Grocery as e-Grocery, Data as a Differentiator

Perspectives on the New Normal of Canadian Grocery.

Kenric Tyghe

We are initiating coverage on Canada’s leading grocers: Empire Company Ltd., Loblaw Companies Ltd., and Metro Inc. The pandemic has driven a step change in consumer behaviour and channel preference for food from home and a marked lockdown driven shift away from food service (i.e. restaurants). With the pandemic, almost overnight, pushing online grocery to the top of both consumer and management teams shopping lists, the gradual, albeit accelerating ramp of online grocery in Canada essentially became a mad scramble late in the first quarter of 2020. This new normal shone an even brighter light than expected on the materially different omni-channel strategies, data analytics competencies and execution to date against these imperatives for Canada’s largest grocers. 


  • Empire: The Empire of today is not the Empire of old with change being successfully driven by the current team at a pace not seen in a generation. The company is increasingly focused on the expansion of discount and the penetration of urban cores, while ramping its home delivery online grocery offering Voilà by Sobeys. While the pace of change and expectations around the impact of the current strategy are not without risk, execution to date on the slew of initiatives has been near flawless.
  • Loblaw: Loblaw owns Canada’s largest and leading loyalty program in PC Optimum, which has the most depth by category and longest tail by date of any major retail loyalty program in the country. We believe this continues to prove invaluable in the battle for both mind and market share in Canadian grocery. Loblaw’s analytics-driven insight and ability to quickly scale its Click & Collect online grocery offering, dovetailing with a well-balanced footprint, support its commanding presence in Canadian grocery.
  • Metro: While Metro has long been a grocery darling due in equal parts to its strong footprint and even stronger execution, the pandemic in our opinion has exposed Metro’s very measured and cautious approach to the ramp of its online grocery capabilities. While Metro’s lower risk approach may ultimately prove justified, in the context of today’s new normal in grocery, the depth and breadth of their online offering lags that of its peers, which gives us pause given the pandemic driven shift in consumer preferences.
Kenric Tyghe, 647-776-8249

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