Local Entrepreneurs Bank on Gourmet Food Trends

Gourmet food trends | BCBusiness
From ice cream to doughnuts to olive oil, B.C.’s entrepreneurs are dipping into the specialty food business in a big way.

The specialty food business is booming worldwide and B.C. entrepreneurs are taking a run at the trend

When Cartems Donuts Inc. opened its first pop-up store on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the gourmet pastry shop routinely sold out of product by mid-afternoon, with customers waiting in line for upwards of 30 minutes to buy $3 doughnuts. It’s easy to doubt the future of a company pinning its livelihood on a single item that can be bought elsewhere for a fraction of the price, but two-and-a-half years later, Cartems has opened a permanent storefront on West Pender Street.

According to Tony Chapman, founder and CEO of Toronto-based marketing agency Capital C Communications LP, gourmet brands like Cartems are capturing our imagination by offering more than just a product. “They’re not buying the doughnut—they’re buying the experience,” he says of customers’ penchant to shell out extra bucks for specialty products. In Canada a perfect storm is brewing for gourmet food uptake: an aging population is moving away from “stuff” and toward experiences; a younger generation wants to have and share unique experiences (“something gourmet is a much more interesting thing to post about than something mass,” says Chapman); and a growing ethnic population is influencing our food culture with new flavours.

Chapman says the individual passion behind these products contributes to the two essential elements of gourmet products: substance and essence. People want to know exactly what they’re getting, where it’s coming from and the authentic story behind it.

Here are some of the B.C.-based entrepreneurs successfully getting in on the gourmet action. 

1. Earnest Ice Cream: This grassroots ice cream venture was launched in 2012 by co-founders Ben Ernst and Erica Bernardi and quickly earned a name for itself with savoury flavours such as salted caramel, London fog and whiskey hazelnut ($10 a pint; earnesticecream.com).

2. To Die for Fine Foods: Intrepid foodie Erin Ireland sold her first loaf of chocolate macadamia nut banana bread to a café in 2011 and the business has grown ever since, now selling banana bread and lemon loaf in tens of shops throughout the Lower Mainland ($14 a loaf; itstodiefor.ca).

3. Cartems Donuterie: Cartems owner and UBC Sauder School of Business MBA grad Jordan Cash launched his business in 2012 after being inspired by a dream where he owned a doughnut shop ($3 each, $36 a dozen; cartems.com).

4. Domenica Fiore Olive Oil: This high-end olive oil was launched in 2010 by legendary B.C. business mogul Frank Giustra, and in 2014 the Olio Monaco variety was named to The World’s Best Olive Oils Yearly Index ($19.85 for 250 ml, $34.95 for 500 ml; domenicafiore.com).

5. Krokodile Pear: Entrepreneur Nick Lewis opened this cold-pressed juice and smoothie bar in 2013 in Kitsilano, an appropriate Vancouver neighbourhood for his organic concoctions ($9.50-$12 for 16 oz. bottle of juice, $8+ for a smoothie; krokodilepear.com).

6. Holy Crap Cereal: Holy Crap co-founders Corin Mullins and Brian Mullins launched their curiously named cereal in 2009 and the accolades were quick to follow, including being named a finalist in the 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year awards ($34.95 a 3-pack; holycrap.ca).