June 10, 2018
Asking a man who runs a company that features dozens of flavours of gelato what his favourite is, is akin to asking a parent which of their children is their favourite. You know they have one, but they'll never admit it.
"Raspberry Lime!" says James Boettcher enthusiastically and without hesitation. "It was the first flavour I created, and it is our number one seller. It’s my golden child; it's so fresh, and refreshing."
Boettcher runs Calgary's Fiasco Gelato, a company known for its tasty, creamy gelatos, made using high quality ingredients, unique flavours, and whimsical flair.
Accidental Ice Cream Entrepreneur
Boettcher was an accidental ice cream entrepreneur. He originally worked as a freelance graphic designer for Fiasco's original owner but enamored with the products, he later bought the business, and has taken it to unforeseen heights.
Boettcher has made some strategic decisions that have made the brand very popular with allergy sufferers and those with food intolerances too. Instead of eggs, Fiasco uses a plant-based stabilizer. There's also dairy-free sorbetto including an insanely decadent Dark Chocolate which uses coconut milk.
Playing with Your Food: Dreaming Up Flavours
At one time Boettcher was the flavour-developer-in-chief, now there's a larger group involved.
"About 50 of us come up with ideas, then we taste them and vote. Usually new flavor exploration comes from a lot of cultural exposure from people traveling, what they see, what they try and what they like."
Talking with Boettcher is like getting inside one of those giant inflatable Zorb balls and aiming it down a hill. It's an enthusiastic and wide ranging ride that zigs and zags, but the focus always comes back to his people; both his staff and Fiasco fans.
"The key element in this place is to build something that matters; a company that you would want your dad to work for. I’d rather make no money and be able to sleep so we can do the right thing for our people and our community," says Boettcher.
But to most customers, it's all about the products and that's why Fiasco has a fierce commitment to quality and not cutting corners ('quality means doing it right when no one is looking,' is emblazoned on the wall of the office and prominently on the website) and that's kept many coming back again and again, slipping transparent plastic tubs of gelato from the Co-op freezer section, into their carts, making Fiasco the top selling gelato brand at Co-op. The Fiasco brand has also grown into over 1,600 retailers across Canada, but Boettcher is always quick to point out Co-op was the first grocery store to carry their pints.
Local & High Quality Ingredients
Ingredients in Fiasco's gelato are sourced as locally as possible, but buying the best quality is also paramount, according to Boettcher. While the blueberries in the Blueberry Basil are picked in BC's Fraser Valley and the basil is grown locally, the pineapples for Mango Pineapple are flown in from sunny Hawaii. Vanilla beans come from the Bourbon region on Madagascar, yet unpasteurized honey is delivered from High River, Alberta.
"The way we start product development is to make the best product possible, we don't worry about cost initially. Then we start playing with the recipe and finally we make this masterpiece of flavour."
Fiasco Gelato is also passionate about sharing the wealth. They recently launched WunderKid gelato in collaboration with WE Day; it's a naturally blue-hued cookies 'n cream-style gelato that also benefits Me to We, an initiative that funds humanitarian initiatives and benefits Canadian kids and teens. A portion of the profits from each pint sold is donated to Me to We.
Fun Creating Flavours
Boettcher isn't above having fun for fun's sake either. He recently had his team develop a special flavour to celebrate his dog Shaka's (also the gelateria's mascot) 15th birthday.
"I said let's do banana-peanut butter, but make it dairy free because it's better for dogs. Turns out it was off-the-charts good, so it's a treat for dogs that humans are going to love also. I always love those moments where things turn out well even by accident. That's kind of the fun part of our organization—good and bad ideas are welcome, and you get to be as creative as you want to be all the time."
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