Canada Bread sentenced to $50 million fine after pleading guilty to fixing wholesale bread prices
June 21, 2023 - GATINEAU, QC - Competition Bureau
Canada Bread Company, Limited was fined $50 million today by the Ontario Superior Court after pleading guilty for its role in a criminal price-fixing arrangement that raised the wholesale price of fresh commercial bread. The fine is the highest price-fixing fine imposed by a Canadian court to date.
The bread producer and distributor pleaded guilty to four counts of price-fixing under the Competition Act. Canada Bread admitted that it arranged with its competitor, Weston Foods (Canada) Inc., to increase prices for various bagged and sliced bread products, such as sandwich bread, hot dog buns and rolls. The price-fixing resulted in two price increases, one in 2007 and one in 2011.
At the time of the price-fixing, Canada Bread was under the ownership of Maple Leaf Foods. The senior leadership of Canada Bread responsible for the price-fixing is no longer with the company.
The Competition Bureau recommended to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada that Canada Bread receive leniency in sentencing in return for its full cooperation with the Bureau’s investigation, in accordance with the Bureau’s Leniency Program. The fine represents the maximum applicable under the law, less a leniency discount for Canada Bread’s cooperation and guilty plea.
The guilty plea is the result of an ongoing investigation by the Bureau into alleged price-fixing between producers to raise wholesale bread prices, as well as alleged price-fixing between grocery stores to raise retail prices.
The record fine for Canada Bread is a significant milestone in the Bureau’s ongoing investigation. The Bureau continues to investigate alleged price-fixing by other companies, including Metro Inc., Sobeys Inc., Wal-Mart Canada Corporation, Giant Tiger Stores Limited, and Maple Leaf Foods Inc.
“Fixing the price of bread ꟷ a food staple of Canadian households ꟷ was a serious criminal offence. Our continuing investigation remains a top priority. We are doing everything in our power to pursue those who engage in price-fixing.”
Commissioner of Competition
In December 2017, Weston Foods and Loblaw Companies Limited, both subsidiaries of George Weston Limited (GWL), announced their participation in what they described as an “industry-wide price-fixing arrangement” involving the coordination of retail and wholesale bread prices.
In exchange for their full cooperation with the Competition Bureau’s investigation, Weston, Loblaw and GWL received immunity from prosecution.
Canada Bread received leniency in sentencing in return for its full cooperation with the Bureau’s investigation, in accordance with the Leniency Program under the Competition Act.
During the course of its ongoing investigation, the Bureau has executed search warrants against Canada Bread, Weston, Loblaw, Metro, Sobeys, Wal-Mart Canada, Giant Tiger, Overwaitea Food Group Limited, and Maple Leaf Foods Inc.
When the Bureau finds evidence of a criminal offence, it refers the matter to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC). The PPSC then decides whether charges should be laid and has authority over any resulting prosecutions.
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The Competition Bureau is an independent law enforcement agency that protects and promotes competition for the benefit of Canadian consumers and businesses. Competition drives lower prices and innovation while fueling economic growth.
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