February 4, 2019
NOT TOO HOT TO HANDLE
It'll be no surprise to many Islanders that there’s a hot-sauce innovator and entrepreneur working food magic in Montague, P.E.I. Amiel LeBlanc, who founded Maritime Madness in 2002, is the purveyor of 30 bulk, hot, and grilling sauces; Ghost Pepper/Bacon peanut brittle; and the "One Chunk Challenge" -- featuring Carolina Reaper, the world's hottest pepper. LeBlanc ships to retailers across Canada, with a concentration in Ontario and areas east. He's currently devising a branding project to build significant growth outside Atlantic Canada.
LeBlanc creates products in small batches which ensures agility in creativity and turnaround times. "We deliver custom food recipes and food labelling within an unusually short period of time for this industry," says LeBlanc. "It enables me to say 'yes' to more opportunities." He grows 25-to-40 percent of his peppers locally, but with a 2019 demand for 10,000 pounds of cayennes and jalapenos alone, LeBlanc's approaching organic growers to develop a line of 100 percent locally grown certified-organic sauces.
Recently, LeBlanc was accepted into Food Island Partnership’s Food Propel program. “It's massively helpful with great workshops and speakers, experienced mentors, and lots of networking," says LeBlanc. "The Program is aptly named!" Maritime Madness already features sauces made with Myriad View moonshine, Upstreet beer, and Island Gold honey. "We've collaborated with local chefs, whether it's a private-label sauce for their restaurant or bulk sauces for the kitchen. The seafood industry and producers have been fantastic partners, as well."
A future focus is tapping into the food service and grocery markets. Maritime Madness has provided three custom hot sauces to Sobeys for years, and is now expanding the lineup. "To date, our primary business is still the tourism market which is fantastic but highly seasonal," says LeBlanc. "We're looking for a distributor to help the flow of table sauces and bulk jugs to Maritime restaurants. This should help us eliminate the seasonality aspect that has been a major challenge."
While ambitious for the future, LeBlance intends to keep his business in Montague, P.E.I. "It's good to create a viable business in rural P.E.I. and enjoy the lifestyle it provides. If you put in the work, you can build a business anywhere. I'm proud to be doing it here."
By Magner Ink (www.magnerink.com). This is one in a series of articles on the P.E.I. Food Cluster.