Grocery store shelf-labelling program comes to Ontario

LS-OF-shelf labels with QR codes help identify local food in-store

An innovative shelf labelling program that is already being used in over 250 stores in Western Canada has come to Ontario.

Through smartphone-enabled tags, Localize highlights regional products s and provides shoppers with information about the origin of food products right at the shelf.

Each product considered local under the program has a QR code on its shelf labels which connects shoppers to Localize’s online database where they can learn more about the product.

All products are given a Localize score that ranks how local a product is on a scale of 0 to 10.

According to Localize spokesperson Ashley Cattell, the scoring system is based on both independent research and the company’s own shopper surveys.

Normally, only products scoring seven out of 10 and higher receive a shelf-label in-store.

Products are measured according to where they are made (production), who made it (ownership), what went into it (ingredients), and for bonus points, how it was done (sustainability).

Where a product was made and who owns the company making the product are the two criteria most important to shoppers when it comes to identifying local food, according to Cattell, so they are worth 4.5 and 3.5 points respectively.

Ingredients are worth two points, and bonus points are awarded to products that can demonstrate a high degree of sustainability and supply chain integrity, or have approved certifications in place.

Both conventional and organic food producers can sign-up to Localize at no cost through an online registration portal at to have their products listed on the site.

Localize labels are then created for their qualifying products – scoring 7/10 or higher – in grocery stores using the Localize shelf-labelling system. Retail outlets pay a subscription fee to use that system in their stores.

Localize labels first appeared on the shelves of 24 Co-op stores throughout Calgary, Strathmore, Airdrie, and High River, Alberta in February 2013, highlighting more than 400 food products from Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

There are now close to 10,000 products registered with Localize, and more than 250 grocery stores throughout western Canada use the shelf-labelling program.

And it’s making an economic impact. Research by the Serecon Consulting Group showed that Localize labels helped shoppers at Calgary’s Co-op stores alone shift more than $1.5 million to local food.

Localize has opened a satellite office in eastern Canada. Its first Ontario retail partner is an organic grocery store in Toronto called The Big Carrot, which launched the Localize program in mid-March of this year.

Cattell says the company is actively seeking new retail partners in Eastern Canada.

This article was originally written for Ontario Farmer, April 2015.

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