Food

Sunny Foodmart: Toronto’s culturally diverse food outlet with Halal counter

Sunny Foodmart is a supermarket owned by three Chinese-Canadians in Toronto who opened their business in a low- income neighborhood. It was rebuilt from the former Food Basics market, and now stocks food from many different cultures and also caters for Muslims customers with its certified halal meat counter.

The supermarket is in the Flemingdon Park Shopping Center and has sixty security cameras on the 35,000 square foot store, which serve to deter any shoplifters.

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The produce section of the supermarket with its towering coconut trees

Amidst the open-concept, food freezers are ten massive metal and plastic coconut trees which were shipped in from China for display purposes. Most of them are in the produce section, and three are near the checkout counters nearby the food court. A takeout buffet, Chinese barbecue as well as bubble tea are served to customers in the food court.

Yong Li, the current marketing consultant at Sunny’s aims to make the store as unique as possible and to serve customers of different backgrounds and cultures, and stated that they want to take care of all kinds of people.

The shelves are full of all sorts of products from okra and plantain, to corn tortillas and naan. You can even find Pocky chocolate sticks and wasabi rice crackers, and if you like, udon and chow mein noodles, kimchi and miso pastes. There is banana sauce and sautéed shrimp paste, Cheerios and Jiffy. So customers of all kinds can take their pick.

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The halal counter operates under the strict regulations approved by HMA

Sunny’s management team also consulted with their Muslim friends for advice on what products they should stock to cater for the Muslim community. They were told to be sure to have a certified halal meat counter, as simply stocking halal products would not be sufficient, regardless of whether they were fresh, frozen or packaged.

For a halal counter, only some animals can be stocked, such as cattle, sheep, goats and domestic birds. Pork is not permitted whatsoever, neither is alcohol or blood.

Provincial and federal food agencies don’t provide certification for the halal market, so it is necessary to use the services of self-regulating certification agencies, such as the Halal Monitoring Authority (HMA).

HMA ensures that the meat which is sold in the supermarket is from a certified source and has not been mixed with other non-halal meat. They also check that the packaging is not made of animal or alcohol-based products. The authority comes unannounced to do their spot checks.

The halal counter also has a separate door to receive their deliveries and is twice as busy as the non-halal meat counter and draws many customers.

As more and more customers are drawn to the great variety of foods on offer at the supermarket,Li states that word of mouth has been their best method of advertising, and Muslims in particular, are very close-knit and significant customers to the store.