Sobeys Morinville owners Susie (left) and Shaun Thompson (right) display some of the locally produced products available in their store. – Stephen Dafoe Photo
[playht_player width=”100%” height=”90px” voice=”en-US-JennyNeural”]
by Stephen Dafoe
Locally-grown produce and locally-produced cheeses, honey and other products are taking up more space in Sobeys Morinville these days as owners Shaun and Susie Thompson expand their offerings of products from the Sturgeon County and Edmonton region.
“It’s grown substantially,” said Sobeys Morinville co-owner Shaun Thompson. “Susan and I talked a while back and said, ‘We really have to start pointing out to our customers what’s local to Alberta and what’s local to our area. We have a lot that’s local-local, Sturgeon County local—20 minutes, 30 minutes away.”
The owners see the sale of local goods as both for business and their customers.
“You are getting healthy, wholesome products without a lot of fillers and preservatives,” said co-owner Susie Thompson. “You are offering your customers the most healthy possible product.”
Thompson said that with health issues that arise from some preservatives, there is a growing trend among consumers to seek out products with fewer ingredients in them.
“Farming fruits and vegetables—they are what they are. Meat is what it is. You just feel better consuming them,” she said.
One local product the store carries is Grandma Bee’s Honey, a natural raw honey product that is soft.
“Everyone kind of scratches their head when they see it in a squeeze container because most honey, you can’t just squeeze out of a squeeze container,” Shaun Thompson said, adding that the way Grandma Bee’s processes their product, it can be squeezed from the container.
The store sources produce and products from the Morinville and Scotford Hutterite Colonies, Sturgeon County producers, including Lakeside Dairy, and others in Edmonton and surrounding areas.
“We have a listing of all of the companies, and it’s probably more than 400,” Shaun Thompson said. “Fort Saskatchewan [Scotford Colony] was a big one, and they had beautiful produce, but there was only a selected few [stores] that could order from them. I put my feelers out there and said we are 30 minutes from them, and I think they have a fantastic product. We brought it in and posted it to Facebook, and everything sold that day. We’ve just had such great success with it.”
Although currently only carrying heartier products like carrots and potatoes due to availability, Sobeys had peas, radishes, fresh dill, and other items from the Scotford Colony earlier in the season.
Another local success story for customers and the store is Lakeside Dairy products. Susie Thompson invited the Sturgeon County business, which won the Chamber’s Agricultural Business of the Year Award last year, to stock their product at Sobeys after seeing it in another store.
“We get weekly deliveries of cheese curds, and now we’ve got their beer cheese sticks,” Susie Thompson said.
The store also carries products from Edmonton’s The Cheese Factory, including beer cheese and curds. Also coming to the store is Greek Village Tzatziki, made in Onoway and packaged in Edmonton, and Daniel’s Dill Dip, made in Calgary.
“I’ve been told it is the best dill dip you will ever have,” he said of the forthcoming product.
Customer response to the variety of locally- and regionally-produced and manufactured food has been positive.
“People love it. When we post on Facebook, we see all the comments and the positivity from it,” Susie Thompson said. “They sell. It’s clear. When we get the weekly deliveries of the cheese, they have to replenish it every week. Same with the Scotford Farms and everything. That says something.”
Shaun Thompson added that employees and customers both like that the store is trying to support locals.
“They like knowing where the food comes from,” he said, adding that the store has always tried to carry local and regional products, including potatoes. “As soon as Morinville Growers stock is prepared, we bring that in. When we are out of those potatoes, it goes to Edmonton potatoes.”
Tomatoes, cauliflower, and English cucumbers are also produced in the area or the province.
“People love supporting Alberta,” he said.