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Why the humble B.C. apple is being honoured at Coquitlam's newest grocery store

Locally-grown products are being promoted through a Buy BC campaign at a 65,000 sq-ft. grocery store in Sunwood Square in Coquitlam.

Apples took centre stage at a launch of a Buy BC program at Coquitlam's newest grocery store.

Today (Nov. 8), a campaign to encourage Coquitlam residents to buy more local products, including apples, was launched at the new Save-On-Foods in Sunwood Square.

Darrell Jones, president of Save-On-Foods and the Pattison Food Group, played host to the event, which saw agricultural minister Lana Popham tour the 65,000 sq-ft. store.

Popham and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain MLA Fin Donnelly were in town to launch a partnership with the western Canadian grocery chain and the province to re-launch the Buy BC campaign, which will use posters, stickers and shelf displays to encourage people to buy B.C. meat, fish, fruit and vegetables as well as food products and wine.

Jones said as many as 2,500 products are grown or produced locally on Save-On-Foods shelves.

"To us, supporting local is how we do business," Jones said.

Popham said the Buy BC campaign will support Okanagan fruit growers and help Fraser Valley farmers recover from extreme weather events, like last year's atmospheric river, which flooded the Fraser Valley and this summer's drought.

She said identifying B.C. products will help consumers make informed choices.

"Consumers want to know where their food is coming from," she said.

Donnelly told the Tri-City News that food grown locally helps with food security and is more sustainable, as it doesn't have to travel as far.

Fall apple harvest takes centre stage

B.C.'s fall crop of apples were featured heavily at the announcement on Tuesday.

Jones said Save-On-Foods stores are competing with one another to create alluring displays for top prizes in the annual Apple Cup.

"Competition is fierce," he said.

And while McIntosh and Delicious apples may have been the fruit of choice for previous generations, Jones said Gala is now the top-selling apple followed by Ambrosia.

And while the summer's heat may have resulted in smaller apples, the fruit tastes "just as good," Jones said.

Marketing program supports B.C. farmers

Also on hand for the event via video link due to snow was Warren Sarafinchan, president and CEO of the BC Tree Fruits Cooperative, which is participating in the partnership.

Since relaunching Buy BC, the program has invested $10 million to support more than 300 producers, processors, co-operatives, agriculture fairs, farmers' markets and associations with marketing activities that generated approximately $80 million in sales.

Wine tastings in a grocery aisle?

Meanwhile, Coquitlam's new Save-On-Foods store opened just over two months ago and will be a prototype of the company's future, according to Jones.

He said customers have so far expressed a liking for conveniences such as a juice bar, a pizza oven, a grilling station, custom-cake bakery and automated grocery ordering.

There's also a café serving B.C. wine with food and a large wine store, with tastings.

"This is what stores will look like," Jones said.

However, the Sunwood Square location is about 25,000 sq. ft. larger than a typical Save-On-Foods; it was a former Safeway store, Jones noted.