. Supermarket sales were up 2.1 per cent in December 2018 compared to the previous year, but specialty food stores grew by 8.7 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. While Medline said Empire’s main Sobeys brand isn’t in trouble, the company is making moves on both ends of the market. It’s converting a quarter of its 255 locations in western Canada to the discount FreshCo brand, and launching a delivery service with British e-commerce company Ocado next year for customers willing to pay for convenience.