May 31, 2018
LAUNCHING TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL
Chef Sarah Bennetto O’Brien is ready to dramatically expand the scope of her popular eat-in/take-out culinary operation, The Handpie Company. After launching in Borden-Carleton, P.E.I., in 2017, she’s relocated to Albany with 2400 square feet of retail-and-production space, five times larger than her previous site. Her venture into the frozen wholesale market – supported by her new location -- was largely envisioned through the Food Island Partnership’s Food Xcel initiative.
“Savoury handpies accounted for a third of my sales at my previous restaurant Scapes,” says O’Brien. “Food Xcel gave me confidence and clarity to recognize that potential as a food entrepreneur and work ‘on’ my business, not just ‘in’ it. As a result, The Handpie Company was born.” Food Xcel connected 39 P.E.I. food businesses in 2016-2017 with food agencies, industry experts and innovators through workshops and networking, ending in a competition for a $30,000 grand prize. Phase two of the food accelerator is currently being considered.
O’Brien experienced a growing demand for wholesale frozen handpies from across P.E.I. and other Canadian provinces although The Handpie Company could barely keep up with its own retail sales. Her decision to expand into the wholesale “take and bake” market – assisted by the new production space – will generate an extra revenue stream and ensure her handpies are available in stores and restaurants in P.E.I. Meeting additional regulatory requirements will position her product throughout the country.
Food Xcel participants continue to network and exchange best practices – and promote P.E.I. as a top food destination. “The P.E.I. food scene is changing rapidly,” says O’Brien. “Small rural restaurants, in particular, give us the opportunity to respond directly to the locals and develop relationships with food producers. People recognize what the P.E.I. foodie community has to offer.”
O’Brien studied culinary operations at Holland College’s Culinary Institute of Canada and is committed to employing Institute graduates. “I provide year-round jobs using their skills and the Institute ensures their top training. With the food sector and its Food Island Partnership, we’re launching to a whole new level.”
By Magner Ink (www.magnerink.com). This is one in a series of articles on the P.E.I. Food Cluster.