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QCSA: The local junction

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CCentral-QCSAInvitesYou_SalonDECQuébec c-stores thrive when they find the right niche, and the Québec Convenience Stores Association (QCSA) has launched a new initiative to help retailers connect with customers and establish a local advantage.

The Product of the Year awards, which will be showcased at this year’s QCSA Summit in October, highlight the year’s best products in the Québec c-industry, and the role c-stores can play in promoting regional products, including high-margin categories like wine and cheese.

There are four different product categories – Product of the Year, Beverage of the Year, Fresh Product of the Year, and Aliments du Québec Product of the Year – with the winners selected by retailers.

Within the Product of the Year category, there will be three prizes – gold, silver, and bronze, and the beverage category is broken down into two different sub-categories – alcoholic beverage and non-alcoholic beverage.

Here’s the lowdown on how this new initiative works, and what it means for Québec c-stores and regional manufacturers.

The c-store advantage

Over the past two years, the QCSA has worked with the Québec government to create the Green Paper, a list of 28 proposed changes to government rules and regulations. The list was narrowed down to seven priorities, including “Local wine and alcohol,” which helped inspire the product awards.

QCSA president Michel Gadbois says there are many regional wine and cheese producers in the province, and c-stores are the perfect place for them to introduce their products on a smaller scale.

“We want to make sure that c-stores are seen as the best place for producers who want to be in the market, but don’t have the volume to be in a supermarket,” he says.

“The whole idea was to make sure that retailers become that junction, to make sure these producers have enough volume for the region, and then they can expand into other regions, and maybe even go on to become a major manufacturer,” adds Gadbois.

The award cycle

The Product of the Year Award cycle starts at the QCSA annual golf tournament, where manufacturers can register their products for different award categories. These nominees are then promoted throughout the year in QCSA materials, before the manufacturers bring them to the QCSA Summit, where they have a booth to showcase their product.

The winners are announced at the Summit, and delegates from each region in Québec bring back the news to the retailers in their area. From here, manufacturers with winning products are eligible to participate in the QCSA’s iPad campaign, where iPads will be set up in 10 stores in an electoral riding. Retailers will offer samples of the winning products, and consumers can provide immediate feedback using the iPads in store.

The final stage is the presentation of these award winners in a pavilion at Le Salon Dépanneurs, épiceries & cie trade show in Montreal in April, where manufacturers, distributors, and independent and chain retailers can learn more about the products and any future opportunities.

“We want to offer a marketing and customer experience for them in store with the iPad, and then something really big and specific with the pavilion at Le Salon,” notes Gadbois.

The QCSA Summit

Gadbois says the Bromont, QC location for this year’s Summit was chosen for a reason: the riding is home to Québec’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister, Pierre Paradis, who will attend the event on October 26.

“We’re trying to show manufacturers that we’re probably the best market to try out a new product, and we’ve got the means to do so. That’s why we have the Minister attending, because we want the government to get involved in the program,” explains Gadbois.

He added that other presentations will also take place at the Summit, including a state of the industry address, and sessions on what’s new in the industry, including fresh products and regional marketing.