Local produce at the click of a button: Farm Boy co-CEO talks future plans at Mayor’s Breakfast

Jeff York
Farm Boy co-CEO Jeff York.

Following his company’s acquisition by Empire Co. on Monday, Farm Boy co-CEO Jeff York shared his vision of home-delivered groceries with Ottawa business leaders at the regular Mayor’s Breakfast Series Wednesday morning.

The well-liked Ottawa grocer was purchased by Sobeys’ parent company in a deal worth $800 million – a partnership that York said will only help to expand and better the Farm Boy brand thanks to the “big brother” relationship the companies share.  

A major part of that expansion will be to target the Greater Toronto Area by introducing a number of new locations in the market, explained York. While part of the focus will be on building those brick-and-mortar stores, similar to the recent addition at the Rideau Centre, the company is also looking to branch out into online retail.

Back in January, Sobeys brokered a deal with the British online supermarket giant Ocado and is currently working on opening a warehouse near Toronto. York said he expects Farm Boy to integrate into this service in Toronto within two years, establishing the city as a retail hub “complemented by digital sales.”

York said his mission since joining the company nearly a decade ago has been to help grow the business from a “grocery store selling produce to a food experience,” and that turning to e-commerce is just part of that growth. Like Farm Boy’s expansion into ready-prepared food, joining Sobeys in at-home food delivery will only help to broaden the customer experience, he said.

While many Ottawa residents were wary when they learned of Farm Boy’s new ownership in September, York ensured those in attendance that the Farm Boy brand would not change and the company’s commitment to both Ottawa and fresh local produce would continue.

“Thinking beyond Ottawa and benchmarking against the best out there is how we get to be world class,” said York. “The investments we’re making now are really great in the long run.”