Loblaws College Square assistant manager Paul Payant had been working at the store for just five weeks when a focus group from the Jewish community gathered to discuss his kosher department on December 3.
As we first reported online, suggestions poured forth, which Payant promised to look into. This month, he updated the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin on his initial progresss on the file.
“Our intention was to come together as a community and create a concrete plan to improve our assortment of kosher products for Jewish customers,” he said. “The turn-out was beyond our expectations and, thanks to the engaged shoppers who participated, I think we achieved our goal.”
Customers told Loblaws they were looking for more healthy options in the kosher department, he said.
“To address this, we’ve already started working with Christine Devaney, our in-store dietitian. Monthly, Christine will host free kosher days to speak to customers one-on-one about nutritional choices, help with personal shopping, [and] provide recipe ideas and give out kosher snacks!”
Loblaws College Square – the site of Loblaws’ only kosher department in Ottawa – has also instituted fresh-squeezed juices and salads in the kosher department and is working on quick lunch and dinner-time meal ideas, including hot meal deals and sandwiches, said Payant.
“We are looking for a supplier that offers parve cakes for celebratory occasions. And, in the very near future, our store will be rolling out stickers to help customers quickly identify kosher items throughout the store,” he said.
In addition, he has met with the Kosher Food Bank, and the store will continue to help the food bank by collecting kosher food donations.
“Thanks to their guidance, we also plan to offer kosher cooking classes where community members can learn how to prepare food, sample products and take home recipe ideas,” he said.
Payant also feels it’s “equally important for our customers to know what feedback we may have difficulty implementing at the moment.”
He said Loblaws has received many requests for specific name-brand items that customers would like to see the store carry.
“Some of these items are just not available for us to order and some of them are only available on a seasonal basis … That said, I think we’ve come a long way with providing a greater assortment and we’re constantly looking for ways to improve. I think better identifying the kosher products we already have in store will also help,” he said.
Payant said he would like the community to know that “we have almost weekly meetings with different groups, including the Kosher Food Bank, Ottawa Vaad HaKashrut and suppliers, so that we can exceed our customers’ expectations. We are working on several projects that will take some time to introduce. The focus group was just the start.”
Payant can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.