Inspired by the Grand Cafés of Paris, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters was brought to life by a burning ambition to bring that culture to Canada.
Starting as a coffee cart in 1993, it opened its first café in Stratford, Ontario in 1996. Since then, it has grown to 16 locations and can be found on the shelves of grocery stores across the country. The cafés are throughout the Greater Toronto Area and southwestern Ontario.
As the company celebrates its 30th anniversary, CEO Christine Cruz-Clarke continues to look at how the brand can expand its footprint across the country.
“We want to see Canadians across the country continue to enjoy that best café experience and we’re going to continue to launch our coffee into retailers across Canada, expanding from our current footprint of over 2,000 stores with presence in every province,” she said.
She said the company, with its focus on the Canadian market, is the fastest growing super premium coffee brand in the country. There are no plans today to enter the U.S. market.
Cruz-Clarke said there is still a lot of potential for growth in Canada.
“Canada is actually a top five market in terms of coffee consumption. The amount of people drinking coffee in Canada is already high but that continues to grow year over year and what we’ve seen with the lasting impact of the pandemic is individuals who are continuing to invest in higher quality coffee rituals at home as a way to have that little luxury within your own home environment,” she said.
Besides its cafés across Ontario, it also has a roastery in Ancaster, Ontario.
The brand’s name was inspired by Honoré de Balzac’s famous quote, “the Café is the People’s Parliament.”
The brand is available through a number of major grocery banners from Costco and Loblaws, to Sobeys and Whole Foods – anywhere from traditional grocers to specialty stores. Cruz-Clarke said the company has a great shop on Amazon.ca.
To celebrate Balzac’s 30th Anniversary in 2023, the company is launching a limited-edition ‘Anniversary Blend’ whole bean coffee. This unique blend of 100 per cent Arabica beans pays homage to where they came from, where they are, and where they’re going next. The Anniversary Blend will be available at all Balzac’s retail cafés.
Balzac’s will also be launching a digital consumer promotion offering Canadians a chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to Paris, France or one of 1,000 other coveted prizes. New advertising and promotional creative will also make its way in-market to create awareness for this special time in the brand’s history.
Cruz-Clarke said that over the past 30 years Balzac has really transformed from a humble coffee cart in Ontario Place to starting to grow one café at a time.
“Over our 30-year history, we have built relationships in every single community that we have integrated in which has allowed us to have a very genuine and authentic following across Canada. As consumers start to translate out-of-home experiences to in-home, they look to us for ways to recreate café favourites at-home. Those who have discovered us through social channels, create the recipes we share online to first experience and engage with us.”
The coffee business is a competitive one these days with shops at almost every corner from global brands to local ones.
“A lot of people especially younger demographics want to have relationships with brands that are a reflection of who they are,” she said. “Individuals seek brands that align with their values. If you can connect with consumers at this level you can build a relationship that is both organic level and authentic helping you as a brand stand out in a crowded category.”
“Canadians are constantly looking for quality. Our winning formula comes from offering a high-quality product at good value and providing consumers with the brand and product experience that they’re looking for.”