The Qualifirst Story

Overview

The Qualifirst Group is a coast-to-coast organization serving the three major markets in Canada with quality fine food products from all over the World. Dedicated warehouses and centralized office support are located in Toronto, and Vancouver. The sales force is National.

Welcome to our online fine food shop!

Mission Statement

Since 1957, the Qualifirst Group has dedicated itself to providing the highest quality food products, for both Foodservice Chefs and Retail customers across Canada. With representation and growth of brands characterized by quality, the Qualifirst Group strives to exceed the expectation of all customers, in both products and service, to become the trusted one-stop source for all fine food needs.

How it all began...

Qualifirst started like all small companies: As an Idea.

The Idea was to have a distribution company import products based strictly on Quality; fulfilling a customer niche that did not base purchases strictly on cost - a niche in which customers know what they want! It is only human to want that quality at the best price possible, and that was the challenge.

The Foundation: Far-Met Importers

In 1957, my parents - Michel and Nicole Farges - started a small fine food company in a place known strictly for its "steak and potatoes." As "fine food pioneers" they imported exotic products for Vancouver and Western Canada. They became the first to import the best the World had to offer: Foie Gras from Rougie, Burgandy Escargots from UGMA, Wine Vinegars from France, Flageolet from Belgium, Sardines from Portugal, and superb wines! The list was endless.

It was a small business in the truest sense, and I still have clear memories of riding cases of Portuguese sardines in the basement of my house as a boy. It was a fond beginning to my lifelong training and formed sturdy roots for the knowledge and experience that would become Qualifirst!

Far-Met kept growing and adapting during the decades - abandoning wine, changing warehouse facilities several times to accommodate growth - but the nexus point for the company was the expansion into fine Cheese. Cheese is one of those products that can make customers line up for blocks! By applying knowledge and the Quality principle, Far-Met became one of the largest distributors of Cheese in Western Canada, with a reputation for great cheese.

The Adventure: Qualifirst Ideal

After venturing away from Far-Met by working in the States, trading stocks on the Vancouver Stock Exchange, surveying mineral claims in the Yukon, I soon found myself returning to my family company in the late 1970's. The work load, the early mornings, the late nights, the pressure, the lack of coffee breaks, and the swallowing of lunches behind the desk would discourage most. But I thrived on it! Personal pride helped to understand the need to face all responsibilities head-on, make decisions quickly yet correctly, and gain a zero tolerance for failure! The challenge and risk of starting my own business began to intrigue me. Being a voracious reader, pillaging the local library for all manners of commercial books, only fed my fire. 1983 was the year to confront all odds and have a "go at it.”

But where to go and what to do? What to do is an easy question to answer. Only a fool embarks on a business venture with zero knowledge of the chosen industry. It would be distribution and it would be of food products.

Where to go proved to be challenging. Traveling to major Canadian cities and the States’ financial hub - New York City - the decision to start in a major metropolitan centre took form.

Business acquaintances advised that competition would be intense and success less sure if starting a food distribution business in a major, metropolitan centre: "They'll eat you alive." Giving this viewpoint serious thought, only led to the conclusion that their premise was faulty. In fact, the bigger the city, the bigger the market, the more competitors there are, and the better off a small company would be.

The Beginning: Qualifirst Foods

Where to go? It was late 1983 and the economy was just starting up again. The last city on my tour was Toronto. Arriving tired and jet-lagged after a fortnight of solid traveling, interviewing chefs, business owners, and store owners in over a dozen cities with little in the way of sleep, I deposited my luggage and a ton of "working notes" in a room at Delta Chelsea Inn in downtown Toronto. Hungry, I wandered down to the formal dining room - called "Whittles" - being told there was a very "serious" chef there. The prospect of a serious meal with taste as one of the essential elements was most appealing, especially after consuming cafeteria fare during the weeks of travel. I requested a very specific meal and asked if the chef could make it for me. Surprise! Not only was time and attention taken to prepare the meal, it was perfect! I slept like a log, wrote a thank you note to the chef, and left for Vancouver to go through the notes and make a decision.

Back in Vancouver, it did not take long to decide on Toronto as the home for this new venture. What to call the new company? It took a long while, but finally, a few months later, after important details such as product range and pricing were addressed, I came across the name "QUALIFIRST," which communicates the idea and the way I want to run the business.

Soon after, I received a kind letter from the chef at the Delta Chelsea in Toronto, thanking me for my kind words. It turned out that Domenic Zofferani was also President of the Escoffier Society, the Ontario Association of Chefs. We became friends and in fact, one of the wonders of starting Qualifirst Foods in Toronto was the privilege of meeting and doing business with the hard-working chefs that make up Ontario's food service industry.

The Journey Far and Beyond

Three decades later, Qualifirst has grown to nationally service the Canadian Marketplace! With pride, we always strive to provide the best quality product, with the best service. And we look forward to doing so for decades to come.

Learn more about Qualifirst founder and CEO, Yves Farges...