Canada food retailer Loblaw has indicated its willingness to sign up to a grocery code of conduct, which has been in the making for at least two years.

Discussions around introducing a code of practice in Canada have involved talks between the government, grocery retailers, food processors and manufacturers. A stumbling block, however, has been getting all the players concerned to agree on the terms and commit.

The code, which is being overseen by the Office of the Grocery Sector Code of Conduct (OGSCC) chaired by Michael Graydon, seeks to introduce a level playing field, foster transparency and fairness across the supply chain and serve as a conduit to resolve disputes.

Expressing its “support” for the code, Loblaw said a key aim in the discussions was to develop a code of practice that “works for small suppliers, consumers and the industry, recognising the complexities of the Canadian grocery market”.

Loblaw, which is owned by the family group holding company George Weston, said in a statement that the “final part of this process will be for all major industry participants to sign the code”.

Its president and CEO Per Bank said: “We have worked intensively and collaboratively with industry groups so that the code is clearly drafted and fair for all industry participants.

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“The code now requires the participation of all major retailers and suppliers to help bring in a new era for Canada’s grocery industry, enhancing the relationship between retailers and suppliers, who both exist to best serve customers.”

Those comments were echoed by the government in a joint statement from Lawrence MacAulay, the federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, and André Lamontagne, Quebec’s Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

“With the news that Loblaw is signing on, we now call on the remaining large retailers to do what is in the best interests of Canadians and follow suit,” the statement read.

“The goal of the Grocery Sector Code of Conduct is to bring fairness, transparency, and predictability to our grocery sector and supply chain. We believe that uniting all supply chain partners around these principles will produce the best outcomes for the sector and all Canadians.”

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor in food distribution and policy at the Faculties of Management and Agriculture at Dalhousie University in Halifax, suggested on the X social media platform that Walmart “remains the lone holdout” in showing a commitment to such a code.

Charlebois wrote that Sobeys, Costco in Canada and Loblaw “have all emphasised that the grocery code of conduct can only be effective if all participants adhere to these new guidelines”.

Approached by Just Drinks for comment regarding its current stance on the code, a Walmart spokesperson said: “We have just received the latest draft of the revised Grocery Code of Conduct, which was not previously shared with us. We will review it and determine next steps. As we’ve said all along, we continue to be focused on our customers’ best interests.”

The Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada (FHCP) association confirmed the target date for the code to go live is 1 June, confirming Walmart is the only one of the top five Canada retailers not to publicly sign up, while Loblaw, Sobeys, Costco and Metro have given their support.

Graydon at the OGSCC, who is also the CEO of FHCP, provided a comment in Loblaw’s statement on the general state of play.

“Within a very complex food system, the vision for the code has always been based on a fully inclusive, voluntary code, developed by the grocery industry and managed by its stakeholders across the supply chain,” Graydon said.

“We are one step closer to the implementation of the code as we continue to work with all industry partners to ensure we have maximum participation by all stakeholders.”