Ontario-based Cedar Valley Selections is known for creating Canada’s first bottled fattoush salad dressing. The company has since expanded its Lebanese-infused product line to six dressings and three pita chip flavors.
Cedar Valley Selections was founded in 2016 by Ameen Fadel at the age of 16. Inspired by his heritage in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon, Fadel used his mother Surria Fadel’s signature recipes and a small grant from his school board to create the fattoush salad dressing.
In an e-interview, Fadel, founder and CEO of Cedar Valley, shares his inspiration and the challenges encountered on his entrepreneurial journey.
What inspired you to start Cedar Valley and when did you start it?
AF: The idea for Cedar Valley was born in 2015 when I was sitting at my desk in high school, and there was an announcement for 30 students to each receive $3000 to start their own company. I went home that day, threw around a bunch of ideas with my mom, and we decided to bottle her fattoush salad dressing recipe after a family friend recommended it. We saw that no one else in Canada was making this dressing, so we knew we had to, and our journey began! After a couple years of playing around, we officially sold our first bottle at a local farmers market in 2017. Then our product line slowly started to grow bottle by bottle and pita chip by pita chip!
What types of products/flavors do you sell?
AF: We initially only started with the fattoush dressing. Then after many customer requests, we launched a pita chip at the farmers market, so people could create an entire traditional Fattoush salad at home with ease! We had been selling these products on a very small scale, as we worked on improving recipes, creating new products, and having the ability to produce at a large scale. Today, we have a line of seven salad dressings: Fattoush, avocado lime, lemon garlic, pomegranate, tahini turmeric, Caesar, and vegan Caesar. We also have three flavors of pita chips: classic spice, garlic & herb, sea salt & black pepper, and a fourth seasonal exclusive, cinnamon sugar.
Our products are made using simple, all-natural ingredients that you’d likely find in your own kitchen! We are proud to use real, non-GMO ingredients first, for a healthy and flavorful bite every time. We stay away from unhealthy fats and inflammatory oils within our products. We believe in fresh and simple ingredients, making our products taste artisanal and homemade while bursting with delicious, infused flavours.
Where are these products manufactured?
AF: All our products are manufactured locally in Ontario, through co-manufacturers and our own manufacturing facility.
What challenges did you encounter on your food entrepreneur journey?
AF: The biggest challenges we faced were around the actual manufacturing of our products. Although our ingredients are simple, it takes a certain amount of love and care to create them. After we realized the products were something people really wanted, we decided to find a co-manufacturer for both product lines in 2018. After two years of searching for a manufacturer for the salad dressings, we finally found the right partner who could make them to our quality standards. This created a big delay in getting the products out to the mass market in Canada, but well worth it. When it came to our pita chips, we went all over North America, and nobody could/would make them for us, so we decided to open our own manufacturing facility in Windsor, Ont. Officially launching them for sale in the mass market in January 2021, our pita chips took off and are now sold in over 500 retailers across Canada. The time, effort, and investment needed to build and run a manufacturing facility has been an immense challenge and an amazing learning experience. My mother, Surria, manages most of the production, staff, food safety, R&D, and has done an incredible job ensuring the finished product is top notch. It’s been great to build something we can really call ours, but there is still a lot to do to grow the company.
What’s unique about the company and products?
AF: Cedar Valley Selections is youth-founded, women-owned, family-run, and a local Canadian company. We are proud to bring fun and flavorful products to the market that are infused with our Lebanese heritage and style of cooking. For centuries, food has had the power to bring people together. The communal table gives us an opportunity to explore new cultures, have great conversations, and create authentic connections with others. At Cedar Valley, we hope to bring this experience to your home and share a part in creating lasting memories with family, friends, and loved ones, all through great food.
Where are your products sold?
AF: Our products can be found at several Canadian retailers including Sobeys, Whole Foods Market, Longo’s, Choices Markets, Natures Emporium, Organic Garage, Marché Tau, Natures Fare, Community Natural Foods, and Fresh Street Markets! They can also be purchased online at Amazon.ca, Well.ca, Spud.ca, Vegansupply.ca, Voila.ca, and Longos.com.
How are you managing supply chain issues?
AF: Like everyone else, we are having our own challenges around supply chain and getting certain raw materials on time. Luckily, we have had amazing partners/backup suppliers who have been able to service our needs for almost all our ingredients through these shortages.
What are your future plans?
AF: Our future plans include expanding on our existing two product lines by offering new flavours. We are eager to expand our retail partnerships and have our product lines available at all natural and mass retailers in Canada and the US in the coming years! We are excited to continue to be a brand that people can trust, rely on, and genuinely enjoy connecting with every day.