Cedar's Eatery has been a Charlottetown landmark since 1979, serving up top-notch Lebanese food — and now you can pick up a taste of the popular P.E.I. restaurant at Sobeys stores across Atlantic Canada, a new garlic spread called The Original Maroun's.
The spread, named by Cedar's current owner Ryan Abdallah for his father Maroun, who founded the restaurant and created the original recipe, retails for $5.99 for a 200-gram container.
'As soon as people realize where that garlic spread is from, I'm sure we're going to sell lots.' — Matt Gauthier, Sobeys
"We noticed that there was a great demand," said Abdallah, explaining Cedar's customers asked to buy the spread to take home.
"People were buying it to use as a spread on sandwiches, they were using it as a dip for different food — as a garlic condiment — and they were using it thinned out with water and adding their own spices as a sauce or as a marinade," Abdallah said.
Restaurant staff was surprised when people told them their applications for it. "It was unbelievable — people were eating it straight!" Abdallah exclaims.
Abdallah worked on the product for about four years, he said, spending hundreds of hours perfecting the recipe for large-scale production and figuring out how to get the product on store shelves.
'We're really happy'
"We took our time with it — we wanted to make sure we could deliver the best product we could. We didn't want it to be any different from what people are eating at Cedar's. So we weren't ready until now," Abdallah explained.
He sought help from product development experts at both Bio Food Tech and Canada's Smartest Kitchen in Charlottetown.
In February, Abdallah won the top prize of $30,000 in a contest by the Food Island Partnership designed to help P.E.I. food entrepreneurs develop new products, which gave him the final push and helped establish a relationship with Sobeys.
"We're really happy that Sobeys is supporting local and Sobeys sees a good opportunity with this brand and this line," said Abdallah, proudly showing off his product on the shelf at Sobeys Extra in Stratford, P.E.I.
Having the project finally come together is a big deal for Abdallah — like many entrepreneurs, he compares it to having a baby.
'Hopefully, if this goes well, we'll be across the country and not just in Atlantic Canada.' — Ryan Abdallah
"I'm still reeling from a couple nights ago — one of my friends taking a picture at Sobeys with the product and posting it online. That's how I found out it was in stores," he smiles.
"It is a huge, major step to go into a major retailer."
'We're going to sell lots'
"We support local better than any major grocery retailer in Atlantic Canada," said Matt Gauthier, manager of Sobeys in Stratford. "We put the process in place to tried to get him in here as quickly as possible."
Once people find out the spread is available, Gauthier believes it will sell itself.
"Lots of people here on Prince Edward Island have gone to Cedar's Eatery on a regular basis, especially for chicken shawarmas," Gauthier said.
"As soon as people realize where that garlic spread is from, I'm sure we're going to sell lots of it."
Abdallah is looking forward to soon doing in-store demonstrations, starting in P.E.I.
"The reaction from customers is really what I'd like to see," he said.
"Hopefully, if this goes well, we'll be across the country and not just in Atlantic Canada in due time," Abdallah said.
'Building on this brand'
He doesn't expect a return on his investment within the first year, he said, believing it'll take some time to educate people about the product.
"There's nothing like it out there, there's nothing like it in any of the major retailers so Sobeys has a step up on that," he said.
Abdallah is now developing more products — he's already working on salad dressings and sauces that will be marketed under The Original Maroun's label.
"Just be building on this brand across the country and hopefully in a few years, in other countries," he said.
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