For a good part of his adult life, David Marcus worked in mergers & acquisitions for PwC, where he traveled the world and lived out of a suitcase. When he got home on Friday nights, the last thing he wanted was restaurant food, so he learned how to cook, specializing in BBQ. It was therapeutic, he’ll tell you. Turns out it was pretty lucrative as well.
Then, seven years ago, he lost his father to a heart attack. His wife Erin’s father had a heart attack shortly thereafter. He survived, but was put on a strict, salt-free diet. So the couple, Erin is also a chef, changed their cooking habits to heart-healthy food– no salt, gluten-free, low sodium, no preservatives– which they continued to feed to their friends.
After a lot of hounding from these friends to start marketing his spices, rubs and marinades, Marcus eventually gave in. He started slowly, as a hobby, selling his condiments in specialty stores in and around Toronto, including cottage country. When he started getting emails from American cottagers who wanted to know where they could buy his products in the US, he knew he might be onto something. At the same time, the largest dialysis foundation in the Bay Area was interested in his products for their own patients, and soon other health facilities throughout North America were contacting him.
“My products go beyond the jar. They’re about a healthy life style.”
Eventually it was time to hang up the suit and put on the apron–full time–and David’s Condiments was born. The initial growth of the business was organic and by word of mouth … literally. No other “heart healthy’ foods could come close to the flavours Marcus was concocting.
Today, his target market crosses most demographics; older people who have already experienced health issues, through to baby boomers and 25 to 35 year-olds who care about what they eat. Even university students are paying attention.
“Younger people are reading labels today. They want to know exactly what they’re consuming. And they want to be able pronounce the ingredients,” says Marcus.
Eventually Safeway and Spartan US came calling … with big orders. Export Development Canada (EDC) provided a 90 per cent guarantee to Marcus’ bank, TD, for $500K to support the pre-shipment costs of these large contracts.
“We knew after our first meeting that this was the beginning of what would be a long partnership,” says EDC Account Manager Kevin Sullivan. “It’s nice to be able to provide the financing support required for a company like David’s Condiments to take their first big step into a new market, particularly for someone as diligent and passionate about his business as David. Not to mention the fact that he makes me look like a culinary hero each time I use his spices, which is every night in my own kitchen…”
Today, you can also find David’s condiments in Whole Foods in the US; he sends the seasonings and recipes, they prepare the dishes. In Canada, they can be found at major grocery chains like Loblaws and Sobeys, as well as specialty and health food stores, and some restaurants including the Milestones chain. You can even visit his public testing facility in Toronto. And now, Dr. Oz … that’s right … Dr. Oz, is interested and is reviewing some of his products as we speak.
What’s next? While Marcus doesn’t want to take on too much, he is setting his sights on the UK and Australian markets where he sees a lot of opportunities ahead. With an e-book coming soon and more products being developed, he also expects the US market to open up considerably when the FDA begins to enforce full disclosure of ingredients on food labels.
But even though business is booming, Marcus still cooks seven days a week. In fact, he is a one -man marketing machine; visiting store openings, cooking shows, doing televisions spots, and yes, he still cooks for private parties. It’s about raising awareness, says Marcus. “My products go beyond the jar,” he says. “They’re about a healthy life style.”
In fact, David Marcus is just as passionate about the impact his products have had on people, than he is about building the business. “People come up to me and show me their surgery scars, and tell me how my food has had an impact on their life,” he says. “Those are good days. That’s when I know I made the right decision. “
Get ready to see more of David’s Condiments on your grocery shelf, and more of David Marcus himself as he continues to raise awareness of heart- healthy lifestyles. He’ll be the guy in the apron, not the suit.