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Food fight: Jeff York is growing the Farm Boy chain one chef-prepared meal at a time

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Farm Boy CEO Jeff York, right, chats with meat supervisor Steve Nagy at a Farm Boy store in Ottawa.

From the May 2017 issue of Financial Post Magazine

Walk into any Farm Boy location and it quickly becomes apparent that the Ottawa-based grocery chain has managed to do something very few Canadian retail chains have mastered: create a store shoppers want to visit, not have to visit. The staff seem genuinely friendly (they’re even trained to lead customers to products, not simply point at them). The robust produce assortment is arranged so meticulously it’s as though someone took a level to each cucumber and leek. A foodie could spend an hour entranced by the plentiful local offerings at the cheese counter alone.

Canadian industry is generally dominated by a handful of brands, and that’s especially true in the grocery business where the triad of Loblaw Cos. Ltd., Empire Co. Ltd. and Metro Inc. control a massive chunk of the market. Farm Boy co-CEO Jeff York knows that all too well, which is why he has no choice but to be innovative. As a relatively small — yet swiftly growing — grocery chain competing against giants, he says simply, “If we don’t innovate, we die.”

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