How to commercialize a pizza sauce

Entrepreneur Ryan Nava purchased Welland’s Tailgates Bar and Grill in the fall of 2019. It soon became a popular spot for sports, live entertainment and pizza and wings.

Of course Nava couldn’t have known that in a matter of months, the world would be gripped by a health crisis and pandemic lock-downs in the food service industry.

“It was devastating! I had bills to pay; my house was on the line. I didn’t know what to do,” he recalls. 

While the community rallied behind Tailgates when they started a take-out service, Nava still needed something more to keep his business afloat. His idea: commercialize a grocery line, starting with his restaurant’s famous pizza sauce.

Tailgates has used Aldo’s Pizza Pie Sauce after Nava partnered with his friend, the creator of the sauce recipe. Nava agreed to purchase the supplies and use his food-safe kitchen to jar the sauce. 

“Everyone loves this sauce,” enthuses Nava, who also started selling pizza-making take-home kits, complete with dough, sauce, cheese and pepperoni.

While his idea made sense, Nava required a thorough understanding of what it takes to commercialize and enter the grocery market. He looked to the Business & Commercialization Solutions (BCS) team at Research & Innovation for professional expertise navigating these unknown waters.

The business research team conducted a high-level market scan, investigating the sauces industry in Canada, its growth, trends and if any gaps exist in the marketplace. Researchers also analyzed the purchasing behaviour of the target market for the pizza sauce.

Nava also received packaging trends within identified markets and potential distribution strategies, with a list of possible distributors. 

“The team did price matching with other sauces on the market, and it showed that we are very competitive,” explains Nava. 

“It definitely shows that a lot of time and effort went into gathering and compiling the information for this report…it’s been a great experience.”
~ Ryan Nava, owner, Tailgates Bar and Grill

Looking at the capabilities of Tailgates Bar and Grill, the team compiled a comprehensive final report to help successfully guide the company through the commercialization process. The report covers all stages necessary, including large-scale manufacturing and distribution. 

“It definitely shows that a lot of time and effort went into gathering and compiling the information for this report…it’s been a great experience,” Nava says, adding that he likely would not have found the time on his own to do such extensive research.

 “A lot of other small businesses would want this type of research but never have the time. Yet it’s important to find out who their competitors are or if their pricing strategy is right, or if they could promote themselves better.”

Eager to learn and navigate the regulatory process of food production prior to proceeding to a co-packer, Nava says he’s looking forward to an upcoming project with the experts at the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre.

The market research project received funding through the RBC Future Launch Program – a $500-million Canadian initiative aimed at helping young people access meaningful employment through practical work experience, skills development, networking and access to mental well-being supports and services. 

Visit the Business & Commercialization Solutions website to learn more about the capabilities offered by the team or discover how initial feasibility research is helpful prior to engaging with Research & Innovation for applied research projects.