Bakers Journal

Going for gold: Vancouver 2010

February 23, 2010
By Tuija Seipell

Just before Christmas, with about 50 days to the opening ceremonies of
the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, many British
Columbia bakery businesses, especially in the Metro Vancouver/Whistler
area, were anticipating an Olympic boost to their business.

With a half a million people expected to travel to Vancouver and Whistler for the Olympics, British Columbia foodservice operators will have their hands full keeping up with demand.

Just before Christmas, with about 50 days to the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, many British Columbia bakery businesses, especially in the Metro Vancouver/Whistler area, were anticipating an Olympic boost to their business.

Some had Olympics-related contracts already in their pockets, while others were still negotiating with caterers, wholesalers, sponsors and other contractors. Due to strict confidentiality clauses, many could not reveal the details of their participation. Overall, bakery businesses were preparing one way or another for changed conditions – from increased sales volume to delivery issues, staff scheduling, promotions and special products.

The entire “Games population” that will descend on Vancouver, Richmond, North Vancouver and Whistler is estimated to reach half a million people, and includes athletes, coaches, officials, media, contractors, sponsors, security personnel, staff, volunteers, families and friends and, of course, spectators and other visitors. They are all going to eat every day, and bread and baked goods will play a role at almost every meal.

For some of the area’s baking businesses, this temporary injection of customers will mean increased sales during the weeks before, during and after the Games, either in their own stores or through existing retail and hospitality clients. In addition, many of the people who will converge in the area as visitors are also businesspeople and other influencers – entrepreneurs, brokers, financiers, filmmakers, writers, bloggers. The beneficial effect of exposure and contacts could be substantial immediately and in the future.

Official suppliers
Several major bakery and related companies have been selected as official suppliers, including Weston Bakeries in the area of bread and baked goods. A partnership of two venerable chocolate businesses, Vancouver’s Purdy’s Chocolates and Victoria’s Rogers’ Chocolates, was selected as co-licensees to manufacture, market and retail Vancouver-2010-branded chocolates.

Outside the official suppliers and venues, many Olympics-related opportunities exist for bakeries, including supplying to special events, parties and meetings; country, state or province specific venues; sponsor venues; and VIP visitor events.

Connecting Canadian food suppliers with the foodservice executives in charge of food for such events was one of the goals of two small-scale, half-day, invitation-only foodservice exhibitions organized by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Vancouver in March and October 2009. Jeffrey Lang, Agri-Food’s 2010 Winter Games product sourcing advisor, said the majority of exhibitors was from British Columbia.

“The exhibitors were Canadian suppliers offering everything from seafood, meats, wine, beer, bottled water, juices, breads and pastries to ethnic foods, fruits, greenhouse vegetables, chocolates, snack foods and condiments,” he said. “The attendees were those we identified as key people involved in sourcing and designing menus, including those outside the ‘Olympic fence’ area where there are fewer sponsor-related restrictions. Caterers, hotel executive chefs and food and beverage managers were key targets.”

Vancouver-based Trumps Fine Food Merchants & Wholesalers, which offers high-end dessert products from cookies and loaves to individual desserts and cakes, exhibited at both events and made excellent contacts, said managing director Heather Angel. A substantial boost for Trumps will likely come from additional sales to existing clients that include major catering firms, hotels, restaurants and grocery stores. One of Trumps’ clients, Whistler Cooks, operates the concessions and catering for the Whistler Olympic Park Day Lodge in the Callaghan Valley, where cross-country, biathlon, Nordic combined and ski jumping events will take place.

Vancouver pastry chefs Dominique and Cindy Duby are putting on live chocolate demonstrations in association with the Olympic Games.

“We anticipate 25 per cent more business during the Olympics, but are planning for a back-up capacity of an additional 15 per cent,” Angel said.

Trumps is also one of many bakery businesses that registered for the 2010 Commerce Centre’s Online Business Network, a free online supplier database that has allowed British Columbia companies to profile themselves to Games-related buyers including VANOC, official sponsors and many other organizations.

Like Trumps, Vancouver-based European Breads – specializing in rye, wheat-free, gluten-free, whole-wheat and other varieties of breads and sweets – participated in both Agri-Food exhibitions and has also signed up for the Online Business Network. European Breads’ Vera Kobalia is happy with the results.

“The attendees at the Agri-Food events were all good contacts – real buyers and potential clients,” she said. What Kobalia could not divulge were the particulars of contracts she was still negotiating at the time of writing, based on connections made at the exhibitions. If they come to pass, she will have much to report after the Olympics, she said.

Expecting sales to increase
Effat Sedky, owner of Vancouver Croissant, a Burnaby-based manufacturer of organic, certified organic and natural croissants, echoes the thoughts of many businesses that do not expect Olympic-specific contracts but are preparing for increased demand.

“We are expecting our sales to go up during the Olympics,” Sedky said. “Of course, we plan to stock up on croissants. More importantly, we plan to stock up on raw materials. We’re hoping to avoid any unforeseen bottlenecking and supplier/delivery disruptions.”

Sedky also expected to make some changes to operations.

“We may change our schedule to make it easier for staff to avoid rush hours,” he said. “At the very least, we’ll probably start an hour earlier. We are also expecting to work longer hours.

“We’ve yet to find out how deliveries to the downtown customers are going to be impacted given road closures and the expected 24-hour rush-hour-like conditions. We’re preparing for daily downtown deliveries as opposed to the current twice a week.”

Sedky’s team is also hoping to create a special new product for the Olympics. “Actually, it’s more of a ‘Go Canada!’ product, a maple-syrup croissant still in development,” he said.

No major operational changes are expected at the Vancouver-headquartered COBS Bread (BD Canada Ltd.), the Australian company that has opened 60 stores in its first six years in Canada. Vice-president John Gilson says that COBS has decided against changing its opening hours or scheduling.

“We expect some increase but not a big amount,” he said. “Logistics have been organized through our distributor and some stores will receive night-time deliveries through January and February, but most are not affected.”

COBS will launch a new product in February, a muesli bar called Fit2Go.

At the time of writing, Richmond-based DC DUBY Wild Sweets was in the process of confirming Olympic-related contracts. Dominique and Cindy Duby, the creative chefs and owners of the highly specialized luxury chocolate company, are scheduled to do live chocolate demonstrations for one of their consulting clients at House of Switzerland in Vancouver and Whistler.

“We are also currently exploring possibilities with a couple of hotels and a grocery store to have our ‘Canadian Chocolate’ featured at those properties,” they said.

Heather Angel of Trumps summarized the anticipated big-picture influence of the Olympics: “Vancouver will become a well-known destination and that has a great trickle-down effect on everyone, from the legacy of the infrastructure built to the future growth as more people will want to move and invest here,” she said. “I remember the great effect Expo ‘86 had on this city.” / BJ

On the web: 2010 Commerce Centre:
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada:
Whistler Olympic Park:

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