Grocery Innovation Show

Foreign Agriculture Services Participants with a BVMDGA representative at Toronto's Grocery Innovation Show.
Foreign Agriculture Services Participants with a BVMDGA representative at Toronto’s Grocery Innovation Show.

Foreign Agriculture Service Canada is pleased to report the Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers (BVMDGA) were voted a Most Innovative Product with their new Pumpkin Pie Spiced and Dark Chocolate Orange Date Rolls at Canada’s annual Grocery Innovation Show (GIC). BVMDGA is an active USDA Market Access Program (MAP) partner through the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association and has seen sales grow by 215 percent over the last years in Canada. Much of this success is attributed to BVMDGA’s utilization of an in-country representative, Ken Berger, ever present in the marketplace to carry-out the grower association’s marketing and promotion initiatives. As a result, Canada is now the top export market of BVMDGA accounting for 15 percent of annual production.

The GIC show took place at the Toronto Congress Centre from September 28-29, 2015. The show is hosted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, who account for approximately 30 percent of the sector, including significant players such as Longo’s and Overwaitea Food Group. It’s location in Toronto also allows buyers from Canada’s biggest chains — including Loblaw, Sobeys, and Metro — to attend.

Each year, industry food experts and media develop a list of the 10 most innovative products featured at the show. The winners are selected from new products being launched at the show. Included in this year’s list were Pumpkin Pie Spiced Date Rolls and Dark Chocolate Orange Date Rolls from U.S. brand Natural Delights.

The date brand — created by the Datepac LLC (the business arm of Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers’ Association, or BVMDGA) — has grown sales by 215% over the last six years in Canada. Year after year, Nielsen reports that dates continue to be among the top 10 fastest growing categories in the produce section throughout grocery outlets. This is in large part due to the demographics of Canadian society. Between 2006 and 2011 (the last year a census was completed) 661,600 people immigrated to Canada from Asia, including the Middle East. During the same time period 145,700 immigrants arrived from Canada. These regions include areas where dates are very popular. Dates are also a traditional food during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In 2011, just over one million residents of Canada identified themselves as Muslim and that number is growing.

Many people don’t know that Natural Delights’ Medjool Dates, the “King of Dates,” are grown in the United States, between the southeast corner of California and southwest corner of Arizona. BVMDGA has worked hard to raise the profile of U.S. grown dates in Canada and this win should help convert even more fans in the market. As the Holiday season approaches, Canadians can now look forward to purchasing their favorite dates in 8 and 12 inch gift packs to share with their friends and families.