Hidden gem The Grocery Outlet helps fight rising food prices and waste

Boiani and her sister run The Grocery Outlet, a retail store that sells products for up to seventy per cent off.
Click to play video: 'Hidden gem creates affordable food option in Durham Region'
Hidden gem creates affordable food option in Durham Region
With the rising cost of groceries making things difficult for Canadians, many are turning to more affordable options. There's a hidden gem in Durham Region that has been doing its part to end that. Lexy Benedict reports. – May 24, 2023

When Carolyn Boiani’s business blew up on Tiktok, she had no idea how much buzz it would bring in.

Boiani and her sister run The Grocery Outlet, a retail store that sells products for up to 70 per cent off.

Their first location opened in Oshawa, Ont., in 1998. Now, the sisters run 12 locations across the province.

Since their Tiktok virality earlier this year, Boiani said the exposure has brought them much-welcomed business.

“It’s been crazy,” she said. “The last couple of months have been some of the busiest we’ve ever been.

“It’s been a great learning experience, and fabulous that so many more people are discovering us.”

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Despite their low prices, Boiani said there is no compromise on the quality of their products. The stores aim to sell name-brand, high-quality products at a lower price.

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“Perhaps it coding dating, perhaps a discontinued SKU (stock keeping unit), or an overproduction, so that product would have normally gone into a landfill,” she said. “It’s perfectly good product, and so we purchase it from them at a greatly produced price and we offer it for sale.”

The motivation behind the concept is simple. While many costs are fixed day to day, Boiani said groceries present an opportunity to get thrifty.

“You can’t do anything about your mortgage costs, or the price of gas, but where you can save money is with your groceries.”

Amid the recent climb in the cost of living, Canadians are worried about the price of food. Dalhousie University Prof. Sylvain Charlebois said inflation is on the decline, but food prices are not.

This has left many searching for more affordable options.

“Some people are looking at less traditional sources to get food,” Charlebois said. “Like dollar stores.”

Now more than ever, it is a challenge for families to put food on the table. Charlebois said Canadians’ plates are suffering as a result.

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“People are really more frugal at the grocery stores,” he said. “Spending as much money as last year despite inflation, so they are wasting less and unfortunately eating less.”

But it’s not just about prices. The stores also aim to reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills unnecessarily.

“We are helping manufacturers curb that issue by providing them with an opportunity to sell product that can’t be sold to their indented customers,” Boiani said.

As a step towards sustainability, Boiani said she hopes to shift the narrative around best-before dates.

“If it’s close to code or hit the best before date, those dates are a manufacturers guideline,” she said. “They are nothing more than that, so we encourage people to taste and smell product.

“That’s how you determine the quality of product.”

For those looking for high-quality groceries at a lower cost, Durham’s best-kept secret is out.

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