Maritime Marzipan 'proudly handmade on P.E.I.'
'The competition is a friendly competition — there's no "elbow mentality"'
A new P.E.I. business making and selling marzipan is taking off quickly.
Maritime Marzipan co-owners Jessica and Mike Fritz are originally from Germany, and moved to P.E.I. two years ago after spending seven years in Toronto.
There's a lot of opportunity with the tourist season and our products being little things you can bring home.— Jessica Fritz
"Sometimes I can't believe that it's only been five months since we launched," Jessica says. "We're just really grateful about how welcoming everyone was and still is — even people who didn't know what marzipan is."
Marzipan is a common treat in Germany and other European countries, made by grinding whole almonds into flour and sweetening with icing sugar and invert sugar. It can be flavoured with just about anything — the Fritzes use mint, orange blossom, rose water and more — and formed into a variety of shapes or covered in chocolate.
Jessica uses marzipan in her baking, but after moving to P.E.I. she ran out of a stash she'd brought from Germany. She realized she'd have to make her own, because quality marzipan isn't available in North America.
When they moved to the Island they thought they wanted to open some kind of food business — they knew of P.E.I.'s branding as "Canada's Food Island" and are both passionate about cooking.
"That's how the idea was born to bring something we know and love from our home country to our new home in Canada," Jessica says.
'What if no one wants to buy?'
The Fritzes spent months perfecting their marzipan recipe while also learning about chocolate — they use dark Belgian chocolate to cover many of their treats. No preservatives are added.
They first took it to the Victorian Christmas Market in Charlottetown last November with no idea if customers would respond positively.
"I remember on the day, driving there with a trunk full of marzipan treats — we said, what if no one wants to buy this?" Jessica recalls.
But customers loved it — Mike had to head back into the kitchen at 2 o'clock the next morning to make more.
'A lot of opportunity'
Now, almost a dozen stores on P.E.I. including a couple in Nova Scotia and one in Toronto sell Maritime Marzipan, including the Kent Street Market and Riverview Country Market in Charlottetown.
The business rents commercial kitchen space in St. Peters, not far from their home in Goose River, P.E.I.
They're planning to build their own production facility in the next few weeks in their new space at The Shops at St. Peters Landing.
"There's a lot of opportunity with the tourist season and our products being little things you can bring home," Jessica says. With that in mind, they're molding marzipan into things like seashells, starfish and golf balls — there are even little potato shapes, dusted with cocoa so they look a little dirty.
No 'elbow mentality'
The Fritzes will sell from their own shop as well as wholesale to other shops. They're also excited about trying new designs including printing on the treats and experimenting with coloured chocolate.
Maritime Marzipan has an online site, and can ship both treats and blocks of baking marzipan throughout North America — not difficult, as marzipan does not require refrigeration. They believe no one else in Canada is selling marzipan like this.
Jessica works full-time as a project manager at BioVectra in Charlottetown, while Mike has taken on making marzipan full-time. Previously, he was a banker and web developer. Jessica helps out with marketing and administration — she writes and blogs about the marzipan and starting a new business for P.E.I. food magazine Salty, where she has a side gig.
They've received some funding support for production space from Innovation P.E.I. and plan to access more provincial funding for a summer student and marketing, but all of the rest of the capital has come from the couple's own savings.
"It's a great market to start launching things," says Jessica of P.E.I. "The competition is a friendly competition, there's no 'elbow mentality,' so everyone helps each other which is just so lovely to see."
A bag of three 15-gram chocolate-covered marzipan treats retails for about $5.
"There's a lot of work going into this — this is proudly handmade on P.E.I.," Jessica says.