D’Artagnan Inc.: Supplying Sustainable Gourmet Items to Discerning Chefs

Ariane Daguin came to the United States from France in the early 1980s to study at Columbia University in New York City and to establish a life outside the Daguin family business. Ariane’s father, Andre Daguin, was the chef at and owner of Gascony-based Hotel de France in southwest France, where he mastered duck and foie gras dishes that became famous around the world. The daughter of a chef, Ariane grew up surrounded by fine foods and learned the details of culinary arts at an early age. However, Ariane was looking for more.

Throughout Ariane’s time at Columbia, she worked part time for a local gourmet shop. Ariane, inspired by her passion for food, lifetime of experience and a sense that America was ready for a culinary revolution, opened a business of her own, D’Artagnan Inc. (D’Artagnan). Ariane not only achieved her own dreams through this endeavor, she also introduced the first fresh, domestically raised foie gras to the United States market in 1985.

Ariane named her business after historic figure and legend Charles de Batz de Castelmore, who is better known as Comte d’Artagnan. Ariane’s inspiration hailed from her area of France; a local boy made good in the company of musketeers, D’Artagnan was often lauded for acts of valor and chivalry, and was famously fictionalized by the novelist Alexandre Dumas.

Ariane chose the name D’Artagnan to represent panache and boldness, to evoke the spirit of southwest France, and to push boundaries of the culinary sort. Beyond foie gras D’Artagnan introduced exotic items, including game meat – raised responsibly and naturally – as well as organic poultry and prepared items.

Andy Wertheim, president of D’Artagnan, joined the team in 2006 after Ariane bought out her former partner’s share. Andy has been integral in D’Artagnan’s growth over the past seven years. Andy oversees sales, purchasing, marketing, customer service and financing at D’Artagnan.

He and Ariane both agree that the duo makes a great team. “We balance each other,” explains Andy. “Ariane is the face of this organization, an icon in the culinary world and she’s incredibly respected in this business.”

The balance between Ariane and Andy reflects in D’Artagnan’s continued success. “We’ve built up all three of our divisions: restaurants, retailers and the web business,” explains Andy. “Our primary region is the Northeast, but we’ve recently expanded business in the Chicago market, and, of course, we sell in all 50 states.”

Expanding Palates

D’Artagnan has grown into a leading supplier of sustainable – which Andy defines as natural, organic and free range – meats and poultry in the United States.

“We started out by providing the things that other companies couldn’t,” says Andy. “First it was duck, rabbit and game birds, and then we added beef, chicken, pork and lamb. Our products contain no growth hormones or antibiotics. We’re organic where we can be. We provide clean, wholesome meats sourced from small farms to food service, retailers and directly to consumers.”

Business clients and home consumers can browse D’Artagnan’s selection on the business’ website. A wide variety of fresh meat and poultry is available for purchase online, including classics like chicken, turkey, duck, beef, pork, veal and lamb. More adventurous gastronomes can choose specialty items like capon or buffalo, as well as game meats like wild boar, venison, rabbit or quail, guinea hen, pheasant and more.

Prepared items make up a large section of D’Artagnan’s inventory. The business offers charcuterie, such as pâtés, foie gras, mousses and terrines. D’Artagnan also offers specialty sausages, even hot dogs, all of which are made from the same fresh, natural meats offered for purchase. Clients can also choose from organic mushrooms, fine truffles and pantry products like caviar, specialty oils and butters, as well as heirloom beans.

Reinvestment Opportunities

Andy says the company faced some challenges stemming from the recent recession, but the team was quick to get back on track. “Through the rough economic climate of 2009 we took a hit on the revenue line,” Andy explains. “We got through the holidays and made some more adjustments, and for the past two years we’ve been in a huge period of growth.”

D’Artagnan currently employs around 150 people. “It’s really exciting to see this company grow,” explains Andy. “I’m proud to be a part of it. D’Artagnan is full of passionate, dedicated, loyal people.” According to Andy, teamwork is the driving force behind D’Artagnan’s success.

“Team players benefit here,” he explains. “For example, we took our sales team off commission-based pay. We challenged them to work as a team and they have succeeded magnificently.”

D’Artagnan’s more seasoned staff members work with newcomers, blending industry knowledge with fresh enthusiasm for a balanced approach. A new metrics system with standards for growth allows the sales force to measure and monitor their own performance, without the added pressure of commissions. Something must be working because, according to Andy, D’Artagnan’s sales have doubled over the last five years.

D’Artagnan began as a business that catered exclusively to the high end, but Andy says that is changing. “The challenge became how to translate that to consumers,” he explains. “We started out appealing to the real food zealots, centric to French chefs, then foodies. The most discerning chefs around the country know D’Artagnan.”

The company has broadened its focus to appeal to a larger demographic without compromising on quality. “During the recession some people were moving toward less-expensive cuts,” says Andy. “But they stayed with us for the quality. We know our niche, and we never compromise.”

Through a network of loyal suppliers, D’Artagnan continues to provide high-end products. “Our business is not necessarily income-driven,” explains Andy. “Rather, it’s guided by lifestyle choices.”

Every dollar earned is reinvested into the company, keeping growth steady but manageable. Andy and Ariane share a dedication to the business’ future, and the team happily follows. This evident devotion will allow D’Artagnan Inc. to continue to pursue a leading position in the gourmet industry, providing fine meats and more to foodies across the country.