Wednesday, August 3, 2011

SaskMade Marketplace

Introducing Saskatchewan products to Saskatchewan consumers

The Saskatchewan Food Producers Association opened SaskMade Marketplace in the fall of 2004 to showcase their members’ products and to provide members with experience running a business. It was a handy place to shop for local gifts if you were travelling overseas, but the range of produce was fairly limited.

It was a challenge for the Association to run a business on a shoestring budget. In January 2011, they decided to sell SaskMade Marketplace to private owners, Candace Ippolito, April Nichol and their partners. Candace and April are both farmers, and all the partners have strong connections to the agricultural industry.

The new owners will continue to showcase Saskatchewan products but are also planning to expand the store by offering a wider range of Saskatchewan-made products and a larger selection of gift baskets that will appeal to more people. They also hope to introduce an educational component in order to provide consumers with recipes and information about the products.

Ken Neuman was hired as manager of the SaskMade Marketplace in April, and we met in July to tour the store and discuss their plans for the future.

Ken grew up in Edmonton, moving to Saskatoon with his wife 11 years ago. He helped to develop the ice cream program at Jerry’s Food Emporium (investing in equipment, inventing recipes, developing flavours) and this brought him into contact with local producers, particularly fruit growers.

As a result, he is well placed to identify and form a relationship with food producers across Saskatchewan. In his first three months at Saskmade, he has doubled the store’s product offerings, and there is plenty of space for additional expansion.

Saskatchewan grown and made
SaskMade’s focus is on products that have been grown or made in Saskatchewan, and they cover a wide range. You can purchase organic flour from Loiselle Organic Family Farm and Daybreak-Scheresky Mill. Ken particularly recommends Daybreak’s Sunrise Pancake Mix which is bursting with flavour from a mix of five grains, flax and sunflower seeds.

There are lots of fruit and berry products from well-known producers, such as Over the Hill Orchards and Prairie Berries. Alternatively, you can snack on Choo-It Granola or roasted lentils from Muscle Bird Nutrition.

If you can’t make it to the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, you can pick up many of the Market vendors’ products here at the store. There are Indian chutneys and sauces from Chatty’s Indian Spices and Premala’s Spicy Sensations, as well as hummus from The Garlic Guru, and scone mix from Wild Serendipity Foods.

I was particularly interested in the organic products, but Ken says that there is a greater demand for gluten-free food. The store carries Over the Hill Orchards’ frozen, ready-to-bake gluten-free fruit pies, and Ken says the brown rice crust turns out really well.

The store is also planning to stock difficult to find products, such as Saskatchewan maple syrup (already available), and Ken would like to eventually stock fresh fruit and vegetables.

New features and renovations
SaskMade Marketplace is completely overhauling its website to include an online store with a catalogue of all their products as well as web pages for each of the food producers to tell their story in words or video. The online store is expected to be operational on August 5. You can also follow SaskMade Marketplace on Facebook.

The store itself will be undergoing renovations in September to make it easier to use and more appealing. A grand opening is tentatively scheduled for October.

Consumer education
SaskMade Marketplace brings Saskatchewan producers together in a common venue and introduces them to consumers. “My goal is to know the producers well enough to be able to tell their story and tell it well,” Ken explains.

Ken plans to start holding a regular evening series where consumers can meet the producers, learn about their products, and collect some recipes. “Many of us wouldn’t know what to do with things like quinoa if the producers didn’t help us out,” says Ken.

Room to grow
If you haven’t visited SaskMade Marketplace lately, now is the time to do so. They carry a wide range of local products, and their line continues to expand. I’ll definitely be checking in on a regular basis to find out about new offerings and events.

SaskMade Marketplace is located at 1621 8th Street East. They are open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 8 pm.

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