Whether you’re back in the office or working from home, pre-dinner chaos seems to be a constant in kitchens across the continent. The quick options are never healthy and the healthy options are never quick. Canadian party plan company Epicure knows the secret to have both—and it’s all in the ingredients.
Solving The Dinner Dilemma Since 1997
As a mother of two young children, Sylvie Rochette was all too familiar with the pressure to put something fast, healthy and delicious on the table every evening. Frustrated by the lack of wholesome seasonings and spices on her grocery store shelves, she started mixing her own blends. Soon her homemade alternatives to the highly processed mixes of the ’90s became the star ingredients of Sylvie’s evening meals. After several years of sharing her blends with friends and family and at farmers’ markets and trade shows, she launched Epicure as a direct sales company in 1997.
Today, Epicure is the largest Canadian-founded party plan company, led by Sylvie’s daughter, Amelia Warren.
“My mom was looking for ways to feed my brother and me—food that was healthy, fast, affordable, and most importantly, that we would eat,” says Warren. “That’s always challenging when you make this beautiful meal that you think is healthy and no one eats it.”
Epicure has grown steadily from its launch in 1997, offering a constantly expanding line of signature spice blends and dip mixes, along with time-saving cookware. After leading the company as CEO for several years, Warren and her team shifted the company’s direction in 2014—a change that continues to guide Epicure to this day.
“We were always rooted in healthy eating, but over time we had become more of a company that helped people with entertaining,” she explains. “In 2014, we refocused the business on meal planning and launched our Good Food Real Fast mission, which is a focus on helping busy families take a meal from raw to ready in 20 minutes or less.”
This back-to-basics pivot also included taking their ingredient list to a new level—gluten-free, peanut-free, mostly non-GMO and sugar and sodium conscious. Tasting parties became cooking classes, focused on teaching guests how to take a meal from raw to ready in 20 minutes or less.
This shift back to Sylvie’s original focus on fast, healthy meal prep paid off. Epicure has continued to grow organically across Canada, launching in the United States in mid-2019 and growing its consultant base by 60 percent from 2019 to 2020—even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Improving Lives Through Good Food
The Epicure collection of products features everything busy families need to whip up fast, healthy, delicious meals at home. The focus of Epicure’s product offering is its meal prep products—single ingredient spices, blended herbs and spices, mixes for soups and stews, dips, desserts and more. The selection of food-based items is extensive and always expanding, as the company releases new product collections throughout the year. To make preparing a meal with these ingredients even easier, Epicure also offers an extensive recipe database, kitchen tools, cookware, and silicone steamers. Everything Warren and her team does is meant to beckon families back into the kitchen for simpler, healthier mealtimes.
“We help people bridge the gap between this desire to be healthy through eating well and actually doing it,” she says. “We make it easy, we make it affordable, and we make it delicious.”
Warren shares that Epicure’s mission is to better 20 million lives through good food—and that the products the company offers are only a part of that mission.
“We’ve always been rooted in the belief that to whom much is given, much is expected,” she explains. “So giving back and being of service really is the core of our business. Instead of focusing on growth in terms of revenue or consultant numbers we focus on How many families have we helped eat better? How many people have we helped pay off debt? We always ask ourselves how are we being of use, and how are we being helpful, and how are we using our platform to give back?”
Over 20,000 consultants across the U.S. and Canada are furthering this mission, leading cooking classes and sharing ways to make mealtime easier. Consultants join the company by signing up with an existing consultant and purchasing a business kit ($125 CA / $99 U.S.) .
“Our onboarding process ensures new consultants make a strong connection with their sponsor, and the sponsor can begin supporting their success in the Fast Start program immediately,” explains Brick Bergeson, Chief Revenue Officer.
Like many party plan companies, Epicure was faced with rapidly equipping the field with tools for virtual selling when the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to stay home. But Warren and her team did more than pivot to virtual party training. They supported both their consultants and customers with meal plans and products to help during quarantine, launched new giving initiatives and offered a self-care program to encourage healthy at-home habits during that challenging season.
“I think we do a good job of targeting what people are experiencing and doing our very best job through our community and our products, to be of use,” Warren shares.
Serving New Opportunities
With a rich history in Canada and a strong base of both customers and consultants already generating awareness of the brand across the border, Epicure’s extension into the United States was a natural one.
“We announced that we were expanding into the U.S. at Epicure’s Annual Conference in August 2018,” Bergeson shares. “About a year out from our scheduled launch, we engaged the Canadian field to refer friends, family or contacts who wanted to be the first to join as a consultant in the U.S. market. We had hundreds interested and leveraged them to host cooking classes and invite friends. This was an exclusive opportunity to see, taste, touch and smell Epicure products as well as learn about the history of the company—all before the product was available for sale.”
In addition to these initial test classes in the U.S., Warren and Bergeson completed a Pre-Launch Roadshow, sharing Epicure products in cooking classes across the country before officially launching U.S. operations in August 2019. The response has been tremendous. Epicure experienced an exponential increase in total revenue from 2019 to 2020, with U.S. sales now representing 20 percent of global sales.
“Building on the incredible platform we’ve built in Canada, the first year of business in the US has been a huge success” says Bergeson “and we feel we’re just scratching the surface. The launch has also been a boost to the Canadian market as consultants have seized an opportunity to grow and expand in a new, untouched market with significant potential.”
Warren is also pleased with the U.S. response and excited about the growth the company anticipates from its newly expanded sales footprint. She’s most excited to see Epicure’s mission of improving lives through good food reach a new audience.
“One of the things I learned from my mother is again that mandate—the idea of to whom much is given, much is expected,” she reiterates. “That’s the reason to grow a business, the reason to do anything in this life is because it’s useful and helpful.”