TORONTO — Nestle Canada's decision to pull its pizza and frozen meals from Canada over the next six months could leave a gap in supermarket freezers, a food expert says.
The four brands that will no longer be sold in the freezer aisle at Canadian grocery stores are Delissio, Stouffer's, Lean Cuisine and Life Cuisine.
Nestle said it will work with its retail partners to facilitate the exit of these products from stores.
Still, the move could leave grocers scrambling to replace the popular frozen products, said Sylvain Charlebois, a food policy professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
"There's going to be a void in the freezer aisle," he said. "It will be difficult for other (consumer packaged goods) companies to pick up the slack that quickly."
Current labour shortages would make it hard for another company to fill the gap right away, he said.
In addition, it can take years to expand a facility's capacity or build a new plant to increase production or add new products, Charlebois said.
"This could be an opportunity for Canadian companies or companies based here," he said. "But it takes two years to design and launch a new frozen food (stock keeping unit)."
Moreover, inflation has diverted spending away from restaurants and to grocery stores as Canadians look to save money, a trend that has likely boosted demand for prepared frozen foods, Charlebois said.
"Consumers are eating more at home ... you would think that demand for frozen (food) is only going to go up," he said.
Nestle said it is focusing on categories that support long-term business growth, including confectionary, coffee, ice cream, premium water and pet food.
Nestle Canada president and CEO John Carmichael says this decision will allow the company to further invest in the categories it's prioritizing.
The company does not manufacture these products in Canada, so no manufacturing facilities in Canada will be affected.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 2, 2023.
The Canadian Press