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Canadians on Canada

An insider’s guide to doing business with the True North

As most in the business know, there are striking similarities between the Canadian and U.S. produce industries, as well as important differences.  We headed north—going straight to the source—to delve into these sometimes significant variations, so we could report back to you.

Canada has always been one of the U.S.’s premier trading partners, but for some Americans doing business in Canada, tapping into this rich reciprocal market without proper guidance can be difficult.

Earlier this year, Blue Book Services sent out a survey to over 650 Canadian produce professionals, asking about disparities in trade, important regulatory and market factors, and other key information buyers and sellers should consider when doing business.  We also reached out to respondents and industry experts to comment on the findings and expand on these nuggets of knowledge.  The summarized results below will hopefully provide insight and a bit of guidance about the ins and outs of navigating Canadian business culture.

Survey Says

Given the weight our respondents placed on Canada’s demographic diversity, there was no clear consensus on any ‘major’ differences between the Canadian and American produce industries.  A slight plurality, 19 percent of those polled—said there was little or no difference, but almost as many believed the opposite: that differences between the two industries were very pronounced.  It was in their explanations that some interesting distinctions truly emerged. 

Potatoes or Pommes?

Foremost among the distinctions was Canada’s dual language requirements, with 25 percent of respondents singling it out as a factor.  Several survey takers cited the country’s large French-speaking population and considered dual-language labeling requirements a key aspect of cross-border business. 

Although English is the U.S.’s sole official language, Spanish-language versions of documents and signs are plentiful in restaurants, retailers, and other public venues—but it is not federally mandated nor required in the produce industry.

In Canada, however, there is both English and French, with French the official language of Quebec.  All product labels are required to have information in both French and English. 

“Given Canada’s labeling regulations,” advises Ron Lemaire, president of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, “it is important to consider membership in the Dispute Resolution Corporation and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association to negotiate these aspects of doing business in Canada.”