Grocers’ buy local programs help Quinta disrupt quinoa

The Guelph brand believes there's room for a made-in-Canada option in a category dominated by imports.

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Quinoa brand Quinta is one of a number of brands gaining exposure through the Loblaw Ontario Made program, and it hopes its functional benefits and local value proposition will drive trial.

Since the beginning of 2021, Quinta has been part of Ontario Made, the Loblaw partnership with broker and distributor Grey Jay, aimed at bringing local brands to consumers across the province.

Quinta has very prominent end cap displays in Loblaw banners province-wide (see, below), separating it out from other quinoa brands and allowing it to tell a brief story about its founder.

“It’s a 12-month trial, and it’ll go from there,” according to Jamie Draves, president and CEO of Quinta.

The Guelph-area challenger food brand was initially only available on Amazon. It then gained some notoriety from Draves’ Dragons’ Den appearance and scoring a deal with venture capitalist and restaurateur Vikram Vij, before securing spots on Sobeys and Metro shelves in 2017. 

Canada imports 20 million pounds of quinoa every year, predominantly South American brands, and that market is large enough for Quinta to operate in, Draves claims.

“We’re the only company that sells an everything-done-in-Canada quinoa,” he adds.

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Draves tells strategy the brand’s core consumer is someone who is interested in healthy products made here. “Our quinoa separates from the rest of quinoa, because it’s local for Ontario,” he says, in addition to having a better nutritional profile – twice the protein and the fibre of competitors.

These functional benefits, and also the fact that it’s Canadian-made, are really brought out on pack. According to Draves, Quinta’s challenge was to whittle the attributes down to five, which was a conceptual and design challenge. Draves adds that it might reassess how it messages on pack, to perhaps simplify things in terms of its relative protein content compared with competitors.

“How do we convey this is arguably the most nutritious whole food, that it tastes good, and is local?” Draves asks.

Prior to being spotlighted in Loblaw, as well as Sobeys, and Metro Locally Sourced programs designed to draw attention to locally made products, the brand activated using small shelf talkers calling out Draves’ appearance on Dragons’ Den. The materials have always, however, spoken to the local consumer – the most important call.

All Quinta’s marketing is done in-house, informed by Draves’ experience as a marketer in pharmaceuticals and retail health..

When health concerns came to the fore with lockdowns, Draves says Quinta saw an immediate spike in omnichannel interest. In response, the brand is touting the product’s versality through recipes, and it’s run couponing, but he admits the challenge remains the big budgets competitors have at their disposal.