Ottawa is known across the country for our politicians (!), our museums, and our cold winter weather. Outside of Ottawa, we may not be renowned for our food scene, but locals know that our food industry is thriving.
Over the past 24 months we have seen steady movement towards all things ‘local’. Menus featuring ‘Le Coprin’ mushrooms, ‘Mariposa’ duck, and ‘Fitzroy’ beef are starting to abound, and in order to stand out, we believe that providers who want to stay at the forefront need to start thinking now about how they will move towards a differentiation of experience – whether by ordering or delivery method, by innovation in food combinations, or by other means.
Ottawa’s Food Scene 2015
By now you’ve probably heard of just-eat.ca where you can order online and get food delivered from selected restaurants. But food delivery isn’t just pizza for Friday dinner any more. Just-eat has a wider selection than you might know and other companies are expanding their online offerings; Ottawadeliverysushi.com is a Tokarski family favourite.
1. Red Apron
We’re also partial to Creekside client redapron.ca where you can have fresh, wholesome, gourmet (and delicious!) meals delivered to your doorstep. They’ve made it easy to ensure you’re getting seasonal, local and organic where possible. The variety of meals offered is outstanding. Where else can you get a full Thanksgiving dinner without all the effort?
Tired of the same old, same old? A recent Ottawa Business Journal article called startup eCelery a web-based delivery service that “puts hungry customers in contact with local chefs, representing a variety of ethnic backgrounds, who prepare meals in their own kitchens. Clients place their orders online and a driver will be at their door within an hour with a home-cooked meal.”
We are watching this company with interest as it addresses a unique segment, though we don’t feel as confident about cooking done outside of commercial kitchens.
The grocery space in the region is being impacted by the opening of the Whole Foods at Lansdowne Park; not only is Whole Foods competition for other grocery stores, but it also competes with those who provide prepared meals, and those who sell unique products. It recently put out a call to local farmers and artisans to pitch their non-GMO, no-artificial-colour-or-flavour wares. This may offer those suppliers a way to access new markets, but may also lock them into supply arrangements with long-term challenges. Time will tell on that one.
Another Creekside client, goodfood2u.ca also operates in the grocery space, but differentiates themselves with their online ordering system and food selection. Goodfood2u delivers groceries sourced as close to home as possible, and organic where possible. Their online ordering system makes it easy to have an account and order a full range of groceries as it can handle weekly and bi-weekly orders, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time making your selections each week. It’s like a customized CSA box delivered with milk, eggs, non-gmo cereals and other staples.
4. Zed Farms
The grocery space is also being shaken up by smaller producers going directly to their markets. Whatever you may think of Lansdowne Park, the farmer’s market gives producers direct access to consumers, (as a complete sidebar comment on this: Dissent as contract negotiations loom – As a resident of OOS, we’d love to see you back at Brewer next year!). Ottawa has many farmer’s markets including: Ottawa Farmer’s Market, the Parkdale Farmer’s Market, and the Main Street Farmer’s Market.
We also see producers like Zed Farms going directly to their markets through their innovative weekly porch sale, while tying themselves in to other local businesses like Cedar’s & Co, and the Belmont. Diversifying their client base (serving both consumers and businesses) makes good strategic sense.
5. Whitewater Brewing Co.
No article on the food scene in Ontario right now would be complete without noting the explosion in the craft brewery space and the return of the growler.
Our favourite pick here is Whitewater Brewing Co. We love their marketing, and beers like farmer’s daughter and whistling paddler are available at the Hintonburg Public House and Wellington Gastropub, and can even be delivered in Ottawa through BrewDonkey. Did you know they also have a restaurant in Forrester’s Falls? It’s a bit of a drive, but if you’re ever out that way, the pizza/burgers are fantastic. With camping in case you have a few at the bar and are in no shape to drive home. Smart.
Quality Beer + Restaurant + Camping + Playing Host to the International Whitewater Kayakers = Diversification of revenue streams: Also Smart.
6. Bytowne Oysterfest
Take the food festival concept and mash it with sustainable fisheries and you get BytowneOysterfest which drew attention to the issue of overfishing, while offering attendees a great party complete with a ‘shuck-off’ contest.
From a strategic perspective, perfect your experience, and your message can spread through social networks with limited effort on your part. Throwing a great event can be a very worthwhile marketing tactic.
7. Oat & Mill
Other products we see gaining fans right now include: Sriracha sauce, dulse (seaweed that tastes like bacon), fermented foods like kimchi, and mixed drinks like those from SplitTreeCocktails.
Bring It On!
Creeksiders love talking about food, and we especially love eating it. We’ll have another post coming soon covering our favourite restaurants – let us know in the comment section below what yours are, so we can check them out.