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Nutty supply chain mixup leads to Loblaw losing truckload of walnuts

The grocery giant’s logistics company, responsible for delivering 25 pallets of walnuts to Calgary, is suing the trucking companies it subcontracted the job to after the load disappeared.
A company responsible for delivering 25 pallets of walnuts to Calgary is suing the trucking companies it subcontracted the job to after the load disappeared sometime after leaving a Regina storage warehouse, according to the claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court. THE CALIFORNIA WALNUT BOARD

It’s a supply-chain mystery that remains unsolved after 18 months: What happened to a truckload of President’s Choice walnuts?

The logistics nightmare, as laid out in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court last week, began about 18 months ago in B.C., and involved several companies and one defunct farmers market spanning three different provinces.

Sometime after leaving a Regina storage facility around Dec. 1, 2022, the walnuts disappeared.

“The current location of the shipment is unknown,” according to the lawsuit filed by SPI Logistics, a company contracted by Loblaw for freight deliveries.

The amount of loss isn’t included in the claim but it likely isn’t peanuts: A semi-trailer can carry up to about 20 tonnes. Loblaw’s website lists President’s Choice walnuts at $17.60 for 680 grams, or theoretically just over $500,000 retail at most.

The walnuts were en route to a place called Wild West Ranch in Clandeboye, Man., not far from Winnipeg, according to the lawsuit.

That’s just plain nuts, according to Bonnie Riddell, who owns and lives on a farm that used to have a farmers market on site and that now has horses and cows and no need for walnuts. The Wild West Ranch farmers market shut down in 2017.

“This is so weird,” said Riddell, reached on an old landline that rarely rings. “I’ve never heard of this before, and I’ve lived here about 20 years.”

She said, “This is a farm. We don’t deal with walnuts and I have no idea what this is about. I’m not a transport company. I don’t haul anything. I’m certainly not a store. It’s just a farm and I live here.”

SPI Logistics is suing three companies: Cool Running’s Consulting in Winnipeg, Sky Blue Transport in Abbotsford and Starlight Northern Transportation in Smithers.

All four companies were contacted for comment on Friday but have yet to respond.

Cool Running’s arranges shipments and storage under contract to SPI for Loblaw.

On Nov. 1, 2022, Loblaw asked Cool Running’s to co-ordinate delivery of 25 pallets of President’s Choice walnuts to a Loblaw’s warehouse in Calgary from Sunco Foods in Burnaby.

“Loblaw provided clear and unequivocal instructions to deliver the shipment to Loblaw distribution centre 22 in Calgary,” said the lawsuit, noting the shipping documentation clearly shows the correct destination.

Cool Running’s hired Sky Blue for the delivery but Cool Running’s instructed Sky Blue to deliver the load to “Loblaw distribution centre 34 in Regina” instead of to Calgary, the claim alleged.

When the truck arrived at the Regina warehouse three days later, Sky Blue was told it wasn’t expecting the shipment and the warehouse wouldn’t accept it.

Cool Running’s then instructed Sky Blue to send the load to JLL storage in Regina. It sat there for about three weeks, according to the lawsuit.

Then Cool Running’s hired Starlight and instructed it to pick up the walnuts and deliver them to the Wild West Ranch, the lawsuit alleged.

On Dec. 8, 2022, Loblaw told Cool Running’s the Calgary warehouse never received the shipment, the claim said. The claim also said that Cool Running’s didn’t inform SPI of the lost shipment.

In June 2023, Loblaw told SPI it was holding SPI responsible and in February 2024, it “automatically deducted the value of the lost shipment from SPI’s account receivables.”

SPI is claiming unspecified damages, including the cost of the loss cargo and the cost of investigating the loss and its legal fees. It’s also claiming special damages and damages for breach of contact, the lawsuit said.

None of the defendants have filed a response to the lawsuit and the allegations haven’t been proven in court.