December 12, 2019

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Honey of an idea

Winnipeg DJ turns made-in-Manitoba condiment into potato chip flavour for charity

Honey dill is making the jump from dip to chip.

According to statistics released by delivery service Skip the Dishes in June, Winnipeggers ordered 2,000 sides of honey dill sauce in the last year, more than anywhere else in Canada.

Supplied</p><p>The new honey-dill-flavoured potato chips go on sale at Red River Co-op food stores and gas bars Monday.</p>

Supplied

The new honey-dill-flavoured potato chips go on sale at Red River Co-op food stores and gas bars Monday.

The numbers for the rest of the country? Zero.

Honey dill — like garbage mitts and wedding socials — is a peculiarly Manitoba thing. And if there's anyone who likes to champion our local loves, it's 103.1 Virgin Radio DJ Ace Burpee.

So it's not surprising that the first ever honey-dill-flavoured potato chip to hit the market emerged out of an on-air conversation about 18 months ago among Burpee and his morning-show co-hosts, Chrissy Troy and Lloyd the Intern (a.k.a. Kevin Frobisher).

"First, we were like, 'How is honey dill not a thing outside our province?' which is a very normal conversation people have," Burpee recalled with a laugh. "And then we thought, maybe it's our fault for not doing enough. Every flavour in the world has multiple uses of said flavour, but basically all we do with honey dill is dip chicken fingers in it.

"We said, 'What about chips?' And I thought, 'Wait, I'm never going to talk about this again until I actually do it.' "

Putting his honey where is mouth is, Burpee approached another local institution, Red River Co-operative, to see if the western Canadian network of stores would be interested in producing a line of honey-dill chips.

The response? Dill, yes!

"As a local co-operative, we loved the idea of offering a quintessential Manitoban flavour as a chip to our customers and members," said Kelly Romas, Red River Co-operative's director of marketing.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Virgin 103 DJ Ace Burpee is a champion of all things local, including honey dill sauce.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Virgin 103 DJ Ace Burpee is a champion of all things local, including honey dill sauce.

Co-op contacted Federated Co-operatives Ltd. store brands manager Sav Bellissimo, who spearheads the development of Co-op’s private label brands, and gave him a batch of local honey dill sauce for his team to replicate in chip form.

Honey, we're home

Whether you give the credit for its local popularity to the venerable Mitzi's Chicken Finger Restaurant on St. Mary Avenue or Zorba's Pizza at The Forks, there's no question honey-dill sauce is a Manitoba-only condiment.

Whether you give the credit for its local popularity to the venerable Mitzi's Chicken Finger Restaurant on St. Mary Avenue or Zorba's Pizza at The Forks, there's no question honey-dill sauce is a Manitoba-only condiment.

The green-tinged gloop is our province's go-to dip for chicken fingers, although John Iliopoulos, president of Greetalia Food Products, which makes a honey-dill sauce from Zorba's recipe, said people tell him they use it on everything from french fries to spaghetti.

As the Free Press's David Sanderson pointed out in a 2014 story on Winnipeggers' weird love affair with honey dill, Greetalia has no competition on store shelves (President's Choice discontinued its version after 10 months because of poor sales outside the province).

The sauce is available in most retail stores throughout Manitoba and Saskatchewan, but the Winnipeg company's website offers sales of a four-pack of the 500-ml containers to hungry expats across the country.

"Sav helped us develop the chip flavour with a producer in New Brunswick that makes other flavours of chips for Co-op’s private labels," Romas said.

After a handful of taste tests — "These clear bags of chips would arrive in the mail," Burpee said — the final flavour was confirmed in February.

"We said, 'It has to be our people sampling them,' " Burpee said. "Why would they know what a good honey dill tastes like (in New Brunswick)?"

The kettle-cooked potato chips, sold in 170-gram bags, are part of Co-op's Gold Pure line, which focuses on small-batch production using clean, simple ingredients.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>A jar of the famous honey dill sauce from Greetalia Food Products, the only company in the world that markets the product. </p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

A jar of the famous honey dill sauce from Greetalia Food Products, the only company in the world that markets the product.

They will be available at Red River Co-op food stores and gas bars starting Monday; 25 cents from each bag sold will go to the Dream Factory, a charity dedicated to fulfilling the wishes of kids with life-threatening illnesses in Manitoba.

Burpee selected the charity because of the visible results. "We'll be able to see it," he said. "We'll sell chips until we're sure someone's dream happens, and that will be tangible."

The tireless Winnipeg booster is eager to see the results of his brainwave on store shelves.

"I'll have an idea, but if it isn't ready by tomorrow, I lose interest. But I'm like, 'I feel like this one's worth being patient and waiting for,' " he said. "I just feel embarrassed that it took me 40 years to figure it out; it's so obvious."

Romas agreed the product has legs that go beyond local appeal: "The chips taste so good, there have been talks of rolling them out to other Co-ops in Western Canada after we are finished with our promotion with Ace Burpee and the Dream Factory."

jill.wilson@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @dedaumier

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.

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History

Updated on Thursday, August 15, 2019 at 10:10 PM CDT: Fixes station and weight

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