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Friday, August 29, 2014

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Sisters-in-law shake up salad dressing biz

Tags: Business Food
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Sher Kopman, left, and Michelle Cass

TORONTO — Sher Kopman always adored the green salads her sister-in-law Michelle Cass whipped up. “They were simple but incredibly delicious,” she said.

Like everyone else who had ever tried Cass’s salads, Kopman was impressed by their perfect balance of tantalizing tastes.

Cass’s salads were perennially popular, largely because of her dressings. Concocted from scratch, they were a meld of olive oil, vinegar and maple syrup.

Cass had always stayed clear of commercial dressings, considering them unhealthy and less than tasty or nutritious because they contained fillers, preservatives and refined oil and sugar.

Although Cass was something of a magician in the kitchen, it never occurred to her that marketing her dressings might launch a business career.

It was left to Kopman to suggest that the dressings might appeal to the public. It was one of those eureka moments that can change lives.

 “I imagined that a healthy version of a traditional salad dressing would sell,” Kopman said.

Cass, who has a background in holistic nutrition, was initially not impressed. Boring, she thought. “But as the idea stewed in my mind, I got more excited,” she recalled. “We both share a passion for healthy, great-tasting food.”

Acting on this deceptively daring concept, they conducted intensive research and testing, during which they refined their product.

 Cass and Kopman launched RawFoodz Inc. in October 2010, starting with a modest line of kosher-certified salad dressings, all of which are organic, vegan, and nut- and gluten-free.

The first four dressings, French Fusion, Glorious Greek, Purely Poppy and Sea-zar Serenity, were followed by Japanese and Italian dressings.

Their newest one, Ranch Revival, is due to be unveiled soon. Another dressing, Pomegranate Passion, may hit shop shelves one day soon.

Containing such high-quality ingredients as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, the dressings can be used not only in green salads but in pasta dishes as well.

RawFoodz dressings can be purchased in major supermarkets including some Loblaws and Sobeys stores, and in gourmet and health food stores in Ontario and Nova Scotia.

They can be ordered online, too.

In the near future, the dressings are expected to be distributed in western Canada and there are plans to distribute them in the United States.

Sales were slow at first. ”It was very hard at the beginning,” Kopman said.

“But we were always confident of success,” Cass said, noting that their company is now profitable and on an upward climb.

Their products are made in a 2,700-square-foot facility in the north end of Toronto. Cass, 39, is in charge of blending and manufacturing, while Kopman, a 37-year-old graphic artist by profession, handles such tasks as labelling, packaging, administration and public relations.

They are assisted by one employee.

Now that their salad dressings have gained acceptance among consumers, Cass and Kopman are hard at work perfecting a line of dips and marinades.

 “We want to give people healthy and convenient alternatives,” Cass said.

Kopman sounded a similar theme: “Our intention is to make it convenient for everyone to enjoy healthy, delicious and nutrient-rich foods.”

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