Finding bottles of French's ketchup product, made with tomatoes grown in Leamington, Ont., could be more difficult now that grocery giant Loblaws has stopped stocking the condiment on its shelves.

French's recently announced it would use tomatoes from Leamington farmers to make its product.

But gaining ground in the ketchup market, long dominated by Heinz, could be more of a challenge for French's with stores under the Loblaws banner not selling its product, said Sylvain Charlebois, professor in food distribution and policy at the University of Guelph Food Institute.

"Obviously, it's a very important window for any food processor," he told CBC News. Loblaws says it has a 34.1 per cent market share among Canadian food retailers.

French's response

The decision was a blow to French's attempt to penetrate the ketchup market, according to a written statement provided by company president Elliott Penner.

"It is not our place to understand why [Loblaws] made this decision, but to say we are disappointed would be a huge understatement," he said.

Loblaws told CBC News it has sold French's ketchup since 2014, but the particular brand of the condiment was not extremely popular.

"Demand for the product has been consistently low," a company official wrote in an email. "As a result, we have decided to no longer offer it as part of our regular inventory."

Marketing share

But French's could bounce back from the latest decision by Loblaws, Charlebois said. He suggested the company should seize the opportunity to market itself as the Canadian product.

"Consumers are aware and are willing to support our local agrifood economy," he said. "More and more people are concerned about that. They know, in order to create growth in agrifood, you need to also support processors, not just farmers."

Loblaws was also quick to note that it sells its own brand of ketchup with a Canadian connection.

"We are strongly committed to supporting local businesses and the Canadian economy. In fact, President's Choice ketchup is produced here in Canada," it said of its own brand of ketchup.

The PC ketchup is made by a supplier to Loblaws.

French's could have been muscled out of Loblaws, according to Charlebois. Companies frequently buy up shelf space by offering premium value to grocers who struggle with already slim profit margins.

"Real estate in the grocery store is always for sale," Charlebois said. "By renting or selling shelf space, it's certainly one way to increase profit."

French's ketchup stock is still available in some Loblaws stores, but not all.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said Loblaws produces its own ketchup. In fact, PC ketchup is made by a supplier to Loblaw.
    Mar 22, 2016 8:55 AM ET