Peachtree invests in brand-building

In a bid to broaden its market beyond Web-heads, The Peachtree Network, an online grocery portal that operates in 16 markets across Canada and the U.S., will spend $800,000 in the year ahead to build its brand. Flush with cash from...

In a bid to broaden its market beyond Web-heads, The Peachtree Network, an online grocery portal that operates in 16 markets across Canada and the U.S., will spend $800,000 in the year ahead to build its brand.

Flush with cash from its recent initial public offering, the Montreal-based company ( is ramping up its promotional strategy and will spend at least $400,000 on a national branding campaign to launch in April.

‘There are new customers coming online, times are changing and we’re after growth,’ explains Robert MacKalski, Peachtree’s vice-president of marketing. ‘Obviously, we have the ability to start spending money in this way and we understand the consumer a lot more.’

Beginning in April, Peachtree will test three different direct mail and billboard approaches in the Vancouver market. The strategy, developed by Toronto’s Beakbane Marketing, will allow the cybergrocer to tweak the media mix and creative based on results on the West Coast before rolling the ads out nationally.

Peachtree is currently fine-tuning its strategies to reflect lessons learned from market research. The goal is to better understand who shops online and why, so that the company can grab a bigger chunk of Canada’s $55-billion grocery market.

‘Traditionally we segmented (the market) in three ways: busy people, people with mobility difficulties, and nerds,’ says MacKalski. ‘When we looked at the busy people, there are different reasons people are shopping online and we’re in the process right now of doing a lifestyle segmentation.’

That segmentation is telling the company, for instance, that people in Vancouver are more likely to try online shopping for positive reasons – like buying time to spend with their kids – than Torontonians, who want to avoid negatives, like dinged cars and long lineups. The company plans to adjust its advertising in each market to reflect these differences.

In recent months, Peachtree has been forging online marketing alliances as well, with Canadian Internet portals including and Sympatico. Peachtree has an exclusivity agreement with, making it the official online grocer of the Southam-owned Internet site and giving its logo exposure in the portal’s current national newspaper ads.

Once the darlings of the dot-com world, online grocers have been struggling to capture a significant offline customer base. Poor results have begun to plague American cybergrocers, most visibly with Peapod, whose troubles have prompted its directors to consider selling the company.

Obviously, Peachtree doesn’t want to meet the same fate, so it has been putting a heavier emphasis on customer research. It is also experimenting with new channels through which to get the attention of the elusive consumer.

Peachtree is testing cross-promotion waters in order to reach an offline audience. In a deal with Dish It Out, a cooking show on Life Network, the show’s featured recipes will be posted on Peachtree’s Web site. With the click of a mouse, the ingredients will be in a consumer’s virtual shopping cart.

The next year will also see Peachtree expanding rapidly, filling in Canadian market gaps like Calgary and launching in more American markets. Since launching first in Winnipeg in 1996, the company has partnered with local grocers in markets such as Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal and St. John’s, as well as Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., Chicago and Oklahoma City, to provide fulfillment.

Being first to market lies at the core of the company’s strategy, says MacKalski, who notes that a new partnership with upscale Toronto grocer Sun Valley Foods will allow the company to compete aggressively in the country’s largest market.

In Quebec, Sobeys-owned IGA has launched its own online system, called Cybermarket, which serves as the online option for 153 of the company’s stores. Cybermarket has focused on making its service an alternative distribution channel for existing IGA customers, says project leader Alain Dumas.

Cybermarket is promoted through various in-store devices, including leaflets, window stickers, and mentions in weekly advertising flyers. The company has also sent out a leaflet promoting its business-to-business Cybermarket service to more than 17,000 prospects in Quebec.

Cybermarket plans to refine its system in Quebec before rolling it out to IGA stores in Ontario and then to Sobeys in the Maritimes.

With no plans to expand geographically, Grocery Gateway, Peachtree’s most direct competitor, is focusing on ‘getting it right’ in Toronto. The company’s central fulfillment centre will allow it to better serve its customers and that, says John Moses, Grocery Gateway’s vice-president of marketing, will let the company grow.

In January, Grocery Gateway kicked off what was supposed to be a multi-million-dollar campaign designed by Toronto ad shop Garneau Wurstlin Philp Brand Engineering. However, Moses says consumer demand was so strong that the company pulled the plug after only five ads ran in The Toronto Star and The Toronto Sun newspapers for fear it couldn’t keep up with demand.

‘The consumer response was tremendous,’ says Moses. ‘We got as many registrations in two days in January as we did in the entire month of December.’

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group