When was the last time you heard about two surgeons ditching their scalpels and surgical gowns for chef’s knives and aprons? Never? Well, it’s certainly not every day that established doctors make a strong pivot into a sometimes uncertain industry like the food industry, but that is exactly what the founders of Dr. Praeger’s did over 25 years ago.
The surgery that saved a life and changed two others
The idea that eventually became Dr. Praeger’s, an all-natural frozen food company specializing in veggie burgers, appetizers, side dishes and more, had a very earnest launching point. In 1994 after medical partners and cardiothoracic surgeons Dr. Peter Praeger and Dr. Eric Somberg conducted a successful emergency surgery on one of their patients, the group started a friendship that would later alter their trajectory forever. Later, when that very patient introduced the two doctors to the owner of Ungar’s Heimeshe Gefilte Fish Company, something clicked. Spurred by their experiences in their medical practice, both Dr. Praeger and Dr. Somberg had already begun to notice the need for more easily accessible sensible foods, and here was their opportunity to be the change they wanted to see.
After making the choice to acquire the company as co-owners, the doctors, who were still keeping their hands very busy as surgeons, launched Praeger’s Sensible Foods with the goal to provide nutritious, delicious, and convenient frozen food that they would feel comfortable recommending to their patients.
It didn’t take long for the new company to see moderate success, either. Only two years after the duo had acquired the business in 1996, what would become their most popular burger, “Goin’ Back to Cali,” was born. The story goes, after one of Dr. Peter Praeger’s patients complained about the lack of tasty food options patients were allowed to eat post-op, he went straight to work to fill that gap. After months of meticulous ingredient research and testing the product to make sure it was just right, he found a winning combination. He created the burger out of a tasty combo of carrots, spinach, peas, edamame, and oat bran.
If they needed a sign that they had something special on their hands, this burger was definitely it. A couple of years after the California burger was launched, the business was taken to new heights with their need for a new office and a bigger team; this was no longer a startup in the beginning stages, but a fully-fledged, fully-realized company. Soon after, with innovation in their minds, Dr. Praeger’s figured it was time to invite the kids to the party as well. They extended their line to include Littles, a fun way that they hoped would make feeding our children their veggies a little more doable. From there came apps, snacks, side dishes, and more.
Dr. Praeger’s: The Next Generation
Today, the next generation, having grown up watching the family business flourish, has taken the reins. Inspired by the company’s mission and values from the onset, Dr. Praeger’s is still an independent, family-owned and operated business sticking to its commitment to manufacturing great food that is great for you. Try it for yourself — You can find an array of Dr. Praeger’s delicious and wholesome frozen foods at The Sweet Potato in The Junction neighbourhood of Toronto!