By Jon Rumley, Walmart Canada Corporate Affairs
It all started with an unexpected 5:30 a.m. wake-up call from an unknown caller in early 2015.
“Luckily, I picked up the phone,” said Gagan Matta, president of Verka Food International, an importer, distributor and manufacturer of quality South Asian food products, based in Surrey, B.C.
“’It’s too early, man. Anything urgent?’” Matta recalled saying. “Once he mentioned he was from Walmart, I said, ‘No worries, I’m up now.’”
That phone call sparked the beginning of a new era for Verka. Founded in 2004, the company faced many challenges to get mainstream exposure for its South Asian products, according to Matta. That changed around a decade ago when retailers like Walmart began adopting international aisles.
Verka is one of the more than 2,200 Canadian suppliers that Walmart works with every day to help move Canada’s economy forward. Over the last 12 months, Walmart Canada has purchased more than $670 million worth of products from 142 suppliers based in B.C.
“At the end of the day, the consumer is king,” Matta said. “It took mainstream people to identify the strength of the ethnic business.”
The growth of Walmart Canada’s international aisle has created new opportunities for local suppliers like Verka to reach new customers.
“Verka is a reputable company that has their focus on growing immigration trends and consumer preference,” said Aman Bhatia, Walmart Canada’s director of merchandising for frozen and global foods. “They allow customers to have access to their favourite foods, brands and taste preferences from back home here in Canada.”
Verka has seen “huge growth” since having their products on Walmart shelves, Matta said. Today, Verka offers 340 products at Walmart Canada, which can be found nationally in close to 300 stores across the country.
Having the foresight to see how consumer behaviours were changing in Canada as immigration trends evolved over the years gave Verka the opportunity to grow. Now they have over 80 employees, dairy and bakery facilities, five warehouses and a trucking fleet in Canada.
“The acceptance of our brand is because consumers trust our brand and having a presence in Walmart definitely gives us an upper hand,” Matta said.
Verka offers more than 600 of their own products with more than 60% made in Canada. They also hold 14 other distributions, exclusively in Canada, carrying approximately 1,400 products.
“This is a local Canadian company offering high-quality international products,” Bhatia said. “Verka is leading the future of South Asian and global foods in Canada.”
It’s another example of Walmart joining forces with local suppliers to better serve customers.
“Having our products on the counters at Walmart is definitely a privilege,” Matta said. “We have grown with them as a team and this growth is a mutual growth.”
At Walmart Canada, we’re proud to support Canadian jobs by working with local suppliers. This helps boost Canada’s economy and provides opportunities for people of all backgrounds. We consider it an obligation and a privilege to provide Canadians with products they trust from companies in the communities where they live. For more details about fresh foods and products grown or manufactured in Canada, visit Walmart.ca.