Empire Partners with District Ventures to Help Early-Stage Food Entrepreneurs Bring Product to Store Shelves

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Canadian food retail conglomerate Empire has partnered with District Ventures to aid early-stage companies in the food, beverage, and health CPG industries bring their products to store shelves across the country. As part of the partnership, Empire has now become title sponsor of the District Ventures’ Accelerator program and District Ventures Kitchen. 

The combined venture, based out of Calgary, recently acquired a 20,000-square-foot commercial kitchen from the City of Toronto. This partnership provides food and beverage entrepreneurs with access to an extensive array of equipment and programming, including production spaces, business advisory services, and packaging facilities, all to aid in their business development. 

The partnership gives Canadian food entrepreneurs in the District Ventures Accelerator program access to Empire and its various forms of support, including but not limited to coaching from local development managers and opportunities to bring their products to the grocer’s store shelves within a particular region or across Canada.

Empire Companies’ key businesses are all based in the food retail sector. Headquartered in Sterllarton, Nova Scotia, Empire oversees Sobeys Inc., IGA, Safeway, Farm Boy, Foodland, FreshCo, Thrifty Foods, and Rachelle Béry.

“Empire has a rich history of meaningfully investing in local growers and suppliers across Canada,” Jana Sobey, Vice President of Merchandising, Thrifty Foods, Community Format, and field at Sobeys Inc., said in a press release.

District Ventures was founded in 2015 by entrepreneur and investor Arlene Dickinson. Considered an ecosystem of knowledge and opportunity, it has become a highly-regarded resource for businesses in the food, beverage, health and wellness industries. Focusing on bringing capital, marketing, programming, and commercialization to companies in this sector, to date, more than 260 companies have been elevated because of District Ventures, creating close to 1,000 jobs in the process. 

“Supporting local is at the heart of everything we do, and we are incredibly proud to stand side-by-side with District Ventures as we continue to nurture the countless innovative food entrepreneurs in communities large and small right across our country.”

“This exciting new partnership is enormous for entrepreneurs and companies in the food, beverage, and health industries,” said Dickinson. “Since 2015, we have been committed to supporting early-stage companies in these spaces. Empire’s sponsorship highlights the importance of this work and reinforces the fact that we need to support companies that both feed and nourish our communities and assist them in achieving their fullest potential.”

Empire has a long and successful history of helping local food and beverage entrepreneurs bring their products to markets all across Canada. Always ensuring that local products have a place in market assortment, the company also ensures that in-store signage highlights local products. In addition, Sobeys actively sources local products and, since establishing a local development team in 2018, has partnered with more than 800 local suppliers.

Both the District Ventures Kitchen and District Ventures Accelerator facilities will don the Sobeys logo.

Article Author

Jessica Finch
Jessica Finch
Jessica Finch is a writer and editor based in Toronto. She holds a BA in English and Psychology and is a graduate of Ryerson University’s Publishing program. She has extensive managerial experience in the food service industry, and is interested in exploring innovations within this sector and other retail environments.

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