“Consumer trust is a precious commodity.”  

The Big Carrot is an iconic Toronto grocer that sees sustainability partnerships as advantageous, if not essential, in the retail industry. The Big Carrot has been an Ocean Wise Seafood partner since 2017, but their sustainability commitments extend back to 1983 when they opened their doors. They are a worker-owned natural food market committed to local, organic, non-GMO and sustainable food systems, with clear and transparent standards about the products they source and how they invest in community outreach.  

Maureen Kirkpatrick, the Quality and Standards Program Manager, has seen sustainability values in the retail industry evolve considerably since The Big Carrot first opened. 

“There has been incredible growth in the uptake of sustainability initiatives in the retail industry over the last decade (let alone the last 38 years).” Maureen reports, “Organic and local food, humanely raised meat and ocean-friendly seafood were once niche offerings and now they are simply table stakes – even in mainstream grocery markets. The increase in sustainable choices is encouraging for consumers, however there is still much room for retailers to deepen these commitments and incorporate sustainability values into their daily decision making.”  

The Big Carrot says partnering with aligned organizations is “critical to the success of any sustainability commitment.” When asked why they chose to partner with Ocean Wise Seafood, Maureen answered, “As Canada’s leading ocean conservation organization, Ocean Wise was a natural fit for us. We share a commitment to consumer education and empowering good choices. Not only does Ocean Wise make it easier than ever for our shoppers to choose sustainably caught seafood, it supports our ability to maintain transparent information about all of our seafood products.” 

The Big Carrot takes advantage of the abundant resources and educational tools provided by the Ocean Wise Seafood program, such as staff training, marketing resources, regular seafood recommendation updates, seafood sourcing support from Ocean Wise staff, and impact metric tracking. However, Maureen sees the greatest value in the “trust conferred in the highly recognizable Ocean Wise logo.”  

“Consumer trust is a precious commodity.” Maureen notes, “Our Ocean Wise partnership and sustainability commitment assures shoppers that any fresh, frozen or tinned seafood choice they make at The Big Carrot is Ocean Wise approved.” 

Is this consumer trust reflected in their seafood sales? Since joining the Ocean Wise Seafood program in 2017, and committing to only offering Ocean Wise recommended seafood, The Big Carrot’s fresh and frozen seafood sales have increased by 52%. “There are a number of factors that have contributed to this impressive growth,” Maureen explains. “In this time we opened our second store in Toronto’s Beach community, we have increased our seafood offerings, and we have made our small but mighty sustainable seafood selection more of a feature in our promotions with Ocean Wise’s help.”  

Another important partnership that supports their sustainability commitment is their relationship with fellow Ocean Wise partner, Seacore Seafood. “To maintain transparency and traceability throughout the supply chain, you have to work with suppliers who share these values, it is not something a retailer can do alone. We have been so well supported by the team at Seacore.”  

Many Ocean Wise Seafood partners share similar sustainability values and connect through the Ocean Wise Seafood network. It is easy for retailers and restaurants to work with Ocean Wise supplier partners because they are already familiar with the process of collecting and reporting sourcing information to Ocean Wise staff to confirm their recommended options. Plus, when more business join Ocean Wise, the value of the partnership increases for all partners because the program, branding, and mission become more widely recognized – and demanded – in the market. 

Here, The Big Carrot takes a lead role in education and outreach; they have hosted over 400 free lectures (including one offered by Ocean Wise Seafood), courtyard and rooftop events, workshops, symposiums, and conferences in their community.   

“We believe public education on social and environmental issues is key to the health and prosperity of individuals and the community as a whole. We believe consumers want to make good choices and they want their food dollars to count. We want to make that as easy as possible by providing reliable, accessible information so everyone can make good choices that are in line with their values and their families’ needs.”  

Photo taken during summer 2019 kid’s camp visit

It is more important than ever to support local businesses, like The Big Carrot, that have made transparent commitments to the future of our planet through responsible sourcing. You can find an Ocean Wise Seafood partner business near you on our Partner Map

Interested in becoming an Ocean Wise Seafood partner? Inquire through our How to Join page, and an OWS Staff member will reach out to discuss the benefits of partnering with our non-profit conservation program.  

Aquablog Written by Erika Bolliger, Accounts Coordinator, Ocean Wise Seafood from interview with Maureen Kirkpatrick, Quality and Standards Program Manager, The Big Carrot 

All images courtesy of The Big Carrot.

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