E-Commerce and Digital Business: A guide for Canadian food and beverage companies


The marketplace for selling food and beverage has been changing. Consumers are spending more time online and e-commerce, where you sell your products online, has become a channel where more food and beverage products are being promoted and sold than ever before. Canadian Small-to-Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the food and beverage sector have options to create their online presence and develop sales in this channel. This guide will explore the online opportunity for food and beverage SMEs.

Key concepts

Digital business strategy (also known as a digital strategy to business)

refers to the components of your online approach to business. It should include a range of elements, such as:

  • Creating an online business plan and defining a target market
  • Developing a presence online, generating content, and marketing your offerings
  • Selling through e-commerce, and fulfilling those orders
  • Measuring results and assessing the effectiveness of your strategy

The components of your digital marketing strategy should be integrated with all of the other components of your overall company and brand strategy. Your digital marketing should reflect the same positioning as your packaging, any mass media you invest in and even your trade show booth.

E-commerce (also known as digital commerce)
refers to the act of selling and buying via the Internet. As with other distribution channels, e-commerce could be used to sell to other businesses, directly to consumers, or a combination of the two.
Online communities
are a group of people who have given you permission to communicate directly with them online. This can be a proprietary list such as email addresses you maintain or people on a social media platform where you can host your own group.
Order fulfillment and shipping
are the final steps in getting your products to your online buyers. They are important considerations in e-commerce. Order fulfillment includes converting the digital order to a process where the proper item can be selected and packaged for shipping. Shipping is the movement of the product from your order fulfillment to the online buyer's address. The complexity and costs of these tasks are important considerations in your e-commerce strategy.
Online marketplace
is a website where suppliers list their products for sale and consumers or businesses can search for items to buy. The success of the online marketplace is dependent on driving traffic to the website and buyers making purchases.


Prior to investing in an online presence and the platform to operate an e-commerce business, it is important for producers and processors to consider the impact on their existing business. Selling products online will require an investment to create a presence in this channel and resources required to operate your e-commerce business. Attracting new customers and selling to your existing consumers in this environment is different from a physical space.

Selling products online is crowded and competitive. Producers and processors have the option of selling their products to other businesses and/or to consumers directly. Each strategy requires a focused execution that is developed for the specific e-commerce segment. For any e-commerce strategy, there are four key areas on which to focus:

  1. Develop your online presence
  2. Drive online traffic to where your products are promoted and sold
  3. Establish your products within an e-commerce sales platform
  4. Implement an effective and efficient order fulfillment and shipping strategy

Your e-commerce strategy is a component of your overall digital marketing strategy. There are many opportunities to develop an online community and communicate directly with consumers. Because food and beverage products are especially enticing and consumable products, consumers are also looking for recipes and other information to help them buy and prepare food. E-commerce presents many opportunities to generate data about consumers and results that can be used to benefit your entire business.

With consumers more interested in buying online and improvements in order fulfillment and shipping, the opportunity for SMEs to sell food and beverage products online continues to evolve. This is a challenging channel with numerous opportunities for food and beverage producers and processors that are able to find the right business model.


If you have questions about e-commerce or exporting your agriculture and food products, please contact the Market Access Secretariat at aafc.mas-sam.aac@agr.gc.ca.

Copyright, disclaimer and acknowledgement


E-Commerce and Digital Business: A guide for Canadian food and beverage companies.

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (2021)

Government of Canada Catalogue Number: A22-275/2021E-PDF
International Standard Book Number (ISBN): 978-0-660-39292-9
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Number: 13076E

Photo credits - All photographs reproduced in this publication are used by permission of the rights holders.


Although every effort was made to ensure the accuracy and currency of the information in this document, the Government of Canada and AAFC do not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current, and assume no liability for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use of or reliance upon the information. The Government of Canada and AAFC do not endorse or make any representations about any products, service or materials detailed in the document, which are used at your own risk.

Any authorized or permitted reproduction or redistribution of this document, in whole or in part, must include acknowledgement of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada as the owner of the copyright in the document, through a reference citing the Government of Canada, the title of the document and the year. Where the reproduction or redistribution includes data from this document, it must also include an acknowledgement of the specific data source(s), as noted in this document.


This guide was produced through a collaborative effort between Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Trade Commissioner Service of Global Affairs Canada.