How Yawdi’s marinades benefits from its Ontario Made exposure

The Caribbean spreads are finding an audience with moms and teen spice lovers.

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Yawdi’s, with some help from the Loblaw Ontario Made program, is spreading the word about marinades.

Ontario Made, the Loblaw partnership with broker and distributor Grey Jay, is aimed at highlighting lesser known local brands, like Yawdi’s, to consumers across the province. It’s part of what Adrian Centea, category director at Loblaw, calls a program that gives smaller brands a chance to “make a statement within a large store.”

Almost six years after founder and then self-admitted novice Veneise George first came up with the concept, her products – jerk marinades, pepper jellies and mustards – have been available since last summer in more than 100 Zehrs, Loblaws, Your Independent Grocer and Valu-Mart locations across Ontario, as well as some Sobeys locations.

George tells strategy that Ontario Made has been really great for the brand as it’s been able to reach a wider audience, after primarily marketing itself through attending consumer shows, vendor events, Instagram, collaborations and word of mouth.

While the seasoning, sauce and condiment industry has achieved modest growth, recently, George says that under lockdown, consumers were staying home and experimenting more with condiments.

“Yawdi’s was able to adapt in the current environment by emphasizing the buy local, shop local, support local banner through our social media platforms,” George notes.

According to George, her two best sellers are Red Pepper Jelly because it offers our customers a clean label, versatility and its ease of use, and Jerk Marinade because it offers zero marinating time and better ease of use compared with the competition. It is also clean label, and has a shelf life of two years – it’s a concentrate, so a little goes a long way.

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“Yawdi’s Jerk Marinade was initially available in a 375ml bottle, but as we started expanding our line and our business grew, we made the environmentally conscious decision to switch to glass jars,” George says. “Our labels were [also] re-designed to better illustrate our products.”

Her ideal locations are the deli department, bakery department and meat department, as most of the products are seasonings and marinades so this complements the offerings available in the above departments. “We’re in these departments and aisles now,” George reports.

Further flavour innovations coming to market include mango pepper jelly, spicy pepper jelly and cranberry compote SKUs. She’s also considering a ready-to-eat product line and possibly a storefront down the road too.

The primary audience are busy, on-the-go moms; however, popularity is increasing among younger people setting up their first households, cooking for themselves, also teen spicy food lovers influencing parental purchase decisions. And the brand is also benefiting from a growing immigrant population, as well as the growing popularity of exotic spices and ingredients and demand for new, unique sauces and condiment.

The competitive set includes a range of large and small players including Stonewall Kitchen, Grace Foods and Kozlik’s.

The Yawdi’s business spawned from Jamaican family barbecues and gradually grew from there to appearing in a small West Indian store in Toronto, with the DTC side of the business recently faring well through its site and social media.

However, as George recently told Fred VanVleet and Derek Folk’s Bet on Yourself podcast, the entrepreneurial journey for the Scarborough resident is happening “in real time,” as she hasn’t made it yet.

George’s measure of business success is a bit different: in her eyes, supporting other BIPOC entrepreneurs by sharing her journey, is just as important.