Chicoutimi mustard to save Costco

Thanks to an unlikely combination of circumstances, a small business in Chicoutimi will start selling its mustard jars at Costco in the next few hours. Just in time for the national holiday. Looks like it’s fixed with the Views type, but no.

Posted at 7:30 p.m

It took unusually high temperatures in western Canada, finesse, nerves of steel, buying large containers, and years of Canada Sauce preparation to land an unexpected order from Costco. By the luckiest of all coincidences, all the stars have aligned.

So much so that Quebecers shopping at Costco will see mustard made in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean this week. The yellow spice, sold in one-liter jars, will be present in about ten stores.

Canada Sauce’s three co-founders had a goal since day one in 2019 to sell to Costco. “Our competition is American and for us it is the gateway to the American market,” said President Simon-Pierre Murdock. But taking advantage of the retailer’s immense volumes doesn’t mean yelling at Costco.

“There’s a manual for selling to them. You are so strict. You can’t be a little left or right,” says the young leader.

Canada Sauce read this manual from the beginning with the intention of having it ready in a “three to five year” horizon. It eventually took three years of work to bring it up to standard. It was worth it.

In January, the phone rang and it was a Costco rep looking for much-needed mustard. The SME could seize the opportunity, it was ready! Above all, she had enough mustard seeds. After the extreme heat in western Canada devastated the crop, Canada Sauce bought whatever raw materials it could, even if it meant working capital was under tremendous pressure. Indeed, a shortage ensued, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, another major mustard producer internationally.⁠1.

But what exactly does the Costco manual contain?

“Palletizing is a key element,” says Simon-Pierre Murdock, giving me an example. Explanations. In a traditional supermarket, employees empty boxes to put products on the shelves. Not at Costco. The pallet is placed on the floor and must be able to be used by the customer without significant previous handling. In other words, Costco employees shouldn’t have to open boxes.

To give you an idea of ​​the level of detail, the pallet must be protected by a thick sheet of plastic. Not two. Costco wants super-fast unboxing. Other retailers charge “three envelopes” instead.

Photo Robert Skinner, Archives La PressE

In order to sell its products at Costco, the pallet must be placed on the floor and customers must be able to use it without significant prior handling. In other words, Costco employees shouldn’t have to open boxes.

Costco also requires HACCP (health standards) accreditation, the ability to “recall products in two hours” and “economic formats,” lists Simon-Pierre Murdock.

Canada Sauce got lucky. Last fall, an order for one-liter jars was placed with Egyptian and Chinese suppliers. This new format should be presented at the IGA. “It was very complicated, very complex. There are no suppliers in North America. Large quantities had to be bought. The delivery time was six months,” says Simon-Pierre Murdock.

Although glass is more expensive than plastic and it’s more complicated for the consumer to squeeze out every last milliliter of mustard, Canada Sauce sticks to its container. “As with mason jars, we fill hot to sterilize them. Our product has a shelf life of two years at room temperature, with no preservatives, colorants or texturizers. If the bottle weren’t made of glass, this wouldn’t be possible. »


Canada Sauce would like to introduce its ketchup and relish to Costco one day.

The medium-sized company with 35 employees wants to one day introduce its ketchup and relish to Costco. She must first pass the mustard test. “We’re starting with 10 bearings and will expand as the product achieves the expected success,” Martin Groleau, spokesman for Costco Canada, told me. The retailer, he says, is open to making room for local produce “if it makes sense.”

Canada Sauce will have an opportunity to capitalize on growing consumer interest in Costco. In fact, Canada’s membership card renewal rate has never been higher at 92.3%. In the last quarter, the company had sales of 68 billion with 830 bearings. In Canada, revenue increased 15%.

Heinz and French were also small once.

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