The East India Company’s Canadian-made sauces bring big flavor to 300 stores

About once a week, restaurant and food business East India Company receives a photo from his customers, showing their signature mango chutney arranged on a charcuterie board.

“One of our family jokes is that we don’t tell people how to use our sauces – they tell us,” says chef Nitin Mehra. ‘They are barbecue recipes for wings. It uses the Coconut Korma [sauce] like pizza sauce and your favorite vegetables on it.”

For 20 years, this family-owned business has been bringing a flavorful gastronomic experience to Ottawa — not counting another 50 years in Winnipeg† “We want to be ambassadors for our food and our culture,” says Mehra.

The Mehra family, at one of the East India Company’s restaurants in Ottawa.

A fresh idea

Today, Sauces from the East India Company can be found in 300 grocery stories in Ottawa — but launching a line of take-home products wasn’t always part of the plan.

In 2011, the restaurant was approached by Farm Boy asking if the team wanted to make spice mixes for its grocery stores. “It did exceptionally well,” Mehra says. Within a year, Farm Boy contacted again – this time they wanted a butter chicken sauce under the East India Company’s own label.

The rest is history: The East India Company now offers five bottled sauces and four spice blends, from tikka masala to vindaloo curry, which can be found at almost all major retailers across the country.

Mehra says the company’s success is proof of what Canadians are asking for. “Not only do they want authentic, flavorful produce at great prices, but they also want something that’s locally made here.”

When Mehra says the East India Company takes an “all Canadian approach,” it’s no exaggeration: Their tomatoes are from Ontario, their spices are ground in Winnipeg — even their bottles and caps are from Montreal.

To top it off, the East India Company produces its sauces right here in Ontario. “I love that at the end of the day we were lucky enough to have three restaurants here in Canada and now our facility, which is another huge kitchen, is also here in Ontario!” says Mehra.

The daily creation of the sauces involves constant sampling, exploring new recipes and cultivating retail relationships. “It never sleeps,” Mehra says. “It’s a 24/7, 365 approach.”

Efforts pay off

At the grocery store, Mehra says you have a second or two to grab a customer’s attention — but once they open that jar, he says, they’ll see the sauces are made with real, fresh ingredients, with no additives or preservatives. “It’s like one of our chefs made it, put it in a bottle and gave it to you,” Mehra says.

With such steady momentum, the East India Company aims to expand to more than 15 sauces over the next 18 months. “We just want to do what we’re passionate about,” Mehra says. †[Creating] these classic South Asian recipes with our twist, and [getting them] for as many people as possible.”

East India Company will also experiment with other South Asian, East Asian and Middle Eastern flavors, expanding into the US; in fact, it has already secured its first US partnership with an e-commerce platform that sells gift baskets.

“None of this is possible remotely without the people who read [this] and come to the restaurant,” Mehra says. “Every day we are so grateful for that continued support from the community.”

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