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Empire teams up with District Ventures to help early-stage entrepreneurs


Empire Company and its family of brands have partnered with District Ventures to help early-stage companies in the food and beverage and health CPG industries bring their products to store shelves in Canada.

The Stellarton, N.S.-based national grocer has become title sponsor of the District Ventures’ Accelerator program and District Ventures Kitchen.

Empire’s key businesses are food retailing through Sobeys Inc., IGA, Safeway, Farm Boy, Foodland, FreshCo, Thrifty Foods and Rachelle Béry.

District Ventures, founded in 2015 by renowned entrepreneur and investor Arlene Dickinson, is an ecosystem of resources that includes a venture capital fund, business accelerator program, commercial kitchen and marketing support to help early-stage companies in the food, beverage and health CPG industries.

The Calgary-based venture recently acquired a 20,000-square-foot commercial kitchen from the City of Toronto that provides food and beverage entrepreneurs with access to a broad array of equipment and programming, including production spaces, packaging facilities, and business advisory services, to help build their businesses. District Ventures has supported more than 260 companies and helped create close to 1,000 jobs.

Both the District Ventures Kitchen and District Ventures Accelerator facilities will don the Sobeys logo.

“Empire has a rich history of meaningfully investing in local growers and suppliers across Canada,” Jana Sobey, vice president of merchandising, thrifty foods, community and field for Sobeys Inc., said in a press release.

“Supporting local is at the heart of everything we do, and we are incredibly proud to stand side-by-side with District Ventures as we continue to nurture the countless innovative food entrepreneurs in communities large and small right across our country.”

Through the one-of-a-kind partnership, Canadian food entrepreneurs in the District Ventures Accelerator program will receive support from Empire, including coaching from local development managers and opportunities to bring their products to the grocer’s store shelves within a region or across Canada.

“This exciting new partnership is enormous for entrepreneurs and companies in the food, beverage and health industries,” said Dickinson. “Since 2015, we have been committed to supporting early-stage companies in these spaces. Empire’s sponsorship highlights the importance of this work and reinforces the fact that we need to support companies that both feed and nourish our communities and assist them in achieving their fullest potential.”

Empire has a long history of helping local food and beverage entrepreneurs bring their products to market. The company ensures local products always have a place in its assortments, and in-store signage highlights local products. In addition, Sobeys actively sources local products and, since establishing a local development team in 2018, has partnered with more than 800 local suppliers.



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