Since its launch in 2015, La Dee Da Gourmet Sauces has been known for its gourmet sauce line that specializes in plant-based, vegan, dairy-and gluten-free and nightshade-free products. Their popularity even drew the attention of investor and Dragons’ Den regular Arlene Dickinson, who joined the entrepreneurial founders – three women from southern Ontario – as a fourth partner (through her company District Ventures).
“What makes us so unique is that our sauces are not just for pasta. They can be used as soup/stew starters, as a chili base, pizza topping and over veggies and noodles,” says co-owner Mary Marino, who along with partners Jo Anne Torrance and Marlow Italiano, operate the sauce company.
Last year, La Dee Da Gourmet Sauces placed in the top three for the 2019 SIAL Canada’s Food Scale-Up Pitch Competition. Their coveted prize: A 20-hour consultation with the food science experts at Niagara College’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre. Their challenge: The company needed help improving their new sauce formulation.
The timing was perfect for the company as they were in the process of working on a new product, a Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce, but they needed assistance with a natural-based recipe.
“The co-packer that we use had brought us from kitchen to stovetop to bench samples, but we were having a difficult time reaching certain attributes we wanted… gluten-free, vegan and keto,” explains Marino.
La Dee Da were able to access food science experts, staff and students at the CFWI Innovation Centre, who help develop new products or expand existing products for industry partners, as well as assist with ingredient sourcing and packaging recommendations.
“The team at NC was awesome in helping us achieve a better flavour profile,” says Marino, “and helped us reach those key things that were important for us so that we could go back to our co-packer with a more refined recipe and begin the process of large batching to a retail ready product.”
The staff at every visit made me feel comfortable and I enjoyed chatting with the students who truly were the backbone for this sauce coming to fruition.”
With the production help of Delmar Foods Canada, La Dee Da introduced its Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce in February 2020 and it’s now on the shelves of more than 300 stores across Canada.
“We owe so much of the success of this product to the team at the CFWI Innovation Centre for taking an idea/concept to the next level,” adds Marino. “The food industry is always changing and Niagara College is literally a one-stop-shop to helping entrepreneurs’ dreams of hitting the shelves in stores a reality.”
This technical service project is just one example of innovation from the College’s CFWI Innovation Centre, which offers a full suite of services to support industry innovation and commercialization of new products and processes. To read more about what the Centre offers, visit their website.