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LET'S EAT: You don't need a party to dip, says Newmarket 'dipologist'

Deb’s Dips owner, who has been creating flavorful dips for more than 20 years, has made supporting women in transition part of her business mandate

There’s always time for dip. 

That’s the motto head dipologist and Newmarket resident Deb Hatton has always lived by. It’s also what she tells the people she meets while selling her Deb’s Dips seasonings at craft markets and festivals. 

“You can’t have a party without a dip, but you can still have a dip without the party,” Hatton said. “There is just something special about dips that bring people together. I like that.”

Hatton has been creating and selling Deb’s Dips for more than 20 years. 

Entrepreneurial in spirit, Hatton’s first venture was selling baseball caps in the flea market circuit that included St. Jacob’s Farmers’ Market. When that business started to end, Hatton was looking for an opportunity that would target the flea market demographic – women and food. After research, including connecting with a gourmet chef, Hatton decided to create a line of seasoning mixes. 

To be successful, she knew her dips required flavours at the beginning, middle and end. And while other companies added salt to replace a missing flavour component, Hatton said she wanted to create full-bodied seasonings that didn’t have any artificial flavours or salt.

“I think that is one of the keys to my success.”

Hatton said it was trial and error when creating her seasonings. She started with flavours she knew were already successful such as lemon pepper where “the lemon is up front, and the pepper is behind.”

Deb’s Dips started with 10 flavours, including dill and spinach, with Hatton adding more flavours as she got more confident in her creations.

“I now have 24 flavours locked in.”

At the beginning, Hatton was selling her seasoning mixes at the St. Jacob’s market but, after five years of getting up at 4:30 a.m., Hatton said she closed her booth, turning instead to trade and craft shows, as well as festivals. She also offered a mail-order service, where people would fill in a form and mail in a cheque. Now Deb’s Dips can be purchased at various retailers in Newmarket and beyond, as well as online.

Hatton also attended larger shows, including the CNE.

“The same group of people come in on opening day,” Hatton said. “It’s been so many years that you become part of the tradition.”

Those traditions came to a stop when COVID-19 hit and shows were cancelled, Hatton said.

Yet Deb’s Dips thrived.

Hatton said she took the time in the early days of the pandemic to think about her business.

“It was a good time to reflect and pause, to make a plan.”

During COVID-19, everyone was at home and cooking. Hatton pivoted her business from one that offered dips, to something more.

“I will provide you with a package of spice blend and show you something you can do with it.”

Hatton began offering recipes that used her spice mixes. People could make cheese balls and hot dips, as well stuffed peppers and slow cooker meatballs, among others.

She also collaborated with three local restaurants, printing off cards with information about her business on one side and a coupon for in-person dining on the other. 

It was about building brand awareness, Hatton said, but also “used as a thank you to customers for supporting local businesses.” 

As business slowly returns to normal, Hatton has begun to participate in select craft and trade shows and is also returning to St. Jacob’s Market.

Part of her business mandate is to give back.

“I have taken advantage of many York Region programs myself. I am a believer that I can do good things through my business. I always try to support other woman.”

Hatton hires women in transition, which allows them to be well paid, gain a confidence boast, work as part of a team and have something to put on their resumes.

Last year, Hatton co-hosted a free Christmas dinner. Hatton said she was grateful for the support they received.

“This is how the world changes. This how you make a difference.”

For now, Hatton will continue to grow her business.

“My dream, my goal, is to be in all the major grocery stories in Canada,” said Hatton, who said she wants to be household name: “Ms Vicki’s, Renne’s and Deb’s.”

Lisa Day is a writer and editor who spends a significant amount of time reading books, talking books and collecting books. You can find her at Book Time , on LinkedIn, Twitter @LisaMDayC and Instagram @LisaMDayReads.