Navigating the Canadian Food Distribution Landscape: A Guide for Food Brands

Navigating the Canadian Food Distribution Landscape: A Guide for Food Brands

Are you ready to take your food product to the next level by tapping into the restaurant market? As you weigh your options, the decision between building a dedicated sales team to personally engage with restaurant owners or partnering with a food distributor can be pivotal. Each avenue offers unique advantages and considerations, shaping the trajectory of your brand’s growth and market reach. Let’s explore working with a distributor.

In Canada, a food brand can work with a distributor by establishing a partnership or contractual agreement. Here’s how the process generally works:

  1. Research and Identify Distributors: The food brand researches and identifies potential distributors in Canada who specialize in distributing food products. They consider factors such as the distributor’s market reach, reputation, and experience.
  2. Reach Out and Negotiate: The brand reaches out to the selected distributors to discuss potential partnerships. Negotiations may involve terms such as pricing, distribution regions, marketing support, and exclusivity agreements.
  3. Contractual Agreement: Once both parties agree on the terms, they formalize the partnership through a contractual agreement. This agreement outlines the rights and responsibilities of both the brand and the distributor, including details on pricing, delivery schedules, promotional activities, and any other relevant terms.
  4. Product Distribution: The distributor purchases the food products from the brand at an agreed-upon price and takes responsibility for distributing them to retailers, wholesalers, restaurants, or other outlets across Canada.
  5. Marketing and Promotion: The brand and distributor may collaborate on marketing and promotional activities to increase awareness and sales of the products. This could include advertising campaigns, in-store promotions, sampling events, and participation in trade shows. Typically this is where you reach to us at Branding & Buzzing to execute your plan with your distributor.
  6. Monitoring and Evaluation: Both parties monitor the performance of the partnership, including sales figures, market feedback, and any issues that arise. They may adjust their strategies or terms as needed to optimize the distribution and sales of the products.


Some of Canada’s top food distributors include companies like Sysco Canada, Gordon Food Service (GFS), Flanagan Foodservice, Lactalis Canada, and Affinity Sales Canada. These companies distribute a wide range of food products to restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, and other food service establishments across the country.

Sysco Canada


        • Wide range of products: Sysco offers a diverse selection of food products, including fresh produce, meats, seafood, and specialty items.
        • Nationwide presence: Sysco has a strong distribution network across Canada, making it convenient for businesses in various regions.
        • Technology solutions: Sysco provides advanced ordering and inventory management tools to streamline operations for their clients.
      • Cons:
        • Pricing: Some businesses may find Sysco’s prices to be higher compared to other distributors, especially for certain products.
        • Minimum order requirements: Sysco may have minimum order quantities or spending requirements that smaller businesses may find challenging to meet



Gordon Food Service (GFS)


        • Customer service: GFS is known for its excellent customer service and personalized support for clients.
        • Value-added services: GFS offers additional services such as menu development, training, and marketing support to help businesses succeed.
        • Quality products: GFS is committed to providing high-quality food products sourced from trusted suppliers.
      • Cons:
        • Limited product selection: Compared to larger distributors like Sysco, GFS may have a more limited product range.
        • Regional availability: GFS’s distribution network may not cover all regions of Canada as extensively as some other distributors.



Flanagan Foodservice


      • Pros:
        • Family-owned: Flanagan Foodservice is a family-owned company with a focus on building strong relationships with their customers.
        • Local sourcing: Flanagan prioritizes sourcing local and Canadian products whenever possible, which can be appealing to businesses looking to support local producers.
        • Flexible ordering options: Flanagan offers flexible ordering options and personalized service to meet the unique needs of each client.
      • Cons:
        • Limited geographic coverage: Flanagan’s distribution network may not cover all regions of Canada, particularly remote areas.
        • Limited product range: While Flanagan offers a wide selection of food products, their range may not be as extensive as larger distributors like Sysco.


Lactalis Canada


      • Pros:
        • Specialization in dairy: Lactalis Canada specializes in dairy products, including cheese, yogurt, and butter, providing businesses with high-quality dairy options.
        • Strong brand portfolio: Lactalis Canada represents well-known dairy brands, offering businesses access to trusted and recognized products.
        • Sustainability initiatives: Lactalis Canada is committed to sustainability and environmental responsibility, which can be appealing to businesses with similar values.
      • Cons:
        • Limited product focus: While Lactalis Canada excels in dairy products, their product range may be narrower compared to distributors offering a wider variety of food categories.
        • Limited distribution network: Lactalis Canada’s distribution network may not cover all regions of Canada as comprehensively as larger, more diversified distributors.

Affinity Sales Canada

      • Pros:
        • Specialized expertise: Affinity Sales Canada specializes in specific food product categories or brands, offering deep knowledge and support tailored to those areas.
        • Personalized service: Being a smaller distributor, Affinity Sales provides highly personalized service and customized solutions to meet the unique needs of its clients.
        • Flexibility: Smaller distributors like Affinity Sales often exhibit greater flexibility in operations, enabling them to swiftly adapt to changing market demands and client requirements.
        • Regional focus: Affinity Sales Canada may concentrate on particular regions or local markets, granting businesses access to locally sourced products and personalized assistance.
      • Cons:
        • Limited product range: Unlike larger distributors, Affinity Sales does not offer an extensive range of product options, potentially restricting choices for businesses.
        • Scale: Smaller distributors may lack the scale of operations and resources of larger competitors, potentially affecting their ability to offer competitive pricing or additional services.

More on our work with Affinity 

By working closely with a distributor in Canada, a food brand can efficiently reach a wider audience and expand its market presence in the country.