Fiesta Farms


Surrounded by franchises of three national chains, Toronto’s largest independent grocery store and garden centre was in no position to compete. So they didn’t.

Fiesta Farms decided to do things things that big chains couldn’t. They focussed on serving the ethnic communities around them (Portuguese and Italian to start).

They brought in organics before anyone else (1998!) and integrated them in a way no else has yet–throughout the store, instead of creating a lonely, expensive section for people wearing Birkenstocks.

Fiesta took on a certification called Local Food Plus (LFP) in a way that no one else has since. For many, LFP is the best short-hand evidence that the food you’re buying has jumped through all of the hoops you’d like it to if you thought about it. Based on the recommendations of leading third party researchers and experts, ‘certified local sustainable’ takes into account  how labourers, animals and soil are treated, as well as what goes into the food and how it gets to you.

They were able to delight customers with specialty items that weren’t practical for mass buying competitors, and to buy from local producers and entrepreneurs. It wasn’t always easy, but they stuck with it.

Toronto’s largest independent grocery retailer was on the way to reaping the rewards of sticking to their strategy when we met them. We were customers and fans ourselves. We knew they had something special going and putting our finger on it was our first order of business.

We started with 3 kinds of research to get us up to speed in a hurry and to define the smallest thing we might do to get started that would offer value.

  1. A collaborative Brainstorm session including 20 staff, customers and partners
  2. Social Media review, to identify in what context (if any) Fiesta was being discussed
  3. Comparative assessment of 3 successful values-driven food sector brands

We usually present our research in a format that people enjoy reading and want to hang in their office, for continual reference. In this case, the result was twelve feet wide.

In a nutshell, we:

  • defined key characteristics of the brick and mortar experience
  • learned that people saw Fiesta’s policies, practices and experiences in the context of important initiatives like preserving the Green Belt and creating a sustainable local economy
  • learned that there were disparate communities of interest that might be linked by the brand
  • looked at the common elements, successes and failures of food sector brands providing more to the world than what they were selling

We learned more than we could have imagined we would, and distilled the insights and their implications into a platform called “Food Matters”.

The “Food Matters” platform consists of nine reasons people feel like they’re getting more than just a full shopping cart out of their interactions with the brand.

Our strategy is to help people celebrate those reasons outside the store. The conversations we start, join, support and laude are an exercise in ROR–return on relationship. Relationships from within which we sometimes sell, but are mostly about building stronger ties with our supporters by playing a useful role in the community.

Examples of the work we’ve done include:

Ads in the quarterly food journal Edible Toronto. As you might imagine, the ads are never about the store. They’re about the issues that matter to the kinds of people who shop there.

Events we’ve participated in like Blueberry Fest

Getting Grow for the Stop into the Store (now in several stores)

Annual Apron Strings

Special initiatives and partnerships

Content Strategy for social networks and the website

“Food Matters” to a lot of people for a range of reasons. We help Fiesta Customers celebrate these reasons through conversation, education and experiences in the form of ads, the website, our social platforms and events we sponsor or participate in.