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Say Goodbye to Butter, Say Hello to Melt

Prosperity Organic FoodsButter lovers rejoice! There is now a rich, creamy and versatile improvement for those looking to make great tasting and healthy choices. Melt Organic is a luscious butter improvement. It is a new form of spread that is truly good for you. Melt Spreads sizzle, drizzle, sauté, and bake beautifully just like butter, but with half the saturated fat and fewer calories.

Melt Organics feature organic virgin coconut oil—the healthiest, unprocessed saturated fat—blended with organic flaxseed, palm fruit, canola and high-oleic sunflower oils. All the ingredients are ethically sourced to ensure optimal healthful qualities, social responsibility and sustainable farming practices. Melt Organic is made from all-natural and pure ingredients that are certified organic, non-GMO, kosher, and fair trade. Each Melt Organic variety is soy-free, gluten-free and dairy- or lactose-free. In addition, Melt Organics does not contain artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

For more information, visit www.meltbutteryspread.com.

Milkshake-Style Shooters Make a Memorable New Year’s Eve Party Drink

Looking for a festive new drink to wow your guests at this year’s New Year Eve party? Surprise them with scrumptious ice cream-based Vanilla Mocha Latte Shooters. Infused with Nielsen-Massey’s fine extracts and garnished with vanilla sugar this delicious drink packs a flavorful and festive punch in a single shot glass for an unforgettable New Year’s Eve party.

“Most people know that our products add flavor and distinction to food and desserts, but using our extracts in drinks is an easy way to quickly add layers of flavor to beverages,” said Craig Nielsen, CEO of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas. “These shooters are a fun and whimsical way to dazzle your guests with this delectable, creamy creation.”

Nielsen-Massey Pure Chocolate and Coffee Extracts as well as Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract are universally loved flavors that bring a new dimension not only to food but also to beverages. In Vanilla Mocha Latte Shooters, the extracts are added to vodka, then chilled in the freezer. Pure Chocolate Extract imparts dark chocolate flavor and subtle, cocoa distinction while Pure Coffee Extract enhances the drink with full-bodied flavor from fine coffee beans. Rounding out these stronger flavors is Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract, a delicate vanilla featuring floral, fruity, cherry-like notes.

Vanilla-Mocha-Latte Shooters

(Serves 8)

Ingredients

½ tsp Nielsen-Massey Pure Chocolate Extract

½ tsp Nielsen-Massey Pure Coffee Extract

½ tsp Nielsen-Massey Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract

½ cup chilled vodka

2 Tbsp Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Sugar (for rimming glasses)

½ cup heavy cream

3 cups firmly packed vanilla ice cream (about 6 large scoops)

Directions

In a small bowl, combine chocolate, coffee and vanilla extracts and vodka; cover and place in freezer until chilled.

In a small shallow bowl, add just enough water to moisten glass rims. In an additional small shallow bowl, add vanilla sugar. Dip each shooter glass rim into water and then into sugar; set aside.

Add cream and ice cream to an electric blender container, cover and blend on high, about 10 seconds. Add chilled vodka-mixture, cover and blend until smooth. Pour milkshake mixture into a piping bag or a large glass measuring cup and carefully fill 8 (2.5-ounce) glasses. Serve.

Once chilled, the unique vodka and extract mixture is combined with heavy cream and ice cream for milkshake-like body and texture. To serve, shot glasses are rimmed with Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Sugar, which is a flavorful blend of gourmet baker’s sugar and the most exquisite vanilla. Divide the milkshake mixture among eight shot glasses, and you have perfect potables to ring in the New Year.

Teatulia Organic Teas Partners with Top Mixologists to Capitalize on Cocktail Trend

 Tea cocktails are showing up more often on the drink menu, and Teatulia Organic Teas is helping to pioneer this trend.

According to the Sterling-Rice Group, a communications, strategy, and consultancy firm located in Boulder, Colo., a top food trend in 2014 is using tea outside of the cup and in dinner, dessert, and cocktail recipes. Chefs have found a hidden treasure that comes with using tea in cocktails. It adds depth and creates a unique flavor profile that cannot be recreated using traditional mixers, liquors or liqueurs. 

Recognizing the benefit of using teas in their cocktails, many fine dining restaurants have partnered with Teatulia to create award-winning recipes. “It’s exciting that top mixologists across the country have come to us to create such original drinks,” says CEO and Co-founder Linda Appel Lipsius.

One winter cocktail developed by Kevin Burke, one of Denver’s top mixologists working at Colt and Gray, is the Swedish Toddy featuring Teatulia’s Tulsi Infusion Tea, a full-bodied black tea with a rich, spicy finish. The Swedish Toddy incorporates a Scandinavian spirit called aquavit known for its distinct flavor derived from the spices and herbs used in it.

“I have seen a renewed interest in using tea in cocktails that coincides with the resurgence of serving old school punches,” says Burke. “I enjoy putting tea into cocktails because it is a chance to layer in new flavors and textures.  Teatulia Organic Teas, in general, aligns with my drink-making palate because of their precision in flavor and brightness of their profiles.”

Godiva Chocolate Maker Buys DeMet’s Candy Company

Brynwood Partners V L.P. announced today that it has signed an agreement to sell its investment in DeMet’s Candy Company for $221 million to Yildiz Holdings A.S., owner of the Godiva® chocolate brand. The transaction is expected to close in January 2014.

DeMet’s Candy, headquartered in Stamford, Conn., is a manufacturer and marketer of premium priced chocolate confection products under the Turtles®, Treasures®, and Flipz® brands. Since its formation in 2007 by Brynwood V, DeMet’s Candy has significantly expanded its sales, production, and profitability. All of the DeMet’s brands were acquired by Brynwood Partners from Nestlé USA in separate transactions. DeMet’s Candy employs approximately 200 people and operates two manufacturing facilities in the U.S. During Brynwood V’s ownership, the company built one of these plants, bringing approximately 150 jobs to Big Flats, N.Y. while significantly investing in and upgrading the other. After the closing, Peter Wilson, the company’s CEO, will be joining Brynwood Partners VII L.P., Brynwood Partners’ most recently raised fund. The rest of DeMet’s Candy’s management team will remain with the company.

“We are delighted to announce the divestiture of DeMet’s Candy,” said Hendrik J. Hartong III, Chairman, DeMet’s Candy and Senior Managing Partner, Brynwood Partners. “This investment highlights Brynwood Partners’ unique operational capabilities in the private equity sector. We originally formed DeMet’s Candy in 2007 to acquire the Turtles brand in the U.S. from NestléUSA and combined it with the Flipz brand, which we had acquired from Nestlé USA in 2004. After forming DeMet’s Candy we quickly hired a management team, with whom we have worked collaboratively, to create significant shareholder value. We are grateful to DeMet’s Candy’s management team and all of the hard working employees in the manufacturing plants for their tireless efforts under our ownership. We wish Yildiz success with this outstanding company.”

New Market Study Predicts Growth for Chocolate Industry

A new market study by Lucintel predicts that the U.S. chocolate industry will experience moderate growth and reach an estimated $19.3 billion in 2018. Innovation of new products in dark chocolate and milk chocolate segment with new flavors and low calorie (such as sugar-free) chocolates will increase the growth of retail chocolate industry. Occasion and celebration is a factor that impacts the selling and production of chocolate and ultimately leads the increased company revenue which boosts industry growth.

Among the challenges faced by the industry are rising prices for raw materials, expecially for cocoa beans, intermittent supply shortages and a lack of efficient distribution channels in emerging markets. Growth for the industry will come from increasing consumer expenditure for chocolates and improving per capita income. As per the study, 73.9 percent of total U.S. population, i.e., 234 million consumers, love to eat chocolates irrespective of gender. Hectic lifestyle of consumers and innovative chocolate products doubling as health supplement, chocolate for the diet conscious, low calorie chocolates etc. lead to significant market growth. Consumer awareness of brands, gifting in celebrations and various occasion, and increasing hectic lifestyle of consumers are all expected to drive industry growth.

The Lucintel study is titled, “US Chocolate Industry 2013-2018: Trend, Forecast, and Opportunity Analysis,” and for more information, visit www.lucintel.com.

Cabot Creamery Rewards Volunteers with Cruise

On January 11, 50 volunteers will embark on the trip of a lifetime. They, along with a guest, will board the Celebrity Cruises® SUMMIT for an all-expense-paid, six-day, seven-night Caribbean Cruise organized in their honor, courtesy of the 1,200 farm families who own Cabot Creamery Cooperative. The farmer-owners of Cabot have presented the Cabot Community Celebrity Award program since 2010 to recognize individuals from across the nation who have made a difference in their communities.

“For the past four years, the Cabot Community Celebrity Awards have honored the powerful achievements and contributions of select volunteers,” says Rich Stammer, Cabot President and CEO. “Partnering with major market media and national organizations, we spotlight those who serve others with little thought of personal recognition, and reward them with the trip of a lifetime. Our Community Celebrity Awards seek to redefine what ‘true celebrity’ really means.”

In the eyes of the farm families of Cabot, true celebrities are folks like Sean Evans. Evans, a resident of Moore, Okla., founded Serve Moore after the horrific tornados that devastated the town in May. He developed a website to help coordinate relief efforts, connecting resources and thousands of volunteers to bring aid and comfort to the victims of the storm.

And people like Tawanda and Robert Jones from Camden, N.J., who founded the Sophisticated Sisters Drill Team to serve the children of one of America’s most consistently impoverished and crime-ridden cities. Since founding the group in 1986, the couple provided a constructive outlet that has helped guide the lives of more than 4,000 of the city’s children.

“There are so many stories here of everyday people doing remarkable things in their communities. Stories of people who spend their weekends building dream bedrooms for kids with cancer, who spend their nights collecting food and goods for the hungry and homeless, who spend their days mentoring a child growing up alone in poverty,” says Stammer. “They truly deserve this.”

The Cabot Community Celebrity Award Cruise departs San Juan, Puerto Rico and stops in Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas, before returning to San Juan. Round trip airfare for the Cabot Community Celebrities and their guests is also included.

“We want them to exhale and let their worries and pressures escape, to relax, recharge, and celebrate, so they can go back to their communities refreshed and ready to do more,” Stammer said. “And hopefully, inspire others to do the same.”

Cabot is able to spotlight those who serve their communities with little or no regard for personal recognition by partnering with AARP Create the GoodPoints of Light and working with an ever-growing list of highly conscious non-profit organizations like Habitat For HumanitySt. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and  The DREAM Program. And once again this year, several of Cabot’s Community Celebrity Award recipients were selected from local radio stations that help Cabot spread the word on the valuable work volunteers do each day across the nation. Still others were selected from Cabot community relations programs, like the Reward Volunteers iPhone App, the mobile app a computer widget that enables volunteers to track their time serving non-profits, and to win great prizes and cash for themselves and the organizations they serve.

For more information on the Cabot Community Celebrity Award Cruise, or to learn more about true community celebrities, visit:www.cabotcelebritycruise.com

Landana 1000 DAYS wins Gold at World Cheese Awards

landana 1000 days world cheese awardsLandana, a premium specialty cheese brand of Vandersterre Groep (The Netherlands), has been recognized with a golden award at the World Cheese Awards in Birmingham, England.

2,777 cheeses participated at the world-famous cheese show, which is organized by United Kingdom’s Guild of Fine Food. In the category “Gouda made before 1/12/2012,” Landana 1000 DAYS convinced a jury of 250 cheese experts with a full, intense but very refined taste, which reflects the Dutch time-tested cheese makers’ tradition.

This special cheese naturally ripens for at least 1000 days under perfect ripening conditions, which guarantee the best quality. The fine mineral and protein crystals are visible signs of its masterful maturation.

Landana 1000 DAYS is part of the Landana “Premium Quality Cheese” range. Landana is a delicious Dutch cheese of distinction, loved for its unique, creamy flavor, incredible quality and wide range of flavorful varieties. Landana cheeses are prepared using traditional cheese making techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation; methodology has changed very little over time.

Vandersterre Groep won a bronze award with Landana Goat cheese AGED in the category “Hard goats’ milk”. This goat cheese has a piquant character and pure taste.The extra-long ripened Prima Donna forte also won bronze in the category “Any very hard cheese” with its strong and sweet, nutty taste.

All these award winners are gluten free. Retailers interested in purchasing Landana or Prima Donna cheeses can contact a Vandersterre Groep sales representative by e-mail at international@vandersterregroep.nl or by phone at 1.303.906.4200. 

Consumers Celebrate the Taste and Terroir of Grass-Fed Beef

By Lorrie Baumann

While cable television has been working hard for years to convince consumers that all the really great meals come from culinary school-trained chefs, many purveyors of top-quality meats say that what might help the home cook most is finding a trustworthy market with a meat department manager who knows his or her business and respects the products in the meat case.

“You need to find a brand of beef that you like,” says Bill Reed, the CEO of Estancia Beef, which produces beef in Uruguay and imports it into the U.S. market “Find a butcher who sells you quality beef.”

Clint Smithlin, the Meat Manager/Buyer at the Berkeley Bowl Marketplace in Berkeley, Calif. sells a ton of grass-fed beef, including Estancia Beef, and about 1,800 pounds of grain-fed beef each week at his company’s two stores. He says that the influence of Michael Pollan’s writing about food and the information available to consumers on the Internet in addition to current high prices for meats are collectively fueling consumer interest in grass-fed beef. “There’s a huge amount of information out there—some of it’s right and some of it’s wrong,” he says. “People have a choice, and what they’re looking for is the product that matches their choices. And generally, they’re choosing grass-fed beef because there’s a negative connotation about grain-fed beef. People have seen how the animals are just packed together, and they’re more aware now of where their meat is coming from … They’re looking to do what’s best for them as well as what’s best for the environment.”

Fortunately for consumers who want to make their own decisions about what they are putting into their bodies, there is a wider range of products available to them now than at any other time in recent history. “If you look at every other category in the supermarket—chocolate, cheese, beer—we’ve gone from two or three brands to a plethora of brands that offer different tastes, different experiences. It’s a much more exciting opportunity for the consumer to understand a world of tastes and flavors,” Reed says. “We’ve developed a system that says that more fat is better. That’s not a celebration of culture of flavor. That’s a really boring metric.”

Matching the consumer with a piece of meat that’s going to satisfy all of those goals is where trust has to come into the relationship between market and customer, Smithlin says. “People can read all they want, but there still has to be the element of trust that the beef is what the butcher says it is,” he says. “People are more knowledgeable now than ever because the price is higher than ever before, and there’s so much product on the market. Many of the grass-fed beef products out there look very, very similar. The average person has to rely on trust, on the answer he gets [from the butcher].”

“There are people who just want a good-tasting piece of meat,” Smithlin adds. “There are other people who want to make sure that what they’re eating is best for them and for the animals.”

Grain-fed beef still has its adherents among people who are accustomed to its particular taste, says Andy McIsaac, Vice President of Marketing for Pilot Brands, a major importer and distributor of grass-fed meats from Australia and New Zealand for the American market. “The flavor is definitely different. There’s some debate about it. People who are used only to corn-fed beef sometimes say that grass-fed beef has a strong flavor. My answer to that is that that’s the natural flavor of beef,” he says. “It’s the flavor that your grandfather or great-grandfather would recognize. It’s the flavor of the grass coming through, the terroir. That really does apply to meat. The flavor really does reflect the environment that the animal was raised in.”

Reed agrees that terroir is a concept that applies as much to meat as to wine. “When you think about alcohol and cheeses, you think about celebrating terroir,” he says. “The eating experience with grass-fed beef is different. Estancia beef has a little bit cleaner finish. It has a beefy flavor. It sits light in your stomach. You can eat an eight-ounce steak and feel good about it.”

Through recent American history, beef animals were raised on grass for most of their lives and then transported to feedlots for finishing with corn and grain, which add the fat marbling into the muscle tissue. And since fat carries flavor, the end product tastes more like the grain with which the animal was finished. The typical feedlot animal is finished when it’s 16 to 24 months old, depending on the feeding regime, while a grass-fed animal typically takes a bit longer to grow to slaughter weight, McIsaac says. “Grass, while very nutritious, doesn’t have as high energy content as corn and grain,” he says. “The grass-fed animals take 24 to 30 months, because they’re living a more natural life, walking around in the pasture instead of standing in the feedlot.”

Most grass-fed beef is leaner than corn-fed beef, but that’s not necessarily the case. Pilot Brands imports a wide range of beef products, including grass-fed Kobe-style beef from Wagyu cattle that meets and even exceeds USDA Prime standards. “That’s an animal that’s famous for its marbling, but even with other cattle breeds, we get a lot of beef that has good levels of marbling,” he says.

Even the most marbled grass-fed beef offers consumers a more healthful choice than grain-fed beef with equivalent marbling, because the fat in grass-fed beef has a higher ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids, with grass-fed beef having levels much closer to the levels recommended by nutritionists, McIsaac says. “There are studies coming out now that show that people who eat grass-fed beef also have higher levels of Omega-3s, so it does carry through to the people who are eating it,” he adds. “That’s on top of the fact that grass-fed beef is typically also free of antibiotics and added hormones.”

Grass-fed beefalo is another product coming onto the market that has its appeal for consumers who are concerned about the health implications of eating beef, says Mark Merrill, co-owner with his wife Linda of Ellensburg, Wash.-based Beefalo Meats. Merrill is raising animals that are a cross-breed of beef cattle and bison, producing meat that is four times leaner than regular grain-fed beef, but which has award winning flavor.

Merrill’s beefalo has been lab-tested for cholesterol and saturated fats and has been shown to have cholesterol levels up to seven times lower than regular grain-fed beef and markedly less saturated fat.

Most of Merrill’s meat is being sold in the Seattle and Portland areas and in Alaska. “We’re not in the Krogers and the Albertsons and the Safeways. We’re in the specialty stores, where it does very well,” Merrill says. “All of the stores selling this have reported no decrease in their beef sales. I think it means that people who have cut back on their beef are coming back to beefalo. Maybe it’s the people who have eaten chicken until it’s coming out of their ears, and they’re tired of it. I don’t know.”

Cooking Grass-Fed Beef

All the experts advise that the worst thing a cook can do to grass-fed beef or beefalo is to overcook it. “When people have a bad experience with grass-fed beef, it’s usually because they’ve overcooked it,” Smithlin says. Grass-fed beef cooks about ⅓ more quickly than grain-fed beef, as do beefalo and bison. “Restaurants like it that it cooks faster, but if you’re at home and you’re grilling, you’ll want to keep monitoring it,” Merrill advises. He suggests that beefalo should be cooked hot and fast to 130 degrees. “If you can sear that meat, it’s juicier than beef, even though the fat is way less,” he says.

Foodies Losing Themselves and Loving It at Cincinnati’s Jungle Jim’s International Market

By Lucas Witman

For a newcomer walking into Jungle Jim’s International Market for the first time, one should be prepared for a truly extraordinary experience. To put it mildly—this is not your average grocery store.

Jungle Jim’s began over 35 years ago as a small, roadside produce stand. It was the vision of company founder “Jungle” Jim Bonaminio that propelled the business into the supermarket stratosphere. Bonaminio erected the company’s first permanent building in 1975 in the Cincinnati suburb of Fairfield, Ohio. Eventually the store’s focus expanded from just produce, adding dairy products and then a deli. In fact, Jungle Jim’s has never stopped expanding since its incipience, always growing in both size and product selection.

JungleJims1-RNIt is the sheer enormity of Jungle Jim’s, first and foremost, that makes this retailer truly unique. The store offers over 180,000 different products. Jungle Jim’s produce department alone is over an acre in size, and the company offers 1,500 different varieties of hot sauce and 12,000 distinct wine labels. The store features a giant outdoor pond, populated by life-sized replicas of jungle animals. Outside, there is a monorail, and inside, guests can shop from giant tanks full of live fish. In addition, the store is full of animatronic characters, positioned at every turn, including a giant, swinging can of Campbell’s Soup and a “Hound Dog Elvis Lion” in the candy section.

There are sections at Jungle Jim’s devoted to every genre of cuisine and every type of comestible. One will of course find the essential grocery store sections (albeit in super-sized versions) devoted to things like cheese, baked goods and frozen foods. However, this singular store also contains entire store departments devoted only to Asian, Middle Eastern and African cuisines, as well as dedicated sections for honey, olives, coffee and more. If there is a food product, no matter how obscure, you are almost certain to find it somewhere on the campus of Jungle Jim’s.

JungleJims3-RN“The saying, ‘Variety is the spice of life,’ rings very true in the Jungle,” said Jimmy Bonaminio, Director of Creative Services at Jungle Jim’s. “Every department is a world in and of itself. Each department shines because Jungle gives a lot of freedom to managers and they feel like it’s their own department. That is one of the things that make the shopping experience really unique. You never know what you’ll find.”

Taking advantage of the tremendous amount of space at the store, Jungle Jim’s frequently offers guests cooking demonstrations and product sampling events. On any given day, shoppers may have the opportunity to watch fresh mozzarella being stretched or salsa being assembled. The guests can then buy the finished product to take home and use in their own kitchens.

Jungle Jim’s also boasts its own cooking school. Interested participants can sign up online for classes on everything from wine and food pairings to gluten-free cookery to hands-on sushi preparation. For group events, the cooking school space can be rented for group culinary classes and activities.

Reflecting its founder’s commitment to entrepreneurialism, Jungle Jim’s makes an effort to keep its shelves stocked with unique local products, many of which shoppers are unlikely to find elsewhere. “[The store] offers countless numbers of mom and pop vendors the opportunity to present their ‘kitchen-to-shelf’ products to the store,” said Bonaminio. “Those one-of-a kind items compliment our outstanding selection. There are successful local businesses today who credit Jungle Jim’s for giving them the needed start.”

JungleJims2-RNWith such an extensive product selection, it can be a challenge to make sure each department is keeping up-to-date with the latest trends, but the staff at Jungle Jim’s is committed to doing just that. “With over 180,000 products in each store, demand can change from week to week,” said Bonaminio. “Because we are an independent, we have the flexibility to react to trends very quickly. We try to find a balance between filling customer requests and offering items they’d never thought of requesting.”

At its heart, Jungle Jim’s strives to set itself apart from all other grocery stores, by transforming a simple trip to the market into a family event, delighting every person who enters the store’s doors with something that appeals especially to them. “The goal of Jungle Jim’s is to make grocery shopping a fun experience. This includes providing some of the more unusual items that you wouldn’t normally find in your average grocery store,” said Bonaminio.

This strategy seems to have been a successful one for the company, as Jungle Jim’s has become a destination shopping experience, drawing curious foodies from all over the Midwest and beyond. According to Adams, some of the store’s visitors have actually arranged vacations around their trip to Jungle Jim’s. The store has drawn destination foodies from as far away as New York and Los Angeles and even Australia.

Today, Jungle Jim’s operates both the original 200,000-square-foot Fairfield store, as well as a new, even larger store, opened in 2012 in Cincinnati’s Eastgate neighborhood. For more information on Jungle Jim’s International Market, visit www.junglejims.com.

 

Hot Sauce Nation Aims for World Domination

By Lorrie Baumann

If you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat,” — Ronald Reagan

 

Over the past few years, the news media has been prompting people around the world to think a great deal about heat in its many manifestations. A growing number of us have concluded that one thing we want to do about heat is put it in our mouths. The hot sauce market has gone nuclear.

In 2013, CompaniesandMarkets.com reported that sales of spicy chile pepper sauces grew 9 percent in the previous year, with the industry reaching a current value of $540 million. This upward growth trend is expected to continue. IBIS World, a marketing research company, noted last year that hot sauce production was the eighth fastest growing industry in the United States, with industry revenue projected to grow over the next five years at an average annual rate of 4.1 percent.

The hot sauce industry is extremely strong,” says Dave DeWitt, founder and Co-Producer of the National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show, scheduled to take place Feb. 28-March 2, 2014 in Albuquerque, N.M. Now in its 26th year, the show presents the annual Scovie Awards, a tribute to foods whose spiciness is measured in Scoville Heat Units. The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and Carolina Reaper peppers are currently considered the hottest peppers in the world, with Scoville ratings in the range of about 1.5 to 2 million SHU. The mild Anaheim, Peppadew and Poblano peppers come in around 1,000 to 2,500 SHU, with most of the world’s other peppers measuring somewhere in between these two ranges.

There are more than 800 products entered into the Scovie Awards contest for 2014, with 161 of those hot sauces. “Everybody seems to make them, and they do it very well,” DeWitt says. “The criteria for judging are flavor, appearance, aroma and texture. The heat level just has to be appropriate. If something says it’s a hot sauce, it’s got to have some heat in it.”

Pete Burback of Cooks Corner in Green Bay, Wis. is one of the retailers riding that wave. He says Cooks Corner has always had some hot sauces in his store marketed mainly as impulse items to the tourists who come by busloads to spend the day in the nation’s largest kitchenware store. According to Burback, many decide at the cash register that they should probably take home a little something for the spouse who stayed home to change the oil in the car or watch a football game on television. For many of these shoppers, hot sauce perfectly fits the bill.

About three years ago, Burback called his distributor and asked what he would need to stock if Cooks Corner were to have the largest display of hot sauces in the state. “It was more of a gut feeling than anything else,” he says. In those days, a selection of 250 hot sauces was what Burback had to put on his shelves in order to have more sauces for retail sale than anyone else in Wisconsin. Today, Cooks Corner stocks more than 400 varieties. As a result of Burback’s efforts, hot sauce sales have been growing steadily for the store over the past three years. “We absolutely blow through hot sauce,” he says. “I was surprised at how many people collect them.”

Peppers 6 Pack wood crate NEWAlthough Cooks Corner has the largest hot sauce shop in Wisconsin, its selection is dwarfed by the array offered by Peppers of Key West, located in Key West, Fla. Owner Pete Legrady sells 1,200 SKUs, of which about 900 are hot sauces. The clientele are mostly tourists coming off the cruise ships that call in at the island, as well as day-trippers from Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Legrady also has many customers who visit his online store at www.PeppersofKeyWest.com.

Not everything we have in the store is hot. Just because something says ‘habañero’ on the label doesn’t mean it’s going to be hot,” says Legrady. Legrady bought Peppers of Key West six years ago after he fell in love with Key West and decided to leave the corporate rat race for a business he could be passionate about. About 100,000 people a year come into his store, where every product offered for sale has something to do with chile peppers, whether it is a rub or dry spice mix, a chile-seasoned jerky, a cookbook or a tea towel printed with an image of a chile pepper.

People are getting more adventurous about enjoying spicy foods more. With the Baby Boomers, maybe their taste buds are dying, so they’re using hot sauce to put more flavor into the foods. With the younger generation, it can be an ego thing,” Legrady says. “There really is no specific demographic that hot sauce appeals to. It’s really all over the board.”

Peppers of Key West Asian MarinadeIn addition to selling chile sauces made by others, Legrady also makes his own Peppers of Key West-branded sauces that are winning plaudits from hot sauce aficionados. These plaudits include seven awards for a Peppers of Key West Asian marinade, two for a chicken wing sauce and three for a very mild jerk sauce. Most of the company’s awards have come from both the Fiery Foods Show and Zest Fest.

We have all kinds of variations of hot sauce from super mild to super hot,” Legrady says. “I enjoy it when people come in and say they don’t like hot sauce. We sit them down and get them tasting, and they find something they like. We can always match a flavor profile to a personal preference.”

scorpion pepper hot sacue w peppers (14x9HR)Dave’s Gourmet makes sauces that cater to the hot sauce aficionados who love to feel the fire. “This is extreme heat, and that caught on right away,” says Dave Hirschkop, the “Dave” of Dave’s Gourmet. The very hot end of the chile sauce spectrum is just a small niche of the industry, but he thinks it is the most exciting. He finds that the super-hot sauces appeal to younger men, but there are no geographic boundaries to a taste for the fiery. “Places without a hot sauce tradition were a little slower to jump on, but they’ve caught up,” Hirschkop says. “There are people who can handle the heat and who can taste the flavor and appreciate it.”

Hirschkop, like many other hot sauce makers, is experimenting these days with some of the hottest peppers on the planet. “Super-hot is going to move forward from habañero to ghost pepper to scorpion, with a lot of debate about which is hottest,” he says. “That’s meaningful to people. It’s a point of interest.”

Johnny McLaughlin of Heartbreaking Dawns makes hot sauces for the segment of the market that is more interested in chile peppers for their flavor than their heat. McLaughlin launched Heartbreaking Dawns five years ago with three products after a year of researching and developing a business concept. When he started, he had been making hot sauces from his garden peppers and he knew about flavors and how to layer them. However, he did not have a point of reference for the direction that the hot sauce industry was taking at the time. Right away, he started creating sauces that were different from anything else on the market. His was the first company in the United States to use the Trinidad scorpion pepper in a commercially available sauce. Today, he sells his 1498 Trinidad Scorpion Sauce today for $7.95 a bottle, and he says it is not only a very popular sauce, but it is also his personal favorite.

Scorpion is one of the hottest peppers in the world, but the first time I tasted it, it had such an earthy, floral note, and I wanted to pair that with a sweet note,” McLaughlin says. Today, McLaughlin’s sauces are drawing attention from food critics and have won a number of awards from various hot sauce shows. Cook’s Illustrated recently applauded the Heartbreaking Dawns Trinidad Scorpion Cauterizer Sauce for its exceptional combination of spectacular flavor with very high heat.

Heartbreaking Dawns’ Trinidad Scorpion Sauce incorporates a variety of sweet and spicy flavors for a sauce that illustrates McLaughlin’s aesthetic. The same can be said for another of McLaughlin’s creations, his Ghost Pepper Sauce. “It’s the hottest pepper out there, but there’s so much more to it than that,” he says of the Ghost Pepper Sauce. “Ghost pepper on its own, heat aside, has an exceptionally wonderful citrus burst. I paired it up with a very nice pear and apple with soy sauce and white pepper in the background. It delivers a strong and satisfying heat, but it’s by no means extreme, so it’s a very useable sauce.”

When McLaughlin brings his sauces to the Fancy Food Show next July, he will find Case Fischer of Fischer & Wieser there waiting for him with some new hot sauces that he currently has under development. Fischer & Wieser introduced its first pepper product to the market in 1988 with a jalapeño peach jelly. “I was experimenting with peppers in our jams and jellies,” Fischer recalls. “That was a real big hit because people put it on their pork chops.”

raspberrychipotleFischer followed that product up with the Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce that Fischer & Weiser also brought out in 1988. That sauce is currently the company’s bestseller. “We focus on sauces, so that’s where we focus our pepper experiments, and we have really enjoyed coming out with some new and exciting products,” he says. “The pepper products that we come up with have got to have a lot of flavor with them, and it’s not all about the heat.”

In developing the products that he plans to bring to the 2014 Summer Fancy Food Show, Fischer has been intrigued by the peppers at the hot end of the Scoville scale, including the ghost pepper, the scorpion pepper and the Scotch Bonnet. Still, he continues to focus on flavor as opposed to just heat. “We’re also considering different fruits beyond the mango, the peach and the papaya,” he says. “We are so far beyond red pepper flakes and jalapeños that it’s not even funny. I think that’s exciting.”

Once Fischer & Wieser’s newest hot sauces are ready for the market, you are likely to find all of them and more in Rehoboth Beach, Del., at Chip Hearn’s Peppers.com, a seriously vertically integrated company. With a very large retail store in a resort area and a strong online retail shop, Peppers.com is a wholesaler of 3,000 different zesty items, 200 different peppers, Mama Vincente brand items and a line of private label sauces.

Hearn’s hot sauces range in price from $1.99 to $1,000 a bottle, with the average hot sauce selling for $5.99 to $7.99. Hearn got into the hot sauce business 30 years ago when he was looking to increase the breakfast check average in his family’s restaurants. He did that with the Bloody Mary Smorgasbord, in which he offered customers 200 different hot sauces to doctor their vodka and tomato juice. “Customers started asking for the bottles of the hot sauces, and then it became, ‘I’m going to carry a case of that back with me,’” he recalls. “We started with 200 sauces, and now it’s 3,000.”

One of his current bestsellers is Zing Zang, a Bloody Mary mix made in Chicago, a city where bartenders are known for putting their signatures on their  Bloody Mary recipes. Hearn appreciates Zing Zang because it is a Bloody Mary mix that the average New Englander has not seen before. His customers are eager to buy it just to try it. “Zing Zang does not have to have anything else mixed in it, but you can grate some ginger on it or use some horseradish. When they get hooked on it, they have to come back to you because no one else is carrying it,” he says. “It’s spicy, it’s zesty, and it’s gone pretty fast, so they have to come back to the store.”