More than a dozen small to mid-sized companies say Calgary-based grocery chain Planet Organic is not paying its bills.
In October, CTV reported that Honest Dumplings, an Edmonton-based food supplier had not been paid for goods it shipped to the company. Honest Dumplings said it was owed $5,850.
In an email dated Oct. 29, Planet Organic’s CEO Alan Thompson told CTV: “We are working on a restructuring plan that would include Honest Dumplings Ltd. We should be in a position to discuss that plan with them end of next week.”
Following that story, CTV was contacted by 13 other companies with similar stories of outstanding accounts with Planet Organic, including:
- Happy Camel — $21,415
- Winters Turkeys — $35,000
- Sage Valley Marketing — $29,075
- Gecko Beverages — $18,000
- Badger Ridge Greenhouse — $5,621.54
- Pinocchio Ice Cream — $13,000
- Blue Ridge Greenhouse — $8,000
- Chickadee Farm Herbs — $6,000
- Newco natural Technology — $16,500
- Prairie Naturals — $80,000
- T.Bishop Bakery — $2,300
- My Little Chickpea — $22,154.56
- Honest Dumplings — $5,850
After sending several demand letters, Rula Sharkawi, owner of Toronto-based My Little ChickPea, a supplier of Middle Eastern foods, launched a lawsuit to recover the money.
The lawsuit filed Nov. 21 in Ontario details 22 unpaid invoices from August 2018 through July 31, 2019 and reads, in part:.
"This is not the first time the Defendant has failed to pay My Little Chickpea in a timely manner for outstanding invoices.
"The Defendant has established the behaviour of failing to pay vendors’ outstanding invoices for goods delivered and has so acknowledged this pattern directly to My Little Chickpea.”
Planet Organic has until Dec. 11 to respond to Sharkawi’s lawsuit. As of Dec. 2, no statement of defence has been filed.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
In the past two years, Planet Organic has expanded its retail operations, opening two new stores in the Edmonton area — Ellerslie Market and Sherwood Park — and one in Calgary’s Britannia neighbourhood.
CTV contacted Planet Organic, seeking answers about why the company was delinquent in paying many of its small suppliers, while at the same time expanding its number of retail stores.
In an emailed response, Thompson replied, "We are still working on restructuring plan. We have not been in a position as of yet to discuss with our vendor community what our future plans are. I had hoped when we last spoke that we were close to being able to share. We understand this is a challenge for them while we continue to work on a solution. Part of that solution is to continue to operate our business."
In a follow-up email, Thompson told CTV, "Planet Organic is committed to finding a payment solution with our vendors. This is not an Evil Corp intentional plan to starve any debt out. We simply do not have a timeline we can share at this time and can state this issue has lasted longer than we anticipated. Again we understand their frustration at this process and we plan to resolve as soon as we can."
Chris Lehrol, owner of Honest Dumplings, who initially raised the issue of Planet Organic’s payment problems back in October, told CTV on Dec. 2 the company has not made any payment arrangements.