By Mario Toneguzzi
Mr. Pretzels, a pioneering brand of aromatic soft pretzels baked in a variety of flavours, have grown from eight locations in Canada to 40 by Christmas of this year.
And the fast-growing brand expects to keep expanding at a tremendous rate over the next few years.
Carmine Di Fruscia, president of Mr. Pretzels in Canada, told Retail Insider that “there’s no limit” as to how many locations the company will operate in the country.
“We’re open for business,” says Di Fruscia, adding the company can do deals corporately or through franchises as it looks to expand into malls, airports, and sports venues.
“We can do at least another 150 stores within the next two years.”
Currently there are 26 locations open (and an additional 14 to open before Christmas) in Canada with the vast majority in Quebec. Locations are also in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa with expansion plans for Ontario, the Maritimes and across the country in other provinces.
The brand operates, along with franchise partners, in over 300 stores in close to 20 countries in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, the Caribbean and North America. It opened its first location in 1994 in a kiosk in Puerto Rico.
The company’s founder is Luiz Penna.
Canada’s first location was opened in Place Vertu shopping centre in Montreal about three to four years ago after Di Fruscia met the founder of Mr. Pretzels about four years ago.
“I wasn’t convinced myself about pretzels in general for Canada,” he says. But when he tasted the product for the first time, Di Fruscia was extremely impressed with it.
After that, he took a year of doing due diligence, tasting competitor products and was convinced “this guy had the most amazing product that’s around for pretzels.”
“At that time, the pretzels concept hadn’t had a lot of success in Canada. I had a lot of trouble convincing the malls to open a pretzel shop. The only one I went into was Place Vertu,” says Di Fruscia.
“We opened. We had a little bit of success in a quiet mall and we convinced the other mall owners to come on . . . We realized we had a success on our hands.”
Using only the finest quality natural ingredients, the pretzel dough is prepared on the spot, hand-rolled in front of customers.
“Our wheat comes from Halifax. It’s all non-GMO. All natural,” says Di Fruscia.
The pretzels are low in fat and contain no preservatives.
“It’s very rare today where you can see hand-made, made fresh in front of you for under $4 in a mall today - and when it’s made fresh and people can smell it, see it with their own eyes,” says Di Fruscia.
“Our biggest success has been sampling. A lot of people don’t know pretzels in Canada. It isn’t a product we use often. We saw it from the rest of the world but here in Canada it has never taken off, before Mr. Pretzels. We hand-roll in front of our customers, bake on site, and offer samples. Once they try it, they just love the product.”
Carmine Di Fruscia will be at the International Council of Shopping Centres (ICSC) Canada Conference in Toronto this week, noting that there are over 100 potential franchisees waiting to get in. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 514-349-3911.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: email@example.com.