Sobeys Inc. parent Empire Company Ltd. is ramping up online grocery delivery operations in Quebec with the launch of the new Voilà par IGA service.
Empire said Tuesday that Voilà par IGA replaces the previous IGA.net online grocery service in Quebec and brings a “significantly upgraded” ordering and delivery experience. Plans call for Voilà par IGA, accessible online at voila.ca or via the Voilà mobile app, to serve more than 100 communities from Gatineau to Montreal to Quebec City, according to the Stellarton, Nova Scotia-based grocer.
At capacity, Voilà par IGA will offer an assortment of up to 39,000 products, more than in a grocery store, Empire noted. Items available also include such brands as IGA, Ricardo, Rachelle Béry and Kim Phat, among others. The company said the new service gives customers “many more” one-hour delivery windows, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, as well as improved order accuracy and a freshness guarantee.
Customers in regions not covered by the Voilà par IGA service will continue to be served by IGA.net, Empire said.
“This is a great evolution for our customers. The best online grocery home delivery service in the world is now here in Quebec,” Pierre St. Laurent, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Empire, said in a statement.
“IGA was Quebec's first grocery retailer to launch online grocery shopping in 1996. Building on our success over the last 25 years, Voilà’s cutting-edge technology reaffirms IGA’s position as an innovator and market leader in grocery e-commerce,” St. Laurent explained. “Voilà par IGA offers customers a wider assortment, including an impressive lineup of made-in-Quebec products. The technology allows us to have greater control over product freshness, order accuracy and the delivery experience.”
Voilà par IGA had a soft-launch on March 7 with the opening of Empire’s second Ocado-automated customer fulfillment center (CFC), located in Montreal’s Pointe-Claire community. In the facility, associates and robots assemble orders with minimal product handling, while Voilà staff deliver orders directly to customers, according to Empire. At scale, Voilà par IGA will create about 1,500 jobs in operations, customer service, order assembly and home delivery.
Another CFC is in development in Calgary, Alberta, and slated to open in the first half of calendar 2023. In February, Empire also announced plans for a CFC in Vancouver, British Columbia, that’s expected to become operational in 2025. The company’s first Ocado CFC, in Vaughan, Ontario, launched in June 2020 to support the Voilà by Sobeys delivery service.
The platform from U.K.-based Ocado Group employs a centralized fulfillment model of large facilities that use high degree of automation — including vertical integration, machine learning and robotics — to accommodate a large assortment of products and serve a wide geographical area. For Empire, Ocado’s solution positions each CFC as a “hub” serving area stores and supporting facilities handling online orders.
In the fiscal 2022 third quarter ended Jan. 29, Empire reported e-commerce sales growth of 17%, atop a 315% sales surge in the prior-year period. Currently, Voilà delivery is available in Ontario, including the greater Toronto and Hamilton areas, and in Quebec, in the greater Montreal and Quebec City areas.