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Save-On-Foods: Banners

save on foods produce department

The Jim Pattison Group, a holding company based in Vancouver, BC, with C$14 billion in annual sales, purchased Overwaitea in 1968, not long after the group got its start in 1961 with the acquisition of an auto dealership.

Overwaitea was Pattison’s first entry into the food industry, which would then become one of its top operating sectors.

Fully owned by 94-year-old Jimmy Pattison, the Group is the largest private company headquartered in British Columbia. It launched the Save-On-Foods BB #:153831 brand in 1982 when it converted several Your Mark-It Foods warehouse stores into the banner.

Just a year later it opened its first Save-On-Foods megastore, with a full-service pharmacy, a first for Western Canada. In 2018, the last of the Overwaitea stores were converted to Save-On-Foods.

Save-On-Foods banners

Save-On-Foods oversees three other store banners, although its flagship brand accounts for the majority of its stores.

PriceSmart Foods, after seeing its locations converted to Save-On-Foods stores in the mid-2000s, is being relaunched as a banner catering specifically to Asian customers. This puts it in a competitive faceoff with Loblaw-owned and BC-headquartered T&T Supermarket, which opened two more stores in Western Canada in 2022.

PriceSmart has two locations in the metro Vancouver cities of Richmond and Burnaby, with more to come, including a location in Coquitlam.

Urban Fare is an upscale urban convenience banner with six locations—four in Vancouver, one in Kelowna, BC, and one in Calgary, AB. Bulkley Valley Wholesale is a single store located in Smithers, BC, which provides wholesale and camp orders as well as everyday shopping.

Other grocery properties

In addition to Save-On-Foods and its four banners, the Group also owns Buy-Low Foods, purchased in 1995. Within a few years, and with several acquisitions, Buy-Low had become the largest wholesaler to independent grocers in Western Canada, a position it still enjoys today as its Associated Grocers and other business units serve almost 2,000 independent grocers in the region.

The company further solidified its wholesale operations in 2001 when it acquired Van-Whole Produce and became the market leader in wholesale produce distribution in the West.

Buy-Low also has holdings in the organic/natural, and gourmet/specialty grocery niches, which began with the acquisition of Nesters Market in 2003 and continued with the purchase of Meinhardt Fine Foods in 2012.

The Group also oversees banners including Quality Foods, Choices Markets, and others, making it Western Canada’s leading provider of food and pharmacy services, with nearly 300 retail locations.

Another grocery acquisition, Roth’s Fresh Markets in Oregon, occurred in 2021. It marked the Group’s first foray outside Canada.

The company’s various food industry holdings are housed in the Pattison Food Group, an entity created in February 2021. It is led by Darrell Jones, president of Save-On-Foods, who began his career bagging groceries at Overwaitea Foods in Cranbrook, BC in 1976.

Each business in the Food Group has its own president and management team with the goal of enhancing synergies and reducing costs to better compete with national grocery chains, while leaving intact the unique value each retail nameplate brings to the company and its customers.

Two years prior to the change, in 2019, Save-On-Foods looked to expand its More Rewards program and spun it off into a separate operating unit. Another key step at the time was combining its ecommerce, IT, and supply chain operations under one executive.

Aside from its grocery, food, and beverage companies, the Jim Pattison Group is also involved in advertising, media, periodical distribution, entertainment, real estate, finance, and exporting.

This is an excerpt from the March/April 2023 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine’s Canada Supplement. Click here to read the whole supplement.