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Edmonton dried meat business finds wider success with national retailer

WATCH ABOVE: A dried bison meat company that started locally is now expanding after Sobeys joined forces with Pansawan. Vinesh Pratap talks to the CEO about the company's success and cultural significance.

A lot of hard work is paying off for an Edmonton entrepreneur; a national retailer is now selling his product.

“Being able to do this respectfully, to bring back one of the first foods of Canada, this is a dream,” said Ian Gladue, the CEO of Pânsâwân (pronounced ‘bahn-sa-wan’).

“Pânsâwân means thin-sliced meat in Cree.”

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Gladue has been in the entrepreneur game for several years, starting with a food concession and then a restaurant. But there was a desire to do something with a closer cultural connection.

The dry meat, made with only two ingredients 3 bison and smoke — is a food source that helped sustain people for generations through long winters.

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Pânsâwân started in 2015 and one by one, stores started selling the Elder-approved product.

READ MORE: Food incubator for entrepreneurs, producers to fire up Edmonton’s local food scene

Last year, production space was secured in Leduc at a provincial agricultural-business incubator.

“The fun part of my job is always trying and seeing something different.”

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Sobeys started selling the product last year. It’s now in 30 of the company’s Alberta locations and beyond.

Pânsâwân is supported through Sobeys’ Look for Local program.

“We try and give them target stores where we have demographic information that can work for a specific product like the Pânsâwân,” explains Gary Hughes, the local business development manager with Sobeys.

“It’s a dream come true, truly,” Gladue said  about the deal with the retailer. “But also with those dreams, comes hard work, constant hard work.”

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Pânsâwân has around 40 people on staff with a focus on growth.

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READ MORE: Cree curriculum at heart of new Alberta First Nation education plan

Gladue knows he’s also playing a leadership role beyond the business; that it’s important to show the next generation that someone like them can find great success.

“To be a leader, in that sense. I’m just a man who’s made tons of mistakes but learned from them.”

Aside from Sobeys, Pânsâwân is available in more than 200 stores.

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