By Virginia Wilkinson
A Saskatchewan entrepreneur with a unique product is taking on the condiment industry.
Launched in 2008, Gravelbourg Mustard was purchased by long-time entrepreneur Val Michaud in 2011. Within just seven years the company has gone from producing two mustard lines, sold in a few stores to 14 lines sold across the province. The company’s success has been so significant that it realized a 260 per cent revenue growth between 2017 and 2018.
“When I purchased the company, the product was available in a handful of stores. Today Gravelbourg Mustard has 10 gourmet mustards, three dry mustard products and one mustard dressing, and is available in all the major food chains across the province—Safeway, Sobeys, Save On Foods, Independent Grocers, Co-op, other retailers and restaurants,” said Michaud.
As an experienced entrepreneur, Michaud who owned and operated a Gravelbourg hair salon for more than 20 years, recognized the potential for Gravelbourg Mustard when it came available in 2011.
“I just thought I could do so much with this product. I became very enthused about it because it was a Saskatchewan company using one of Saskatchewan’s major crops. The fact that 75 to 80 per cent of mustard grown in Canada comes from Saskatchewan was exciting to me. I became really enthusiastic about show casing what we have here in Saskatchewan,” she said.
Although not a cook by trade, Michaud quickly became passionate about mustard and the role it could play in food and flavouring. After purchasing the company, she spent months researching the product and came up with an innovative gourmet mustard cookbook, Making Every Day Gourmet, promoting recipes for everything from main dishes to appetizers, desserts (including ice cream) and even drinks, all featuring mustard as a main ingredient. She’s now made the cookbook available through her website.
She began using a certified kitchen in Gravelbourg, developing a series of innovative mustard products, and very shortly moved to contracting with the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre in Saskatoon, enabling the production of 1,000 kg of mustard in a day. All of her products are gluten-free.
Because she was determined to take Saskatchewan mustard products to the world, she began pitching the product to large food chains such as Sobeys, Safeway, Save on Foods and Federated Cooperatives. Saskatchewan’s Trade and Export Partnership (STEP), she said, has played a key role in her success.
“STEP has helped me a lot. They work to promote your product both to companies in Saskatchewan and outside of it,” she said. In 2017, Gravelbourg Mustard was invited by STEP to participate in a “table top” product show for food companies. Delegates with Federated Co-operatives (FCL) experienced her mustards at the show, and shortly thereafter contracted her company to provide a line of gourmet mustards under FCL’s Co-op Gold brand.
“It’s keeping it local. They aren’t getting their mustards from any other country—it’s coming from Canada, its coming from Saskatchewan,” she said.
Her tenacity in relation to building the company didn’t stop with business development. In 2017, while focused on building her brand and expanding her marketing campaign, she landed a spot on a Christmas episode of CBC’s Dragons’ Den. She knew that to grab the attention of the Dragons she needed to be bold. The episode was themed as a Christmas cocktail party, so Michaud created appetizers, dips and even a mustard cranberry martini, all were developed around her specialty mustards. The pitch was a hit—the Dragons loved the product and three out of the six Dragons put forward partnership offers during the show. “The martinis really just made the difference—they found it really unique. Just being on the show helped to raise the profile of Gravelbourg Mustard. Many people learned about the company through the show—it was great,” she said.
Today Gravelbourg Mustard products, including Beer Style Mustard, Garlic Style Mustard, Saskatoon Berry Style Mustard and others, are available in retailers across Saskatchewan. It’s an amazing feat to have achieved in just seven years, but it’s really just the beginning for Michaud. She is now working on expanding her product sales outside of Saskatchewan to British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba. She will be launching three to five new products in 2019–20. Her five-year goal is to have a Gravelbourg Mustard product in every Saskatchewan pantry, while her 10-year goal is to have one of her products in the pantry of every Canadian household.
“It’s rewarding to put your stamp onto something that’s very unique, and uses a resource we have right here in Saskatchewan, and to be competing with some of the other bigger condiment companies—it’s quite an honour. We like to say we’re starting a mustard revolution,” said Michaud.