Jamie Ayles & Chris Dean
When chef Jamie Ayles first set out almost a decade ago to market his sauces and condiment blends, he hardly envisioned he’d end up as a multi-line, award-winning food industry producer.
In 2012, founder and CEO Jamie left his job as executive chef at a northern resort to start his business: Bow Valley BBQ in his hometown of Canmore, Alberta. As his company grew, Jamie decided to partner with Chris Dean, a long-time industry colleague. In 2015 they acquired Boccolino Fine Foods, adding a line of fresh, refrigerated salad dressings to their products.
“At first, we manufactured everything in our Canmore facility, but outgrew it within six months and started working with a co-packing facility in Claresholm. I learned how our model could be scalable, so we focused on development in Canmore and external co-packing/production – now done in Mississauga and Abbotsford.”
The company now has four product lines: The original Bow Valley BBQ series offers bottled sauces and condiments. A recent addition is single-serve packets of popular sauces targeted to the deli “grab & go” industry. “Individual servings are a great testing ground, and to be in artisan eateries expands our reach,” says Jamie.
Sauce Boss, another line, includes 37 private white labels developed for the largest food retailers in Canada. Boccolino Fine Foods offers top-quality plant-based, vegan salad dressings in major grocery stores. Parkway Beverage Company - Parkway Mixology includes non-GMO, gluten-free drink mixes, tonics, and simple syrups for the restaurant and retail trades. Jamie shares, “we’re also working with Park Distillery in Banff using their gin and vodka to create a line of premixed drinks.”
Bow Valley BBQ is recognized internationally as a producer of award-winning products. “The World Hot Sauce and World Series of BBQ are significant events where we’ve been honoured several times, but even better are the relationships we’ve developed, leading to a collaboration for an eventual US launch.
Growing the business has included its share of challenges. “We’ve made some tough decisions over the years - one of the hardest was to move on from our regional brokers when we outgrew their services. We still have a solid relationship even though we had to make a tough business decision.
Jamie credits his success to building and maintaining connections. “We’ve been diligent with whom and how we work – we always try to surround ourselves with the right people.” In the early days, solid guidance and support from Community Futures Centre West opened other resources, including an introduction to Alberta’s Food Development and Processing Centre in Leduc. The decision to bring on a partner was another critical step, and most recently, working with Arlene Dickenson, and her Venture Capital Fund is having an impact.
I’ve learned to concentrate on what we’re trying to accomplish, learn how to do it and when to say no. Lebron James says, ‘Keep the main thing the main thing!’ At the end of the day, that’s our focus - we make sauces.
Photos by Michael Wachter