Grocery Foodservice


Q1 2023

GS1 Canada is pleased to bring you the Q1 issue of Food for Thought. With every edition, we provide the latest insights, news and trends across the grocery and foodservice industries.

We want to hear from you! Please fill out our short survey found at the end of the newsletter. This will help us provide the content you’d like to see in future issues.

What's Happening at GS1 Canada

Small Business Spotlight

We love to celebrate small businesses and highlight inspiring success stories in our Small Business Spotlight series. This month, we’re focusing on one company whose mission it is to educate, employ and empower in a refugee community. Keep reading to learn more about Sitti Social Enterprise and how this small business is thriving with the help of GS1 Canada.

A Clean Slate for Refugees

Noora Sharrab never imagined she'd own a small business. Rather, she was dedicated to helping women in the Middle East achieve confidence, independence and self-determination. However, she was presented with an opportunity to do both and that led to a lot of questions, a lot of problem solving and eventually Sitti Social Enterprise. Sharrab's hard work and dedication has provided dependable jobs for refugees and gift options for the global-conscious market. It all started with bars of olive oil soap made in Jordan.

In 2011, Sharrab had a career with the United Nations and was directing her own non-profit. “My focus was really working with refugee communities and then creating opportunities for women to access higher education or post-secondary education in Jordan,” said Sharrab. During this time, she encountered a group of women living in a refugee camp who had been trained by the Italian embassy to make olive oil soap. They had produced boxes and boxes of product but had no access to market. Camp volunteer Safiah Abu Shanin, who became a Sitti co-founder, asked Sharrab for help. “This was really about women trying to create self-reliance,” Sharrab remembered. “This was about a community that wanted to move beyond charity and wanted to really create livelihoods for their families. And that soap was just a mechanism to do so.”

“Sitti actually means my grandmother in Arabic. So that's why our products are really committed to natural ingredients. I always ask, would this be sitti approved?”
- Noora Sharrab

Sharrab understood on some level that marketing the soap would take a lot of work, but it all boiled down to this: she wanted the women to be able to focus on the soap making that would provide a full-time salary while she took care of the marketing, packaging, logistics and fulfillment. Sharrab was able to gather enough money through crowdfunding and donations to cover three artisan salaries and some necessary equipment, and the first soap workshop was built inside the camp. Sharrab returned to Canada shortly thereafter and began investigating how she could bring the product to North America. This included working with the third co-founder of Sitti, Jacqueline Sofia.

One major stumbling block Sharrab encountered stemmed from buying barcodes off a third-party website. “None of the barcodes I purchased were compliant and then some weren't associated to me as the company,” she said. “I thought I was saving money and I ended up losing money later.” Sharrab even had to abandon the packaging she had designed with the useless barcodes and start over. “I only wish someone told me earlier, just go with GS1 from the beginning,” Sharrab said. She often relates her experience to business associates so they can avoid a similar logistical blunder and ensure they’re retail ready from the start.

Sharrab stressed the importance of speaking up and determining what you want to achieve when working with GS1 Canada. “I watched a lot of tutorials, and I asked a lot of questions,” she said. “It's important to know and be very specific on what your goals are… for me, it was to be retail ready.” She went on to say, “I think that once you understand the GS1 system, it just helps you organize from a logistics perspective.”

With GS1 Canada barcodes secured, Sharrab set her sights on finding a target market and ramping up the business. “We know that more and more consumers are looking to purchase products with meaning,” she said. She saw that people wanted to support a cause that’s bigger than buying a bar of soap merely for company profit. “As Sitti, beyond just selling B2C, we do a lot of gifting opportunities with corporates,” Sharrab continued. She tells a story about partnering with Audi in the Middle East during the pandemic. Along with the purchase of Sitti gift boxes, Audi donated money to help the women working for the company so they could continue to draw an income through COVID. “That was a really good example of a partnership that we've done, where the company was trying to align specific STG goals internally,” said Sharrab.

At the core of Sitti Social Enterprise is a woman dedicated to helping socioeconomically disadvantaged women achieve stability through self-reliance. It’s about empowerment and recognition and the pride of being able to support themselves and their families. Sharrab acknowledged, “We know statistically that 9 out of 10 business owners that start a business will fail without the right guidance, mentorship or coaching.” She was willing to be part of a team and figure out what it took to bring a product to market, thereby giving the women an avenue to success. Sharrab believes, “… part of the journey is that you're not expected to be an overnight success and sometimes it's hard because in the social media world, you're always comparing yourself to everybody's successes.” But she reminded us that each person’s journey is different and failures are just opportunities to learn and find success in the future. We think Sitti would approve.

Sitti Social Enterprise has a mission to educate, employ and empower. Their handmade products include soaps, apparel, gift boxes and more that come from a community-based organization promoting self-reliance in a refugee community. To shop products and learn more, visit Sitti Social Enterprise.

If you’re a small business that has experienced big benefits from working with GS1 Canada, why not share your story? You could be featured on our website, newsletters and social media outlets. Learn more.

Important Information and Updates for Small Business Owners

In 2023, Canadian small businesses are coping with a number of challenges: inflation, supply chain woes, labour shortages and more. GS1 Canada understands those issues and offers programs and incentives that can help relieve some of the stresses and complications. This year, small businesses are expected to bump up their digital strategy investments and the Canadian Digital Adoption Program can help. We’re also here to guide you through trading partner relationships and share what we’ve learned through decades of industry experience. Read on to find out more about how you can take advantage of everything from a one-year paid GS1 Canada Individual or Basic subscription to educational materials designed and implemented for you.

Trade-Readiness Certification Program

Canadian Agricultural Partnership Government of Canada

Financial support was provided through the AgriAssurance Program under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

'Thank you for having these modules accessible to small business owners. I found them to be very helpful.' - Jacqueline Lee, Sonyo Food Co

GS1 Canada developed a Trade-Readiness Certification Program with funding through the Government of Canada's AgriAssurance Program. Eligible Canadian small businesses can benefit from education and guidance on how to meet trading partner requirements across grocery and foodservice channels. Learn how GS1 Standards increase business efficiencies with unique product identification, product barcoding and accurate product data for selling online and in stores to retailers, restaurants and other institutions. For more information on eligibility and program components, visit the Trade Certification web page.

Don’t forget to check out our small business subscription offerings, including GTIN 10-packs and Small Business Bundles.

$25 Annual Fee

1 Barcode

Annual gross revenue
less than $250,000.
Includes a GS1 GTIN License.

$150 Annual Fee

10 Barcodes

Annual gross revenue
less than $500,000.
Includes a GS1 GTIN License.

NEW! License additional GTINs/barcodes with flexible GTIN 10-packs

$500 Annual Fee

100 Barcodes

Annual gross revenue
less than $1,000,000.
Includes a GS1 Company Prefix License.

Small Business Bundles

Flexible bundles
for up to 40 barcodes

Annual gross revenue
less than $2,500,000.

To learn more about exciting new small business programs, visit our small business web page and be sure to follow us on social media.

GS1 Standards in Action: Trade Item Identification for Bundles

Over the last several years, online selling has exploded. One challenge with ecommerce is product identification for bundles, defined as one or more products combined to be sold together. Sellers, brands, distribution centres and other players often create bundles that contain products from brands that they do not own, compounding the problem. GS1, in collaboration with industry, developed a solution to provide consistent and accurate identification of bundles to benefit stakeholders across all commerce channels.

There are two types of bundles: physical and virtual. A physical bundle is a collection of trade items that are physically combined into a single trade item. Physical bundles require a new Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) because a new trade item is created. The GTIN for the bundle should be assigned by the party creating the physical bundle. The individual products in the bundle carry their own GTINs, which are different from the GTIN assigned to the bundle.

Virtual bundles are composed of multiple trade items that are not physically combined but are instead listed in a single online offer. Virtual bundles do not require a new GTIN, but all individual items listed for sale need to have their own GTINs. As individual products in the bundle are sold together but not physically attached to each other, the virtual bundle is not a new trade item. Therefore, the individual products in the bundle should carry their own GTINs.

Please consult the decision tree below for help identifying bundles.

A new bundle with products that are physically attached to each other needs a new GTIN. A virtual bundle with individual products that have their own GTINs does not need a new bundle GTIN. A bundle built by the manufacturer can use the existing GTIN on the bundle.

What's Happening at GS1 Globally

GS1 Global Forum Celebrates 50 Years of the Barcode

In mid-February, the GS1 Global Forum brought together more than 2,000 people including staff from GS1 Member Organizations, board members and industry leaders for four days of learning, collaboration and networking. The event was held in person in Brussels (the site of GS1 headquarters) and virtually for online participants. With engagement from around the world, this was an opportunity to hear about priorities and developments affecting global business.

From February 13 to 16, attendees chose from 4 plenaries and 50 workshops. Sessions covered everything from fundamentals to regional updates, and there was something for every sector, industry and agenda. Here’s a small sampling:

  • 2D barcodes was a hot topic with discussions on scanner updates, retail transition and detailed pilot programs.
  • The role of GS1 collaboration with government shed light on how authorities and industry can work together on digitization initiatives to support better product safety.
  • In fresh food, participants learned how GS1 is helping to improve supply chain efficiency and resiliency while providing greater transparency to consumers.

The forum kicked off with an opening plenary that celebrated a very special milestone, the 50th anniversary of the barcode and the birth of GS1! Back in 1973, industry leaders in the USA selected a single standard for product identification, the GS1 barcode, with Canada and other countries following suit soon after. Now, this barcode is scanned six billion times a day. Guest speakers gave insight into how the barcode has transformed retail and healthcare, plus how GS1 Member Organizations grew to have a global influence. It was emphasized that GS1 standards are needed more than ever in a world where supply chain and costs are under pressure, opening the opportunity for digital transformation.

New Data Recipient at GS1 Canada

Summerhill Market

Summerhill Market is a family-owned and operated business that has been serving the Rosedale community since 1954. Our goal is to provide our customers with a unique shopping experience and the widest selection of quality grocery and prepared food options. We take pride in our scratch bakery, fresh produce and wide variety of unique products. Our team is passionate about providing excellent customer service and making every visit a fun experience.

Coming Enhancements

New Regulatory Nutritional Attributes Available

Working with GS1 Canada can protect both product reputation and consumer health. That’s why, as a part of our continued partnership with the grocery industry, GS1 Canada is adding 33 regulatory nutritional attributes to ECCnet Nutritional Content. These new attributes will support food labelling regulations specific to the following categories: Dairy, Fish/Seafood, Meat/Poultry and Mixed Nuts. These new nutritional attributes will be available for you to load effective March 2, 2023 streamlining the collection of information and enabling the efficient and accurate sharing of data with all your trading partners.

Loading data to ECCnet Nutritional Content gives brand owners the opportunity to share accurate product information and product specifics such as cheese type, fish species, cut of meat, percentage of protein and mixed nut type. This specific information facilitates advertising and online searches for consumers. Today’s shoppers are looking for nutritional details that make purchasing decisions and meeting evolving dietary and wellness needs easier.

To give subscribers an overview of the expanded nutritional attributes, GS1 Canada offered a live webinar on March 02, 2023. Subject matter experts participated to provide guidance on the new process and to answer questions. The hour-long webinar was offered in both English and French.

For more information about this initiative, please contact your Account Manager or GS1 Canada at

Application Programming Interface (API) Solutions Update

Important updates to ECCnet Outboud API, ECCnet Soap API and ECCnet Rest API were implemented on February 27. The updates include the new sugar sweetened beverage tax attribute, as well as regulatory nutritional attributes. These updates are in alignment with Canadian industry requirements to support data completeness and data accuracy.

For more information, please refer to the ECCnet Outbound API attribute guide, the ECCnet SOAP API attribute guide and the ECCnet REST API attribute guide.

Your Questions Answered

What is EDI and how does it promote an efficient supply chain?

Electronic Data Interchange, or EDI, enables the computer-to-computer exchange of business documents between companies using a standard format. Although it’s an older technology, it continues to be a vital ecommerce enabler. EDI is an efficient and effective electronic data exchange that provides trading partners with accurate and complete business requirements.

EDI allows you to comply with major trading partners’ requests to establish electronic communication links. Here are some of the other benefits:

  • Increased speed
  • Reduced administration and processing costs
  • Increased accuracy
  • Reduced lead time and inventory
  • Reduced resource usage in operational stage
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Enables new business processes
  • Supports many business processes covering ordering, shipping & receiving, warehousing, and more

You can find out more about EDI Implementation Guidelines by contacting GS1 Canada - Global Standards at 416-510-8039 or email us at

Industry News

Feel Good Food

Have you ever heard of adaptogens? What about nootropics? Both are substances said to improve brain functions such as memory, focus or mood. Specifically, adaptogens are known to counteract the effects of stress on the body and aid relaxation, and can be found in foods such as medicinal mushrooms. Nootropics are promoted as improving mental functions including mood, focus and cognitive skills—ginseng or schisandra are sources. You can find adaptogens, nootropics and a whole host of other healthy buzzword ingredients in your local grocery store and at restaurants. Increasingly, consumers are looking for food products like these that offer a mental or physical boost.

As reported in Canadian Grocer, people are thinking about mood as something they can alter on demand. They’re calling the trend “mood to order”. Mood foods contain ingredients that counteract a negative mood. If someone has been sleeping poorly or experiencing anxiety, they may turn to the grocery aisle as one option to address these issues.

It’s no secret that many of us have felt the need for some mental health support since early 2020. In fact, Google searches for “brain food” grew 355% in 2020, compared to 2019. People were looking for functional products that could make them feel better on a mental and emotional level. Food and beverage products are still in-demand when it comes to stress-related issues. Consumers are asking: is there a product I can replace or something I can add to my diet that will act as a mood food?

There’s no shortage of brands offering foods with ingredients touted to deliver a variety of health benefits. Interested in calming your nerves? Look for products with reishi mushrooms, GABA, chamomile and melatonin. Those who want a better night’s sleep may be reading labels to see what contains kava root or CBD. Food has been used as medicine for centuries and whether shoppers want more energy or a stronger immune system, beverages, teas, snacks and more are stepping up to answer the call. In fact, we’ll soon feature Matt Dean Pettit from PowerPlant Superfoods in our subscriber spotlight and on our podcast, Barcodes & Beyond. Pettit’s company makes coffees and seltzers that harness the power of functional mushrooms.

Global standards can play an important role when it comes to informing consumers about superfoods and helping retailers promote their products. Attributes that cover everything from nutritional information to promotional videos can be captured using GS1 Canada’s tools and services. Product owners can provide and verify information that can then be shared with trading partners and the consumer. The transparent sharing of important details such as the dosage, bioavailability and benefits of a superfood leads to informed purchases by shoppers interested in trying these products.

How Restaurants are Responding to an Economic Downturn

Heading into 2023, Canadians were worried about the possibility of a recession. Although experts say that outcome can be avoided, people are still mindful of how they’re spending money right now. Fears of job loss and rising costs mean a slowdown in consumer spending. However, there’s also a sense of freedom with the repeal of COVID restrictions—we want to go out into the world to be with friends and family. How do we rectify these opposing needs and how is inflation affecting the foodservice industry?

Restaurants are responding to inflation by trying to both attract customers and control costs. Businesses may employ social media, apps and reward programs to draw in diners, according to Kelly Higginson, Chief Operating Officer at Restaurants Canada. Once diners are in the door, they may notice a change in menus. Don’t be surprised to see a smaller selection overall that features more affordable ingredients and mains.

Another challenge facing restaurateurs is the ongoing labour shortage. People who were forced to leave their jobs during COVID lockdowns haven’t returned and there’s also an immigration backlog—both are leaving businesses short-staffed. Robots, kitchen automation tools and vending machines have all been employed in an effort to fill the gap. One nice surprise is that the latest data from the NPD Group’s Customer Satisfaction Survey indicates service levels haven’t dropped off as a result.

If you’ve been out to eat recently, it’s clear that patrons are happy to be back at their favourite haunts. Compared to 2021, 41% more Canadians were comfortable eating at a restaurant in 2022, as reported by the annual Foodservice Facts report from Restaurants Canada. Some consumers see dining out as an affordable social experience, but they may be inclined to amend behaviours by spending less on a meal overall. Others may choose to forgo costs such as parking, babysitters and tips by supporting a restaurant with take out and supplementing with extras—say, desserts and alcohol—at home.

One thing most restaurants have learned over the past three years is resiliency. Whether it’s a need to pivot to take out or the accommodation of opening an all-weather patio, many businesses have remained viable through adaptation. In the coming months, economic instability will be the latest challenge faced by the industry.

Compostable Packaging: Putting the Best Foot Forward

Sustainability has been a key focus for many companies in the past, and 2023 is no exception. Consumers are more aware of how their lifestyles, including purchases, impact the environment, so some companies are taking their sustainability one step further by using compostable packaging.

Compostable packaging is made from materials that can be broken down by microorganisms and used to nourish soil. This type of packaging helps to minimize the amount of waste that ends up in landfills every year, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

There are two main types of compostable packaging, including bio-based plastic and starch-based plastic. Starch-based plastics are made from resources like corn, sugarcane and potato starch, whereas bio-based plastics are made from plant-based materials, like paper.

Compostable packaging is becoming more and more common in industries such as grocery, where it is being used as wrapping for bakery items, fruits and vegetables, and more. In healthcare, compostable packaging is becoming increasingly common for medical devices, like catheters and syringes, and use is likely to expand.

Despite many benefits, compostable packaging is still more expensive than plastic. Costs can be reduced with advances in technology, industry development and the increasing demand for environmentally sustainable packaging. With all of these positive forces working together, compostable packaging is expected to become more affordable in the future.

Upcoming Events and Webinars

Stay informed and involved with webinars and events from the grocery and foodservice industries.

Nutrition Work Group Webinar
Food manufacturers can join us for a special presentation to discuss the new Food Allergy Canada guidelines on allergen management.
March 14, 2023
1 pm to 2:30 pm
This free webinar will be offered in English only.
Register now

RC Show
Don’t miss the Restaurants Canada Show, Canada’s leading hospitality and foodservice expo.
Enercare Centre, Toronto
April 10 to 12, 2023
Register now

Product Enhancements

As part of our commitment to improving our subscriber experience and delivering to industry needs, we are continually enhancing our industry-directed solutions, services and tools.

Visit our Coming Enhancements page regularly for more detailed information on past and upcoming product updates.

Join a Work Group

Feedback and input from our users, including the ongoing review of attributes and solution requirements, are key elements in ensuring solutions continue to deliver value to subscribers and meet industry needs.

Every GS1 Canada subscriber has an opportunity to represent industry interests through active participation in a community work group.

Visit here for more information.

Any Questions?

We’re here to answer questions about your GS1 Canada account, barcodes, product images and more!


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