The Sherwood Park-based company WOW! Factor Desserts is marking its 40th anniversary with the grand opening of a new retail outlet and distribution centre in Edmonton.
"I'm really excited about it because it's been 40 years in the making," said WOW! Factor Desserts president Debbie Gust. "We're a mature company, and we try to do our best at being as innovative as we can in terms of desserts, and so this is a monumental milestone for us."
The Edmonton distribution centre receives products from the company's Sherwood Park bakery and prepares them to be shipped across Canada and the U.S. The building will also serve as WOW! Factor's new head office, and it is one of three retail outlets where the public can walk in and buy their products directly.
"We're really trying to expand our retail footprint," Gust told Taproot. Aside from the public storefront, Gust said the company has plans for evening tastings and other programming. "We have a lot of really fun things that we've never ever done before. And it's just to kind of engage the community and let them know who we are."
You might not know the company by name, but chances are you know some of its cakes. Since its humble beginnings as a home-based business in 1982, the company once known as the European Cheesecake Factory makes desserts that have become a mainstay in chain restaurants, and they are carried by all major distributors in Canada.
You'll find them "pretty much anywhere a chef plates a dessert," Gust said. "I'm sure you've eaten many of our desserts and didn't realize it."
In addition to the Sherwood Park and Edmonton locations, the company also has an Eastern Canada distribution centre and retail outlet in Etobicoke, ON.
Gust said WOW! Factor has been careful to not discard the principles and practices that have helped it grow. The cakes are still made by hand. The company tries to source its ingredients sustainably and locally. Although it could be easily automated, the boxes are still hand-folded by workers employed through the Robin Hood Association.
Gust is proud of these commitments, but admits they have occasionally been tough to hang onto in the world of mass-market production deals.
"I think over the years, we've been challenged by getting approached by a really large opportunity, could be the Costcos of the world, for example, and then you sort of re-evaluate who you are. And it's not always about the bottom line and the lowest price, because when you do that, then you have to give up the quality of your products."