Two major northern retailers are stocking up by sealift this year in preparation for changes coming Oct. 1, when the list of foods eligible for Nutrition North air freight subsidies will shrink.

Items such as canned fruits and vegetables, dry pasta and rice will no longer be covered by the subsidy.


Produce is placed on a scale in an Iqaluit grocery store. The Northwest Company and Arctic Co-operatives are stocking up by sealift on items such as dry pasta and rice that will become ineligible for shipping subsidies Oct. 1 under the Nutrition North program. (CBC)

Michael McMullen, executive vice-president of the Northwest Company's Northern Canada Retail Division, said the company wants to keep prices as low as possible after the changes come into place so it took a close look at what it sends by ship.

"We stopped shipping a lot of products that just weren't selling," he said.

"We listened to how the consumer voted every day with their wallets and their purses and we concentrated more product in our sealift for the last two years in those products that are becoming non-eligible."

Duane Wilson, vice-president of merchandising and logistics for Arctic Co-operatives, said the co-op also tries to send as much by sealift each year.

But he said it is hard to predict if consumers' buying habits will change after Oct. 1.

"You might find that answer doesn't come on Oct. 2, but as the non-perishable items run out from the re-supply," he said.

Debbie Penttila, manager of the Co-op in Colville Lake, N.W.T., said she has seen a shift in people's buying habits since the Nutrition North program came into effect just over a year ago.

She said she has seen sales of meat, fresh fruit and vegetables increase.  

"I think it's helped big time," she said. "People buy milk that is not sitting on the shelf for three months — the UHT milk. They buy the fresh milk instead because it's cheaper and it's better for them."

Under Nutrition North's criteria, those items receive the highest type of subsidy.

Penttila said sales of flour are also up and fewer people are buying pre-packaged meals.