Corporate policies prevented him from buying local products, he says, so he joined forces with four other former Sobeys franchisees and formed the independent Hometown Grocers Co-Op.
Canadians are increasingly subscribing to the "buy local" and "100 mile diet" philosophies due to concerns over imported food, Kropf adds. "The pressure was always mounting — the more recalls, the more bad press from China or wherever the product was coming from. I know that in our case, our private label pickles are made in Indonesia. I couldn't believe that."
As a franchisee for a large grocery chain, Kropf says, corporate policies stipulating that he only buy federally inspected meat prevented him from stocking local products. Most federally inspected meat in Canada comes from large corporations such as Maple Leaf, Cargill and Tyson.
"Most of our beef was Alberta beef. Chicken and pork could be U.S., so to me, that was a concern that, you know, we've got all these farmers in our back yard," Kropf says.
The nine stores have retained their wholesale relationship with Sobeys for items such as dog food, spices and breakfast cereals, but the chilled meat section of Kropf's store in Elora, Ont., is now stacked high with fresh pork, chicken and beef that comes from no farther than 60 kilometres away.
The stores are located in southern Ontario communities such as Arthur, Durham, Lucknow and Palmerston.
Co-op member Peter Knipfel owns The Chesley Grocery Store in Chesley, Ont., and is part-owner of a provincially inspected local beef processing facility 10 kilometres from his supermarket. Sobeys' corporate policy meant he couldn't stock his shelves with his own beef.