Asian grocer’s Canada expansion push starting in Vancouver

Canadian expansion

Asian grocer Sungiven Foods Canada Inc., a subsidiary of Xiamen Sungiven Foods Holding Ltd. of Xiamen, China, is expanding to Canada.

Sungiven opened its Canadian head office in Burnaby at the beginning of this year and will open stores this winter in Vancouver at City Square mall and in Point Grey as well as on Gilmore Street at Hastings in Burnaby. Sungiven operates more than 90 stores in China.

“We are planning to add 10 to 15 stores in the next three years,” said Terence Fong, senior vice-president of Sungiven Foods Canada, who joined the company after more than 13 years with Canada’s other major grocers.

Sungiven chairman Richard Lian has ties to Canada and values the lifestyle here, Fong said. Despite a competitive market dominated by Loblaws Inc. nationally and the Jim Pattison Group locally, Sungiven feels there’s room to grow in Canada’s grocery business.

“The market is still growing with new immigrants and international students coming to our country,” Fong said. “[Customers] are looking for a place that combines both quality and value.”

Kitchen shrinkage

Younger households are among the most likely to eat out, according to Statistics Canada.

Consumer spending data indicates that households under the age of 30 spent 42% of their food budget in restaurants, up from 37% in 2010 and 26% in 2000.

Andy Ramlo, vice-president, intelligence, with Rennie & Associates Realty Ltd., dug out the numbers in response to a recent column by Sylvain Charlebois, a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, noting that some Toronto developers are paring back the kitchen in new developments.

“Builders are shrinking condos to keep prices at affordable levels – and the one thing that appears to be shrinking faster than ice cubes in hot soup is the kitchen,” he writes. “Kitchens have evolved from a location in a home where you cook to a place where people just tweak and heat up whatever they want to eat.”

However, Michael Ferreira of market research firm Urban Analytics Inc. said the trend hasn’t taken root in Vancouver. While condos haven gotten smaller, developers still include full kitchens.

“We haven’t really noticed a trend towards smaller kitchens, though as developers try to create as much efficiency and utility into smaller units … it’s inevitable that different parts of the unit will be made smaller,” he said.

But there are limits. Ferreira doubts developers could avoid building a full kitchen, save in student or dormitory housing. This doesn’t mean it isn’t possible elsewhere, though.

“Toronto is a very different market,” he said, “and they seem to be able to get away with things there that we can’t here.”

Space management

Demand for distribution space is putting pressure on industrial inventories just as space constraints on the receiving end are also increasing demand for more frequent deliveries. The phenomenon goes beyond consumers living in small spaces to the restaurateurs and retailers that lend immediacy to urban life.

Participants in an event the province hosted last fall to connect farmers and chefs and keep local food flowing to local buyers heard how the cost of urban space means restaurants often don’t have the storage capacity needed to handle large stocks of food, and therefore require smaller, more frequent deliveries.

“A lot of them are struggling with space to store product,” said Kevin Klippenstein, who travels twice a week from his farm in Cawston to deliver produce to buyers in the Lower Mainland.

“How do we get our product into Vancouver on a more regular basis where chefs have access to it?”

Many outlying parts of the province, where population densities are lower, face similar issues accessing local food regularly. Some local producers have responded by embracing e-commerce that centralizes orders and streamlines fulfilment, but again, distribution space is key. •