Brand Strategy

How to Launch a Food or Beverage Product into Canada. Highlights from our webinar….

No matter where a brand might be in the launch spectrum, understanding the differences between the U.S. and Canada when it comes to distribution, nutrition labelling and package design are essential.

Accelerate Your Brand or Product Launch in Canada

With more than 20,000 new food and beverage products launching each year in Canada, there is definitely a need for information and education on how to launch successfully. As an agency that specializes in helping brands launch, Harbinger has the privilege of helping many optimize their debut in Canada.

Though many of the questions or needs a brand may have are as unique as the product or brand itself, we are asked many similar questions, particularly from our friends across the border, who want advice on coming to Canada. We thought it would be helpful to bring a panel of experts together and host a webinar, “Launching your food or beverage product into Canada” to shed light on a number of key areas for consideration.

No matter where a brand might be in the launch spectrum, understanding the differences between the U.S. and Canada when it comes to distribution, nutrition labelling and package design are essential.

I believe that the nearly 100 participants representing nearly as many diverse companies and interest agreed. Here are some topline highlights from each of our panelists:

David Ashkin, Key Account Manager, Curve Distribution Services Inc.

  • Under the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations, if a product is going to be sold in a retailer in Canada, they must have bilingual packaging, or specific bilingual stickering on the package (ingredient deck, product specs, nutrition facts at a minimum, metric versus imperial sizes).
  • Many of the Canadian grocery chains require mandatory slotting fees for grocery and specialty food products to get into their warehouses across the country.
  • Most of the major retailer warehouses will only accept deliveries on an approved pallet program.
  • Brands can start small with regional chains to ‘test’ success and then gain momentum through the major retailers.

Cara Rosenbloom, RD, Canadian Dietitian
Nutrition Labelling

  • Nutrition facts panels can be quite different in the US versus Canada. Serving sizes for standard amounts can be different on-pack.
  • When it comes to ingredients, not all artificial colours, flavours and artificial sweeteners are approved for use in both countries.
  • Canada has a stricter list for which foods can be fortified with vitamins and minerals.
  • The amount of nutrients required in order to make a claim may be different in Canada and the US and Canada allows fewer health claims than the US.
  • Some foods must meet certain criteria (standard of identity) before being called a certain name (such as milk, yogurt, peanut butter or mayonnaise)

Chris Brown, RGD, Graphic Designer, Harbinger
Packaging Design

Brands don’t need to start from scratch when adapting their US packaging for Canada and it’s important to maintain brand equity or assets.  However, there are a few things to consider:

  • If you have a registered trademark in the United States, you will need to confirm the trademark is available in Canada and that it isn’t already in use.
  • With few exceptions, all product packaging in Canada must have bilingual labelling. You may be able to do this by dedicating one side of your package to each language.
  • Be careful with direct translation, particularly with your brand name or tag lines. Word plays or puns might not be a direct translation.   You’ll need to work with a local expert to make sure your translation resonates with French Canadians and isn’t already in use from a trademark perspective.
  • Beyond packaging, incorporate your design elements into all marketing materials. Consistency will reinforce your brand equity in the Canadian

You can access our webinar on-demand.  Or, connect anytime with our team to chat further about your questions and launch needs.

Harbinger is a Toronto-based North American marketing agency with expertise in product launches. We help brands get noticed and purchased.


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