Somehow it took 25 years to get started, but now that it’s going, it can only be labelled a delicious concern. Today on Island Artisans, I told the story of two women who started a business in a small home kitchen, but are now reaching around the world with their products.
Mind you, they weren't trying to get the business going all that long. In fact, Maureen Drew and Judy McArthur of Artisan Edibles in Parksville were old friends on different paths of life that just happened to get together again after 25 years. The now-momentous meeting took place at the Filberg Festival in Comox, and as Maureen Drew explains, they discovered after all these years they had developed common interests: "I had a product that I was getting ready to market, marketing is my background, and Judy already had these great preserves she was selling, and as we talked we discovered we had so many things in common, gourmet cooking, sustainability, using local products…I told her I thought that maybe we could partner up and rebrand everything. Six months later, she gave me a call and we decided to found Artisan Edibles."
That was back in 2005, and now they’re just coming up on their fifth anniversary. They started out with just four products, now they are up to a line of twelve. There are few jellies made with Vancouver Island fruits, but with a welcome exotic twist. So you have raspberry jelly with cardamom added, blueberry and lavender jelly, rhubarb, sour cherry and ginger jelly as well. Then they get a little savoury with quince mostarda, which is a traditional Italian preparation with a bit of heat to it, an apple, fig and ginger chutney and two kinds of antipasto:
"Our original is with wild albacore tuna, and it has a real variety of vegetables, roasted red pepper, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, but we do find that more and more people were asking us for a vegetarian version, so we took the tuna out and put in white Italian cannellini beans, and people are loving it, it's really nice with bruschetta, goes great with pasta, and, well, people are just basically eating it out of the jar!"
Maureen is a little shy about admitting who one of their biggest fans is because she hasn't heard it directly from the source. But the owner of one of the shops that sells her products in West Vancouver says musician Diana Krall loves the antipasto and serves it at all of her dinner parties.
With fans like Krall, no wonder some of their products have just been picked up for export to Germany by a company there that has a shop full of Canadian products. Maureen and Judy are ecstatic to have cracked the demanding and discerning European market. Maureen says they are constantly trying to track trends that may help them develop new products. Their rose petal scone mix and champagne rose petal jelly were on the shelves to hit the 'florals in food' trend spot-on and they developed their Meyer Lemon chutney even before Meyer Lemons became hip. So in a relatively short five years, they’ve come a long way from the weekend they launched the business.
"We launched Artisan Edibles at the Out of Hand Christmas Craft Fair, a really great place to get into, in the 'Gourmet Lane' part of the show, of course we were very nervous," chuckled Maureen. "Taking the product to the public in a bigger way, but it was well-received, and we immediately got an agent after the show and suddenly our fax machine was ringing with orders for over a thousand dollars wholesale and we were elated. Somebody likes these products!"
For more information about the products and where they can be purchased, just visit the Artisan Edibles website.