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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, 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

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, a seriously vertically integrated company. With a very large retail store in a resort area and a strong online retail shop, 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.”

Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery Recognized as Environmental Leader

Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery has achieved recognition as a Sonoma County Green Business environmental leader. The Sonoma Green Business Program, part of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, is a partnership of government agencies and utilities that assists, recognizes and promotes local organizations, focusing on small to medium-sized consumer-oriented businesses that voluntarily operate in environmentally responsible ways. Certified participants must be in compliance with all environmental regulations and meet program standards for conserving resources, preventing pollution and minimizing waste while demonstrating goodwill in the community.

It became evident very early on in the certification process that Redwood Hill Farm takes sustainability and the welfare of our environment very seriously,” said Green Business Coordinator Kevin Kumataka. “They are a shining example that green business is smart business here in Sonoma and throughout the state.”

This is not the first time the company has been recognized as a responsible business owner. In 2009, it received a Best Practices Award for its use of environmentally sound business practices from the Business Environmental Alliance of Sonoma County. Redwood Hill Farm also holds the distinction of being the first goat dairy in the United States to be Certified Humane®, which is considered the ‘gold standard’ in third-party certification for humane animal treatment.

We are proud to display our Green Business Sonoma County Certification,” said Owner Jennifer Bice. “Sustainability has been a core part of our family business since my parents first founded Redwood Hill Farm here 45 years ago. We continually look for ways to implement green practices from farm to finished product for the benefit of the animals, the land and people.”

In addition to using solar power to provide energy for both the family farm and creamery where its award-winning products are made, Redwood Hill Farm employs the following green practices:

  • Rewards employees for new re-use and recycle ideas that keep everyone on the alert for new ways to protect our environment, such as changing and reducing the amount of plastic in each yogurt cup and lid by about half, switching to foil lids rather than plastic, and upgrading to more energy efficient, motion sensor lighting at the creamery,
  • Recycles extensively at both the farm and creamery, using only recycled paper and biodegradable serving cups and utensils at sampling events,
  • Reclaims water to clean areas where it is acceptable,
  • Composts manure and straw/hay stems from smaller barns that is used for the farm’s organic vegetable gardens, olive grove and apple orchard; uses manure and straw/hay stems as mulch around fruit trees and in the ground to provide nutrients for the trees,
  • Provides solar-powered electric vehicle recharging stations at the creamery and uses two hybrid company vehicles,
  • Uses only organic fruits in both its Redwood Hill Farm goat milk yogurts as well as in sister brand Green Valley Organics Lactose Free yogurts and kefirs, which the company introduced in 2010.


Dietz & Watson Makes Holiday Hosting Easy

DW_SpiralCutHam_final_1rThe folks from Dietz & Watson are out and about during this holiday season to offer tips, recipes and samples of Dietz & Watson meats, cheeses and condiments to shoppers who are making their own lists and checking them twice as they prepare for holiday entertaining. Find them at the Frog Pond at Boston Commons on December 20-23. Visitors can skate and meet with Dietz & Watson from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Courtesy hand warmers will be made available, and free samples of Dietz & Watson spiral cut glazed dinner hams, roast beef crostinis and more will be served. Recipe cards, coupons and free mustards and ham glazes will also be given away.

If you’re in Chicago, look for Dietz and Watson every day through December 24 at Daley Plaza. Dietz & Watson will be there from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday for the Christkindlemarket. On the menu will be Dietz & Watson simple-to-prepare recipes like Crostinis with Beef Tenderloin and Horseradish. Delicious artisan cheeses and other delicacies will be sampled as well.

Take it from us at Gourmet News that if you can make it to one of these events, you do not want to miss stopping by to visit with Dietz & Watson. Whenever we’re at a venue where Dietz & Watson is offering samples, we’re there with our hands out and wistful smiles on our upturned faces as we try our utmost to look like pitiful wretches who deserve an extra-large serving if anybody ever did.

Numi Organic Tea Announces New Indulgent Teas

Numi Indulgent TeaNumi Organic Tea has announced the imminent arrival of a new product line: Indulgent Tea.  A new collection of chocolate teas, Numi’s Indulgent Tea line celebrates the blending of two favorite flavors: tea and cacao.

While food trends come and go, chocolate has been an object of cravings and affection since the first cacao plant originated in the Amazon in 2000 BC.  Today, chocolate is getting its due for being more than delicious, and is heralded for its health benefits and mood-boosting properties.  Numi’s Indulgent Teas provide a guilt-free way for chocolate lovers to satisfy cravings for sweetness and enjoy the good-for-you qualities of cacao.

The Numi Indulgent Teas will retail for $7.99 for a box of 12 tea bags. Each cup of the tea contains only five calories. The tea blends can be enjoyed any time of day with milk or honey or on their own.

“Since we launched our Chocolate Pu-erh Tea in 2008, it has increased in its popularity every year,” says Ahmed Rahim, CEO and Chief Alchemist for Numi Organic Tea.  “Now we are pleased to introduce our Indulgent Teas, combining some of our top-selling tea blends with cacao to offer unique tastes for every palate within the ever-growing chocolate tea category.”

Numi Indulgent Teas are certified organic, verified non-GMO, Fair Trade Certified, and made with 100 percent real ingredients, including real cacao powder.  Consumers can choose from four flavors, each available in boxes containing 12 tea bags each:

Chocolate Rooibos: Smooth South African rooibos is enveloped by creamy real vanilla beans, sweet honeybush and rich cacao. This sensual treat is a delightful, soothing beverage you can melt into. Chocolate Rooibos is blended with 45 percent cacao.

Chocolate Mint: This blend of Numi’s Moroccan Mint, cacao and orange peel has a sweet balance. The spearmint flavor adds a bit of spice while orange peel adds a hint of citrus. Chocolate Mint is blended with 55 percent cacao.

Chocolate Earl Grey: Numi’s delicious Aged Earl Grey™ tea blends perfectly with cacao and real vanilla beans. Sweet bergamot orange notes harmonize with creamy vanilla and chocolate for a captivating treat. Chocolate Earl Grey is blended with 50 percent cacao.

Chocolate Spice: This melt-in-your-mouth chocolate spice tea blends rich cacao with a host of colorful chai spices. Ginger and allspice are warming, while cardamom adds kick and cinnamon rounds off this exotic treat. Chocolate Spice is blended with 45 percent cacao.

Numi Organic Tea

Indulgent Teas

Suggested Retail Price:  $7.99

Available to ship beginning April 2014

Nocciolata From Rigoni di Asiago Is A Must-Have

Rigoni Di Asiago USANocciolata organic chocolate hazelnut spread with cocoa and milk by Rigoni di Asiago is a must-have. Creamy and natural, with carefully selected organic ingredients, Nocciolata is produced by combining all natural ingredients with care and an artisan’s devotion of time.

It is not processed with chemical ingredients and does not contain additives or colorings. There are no artificial flavorings either. West Indian cocoa, Italian hazelnuts and Madagascar vanilla are the three main ingredients, and they’re made even creamier with the addition of cocoa butter. All fats are completely natural and no palm oil or hydrogenated oils are used. And of course Nicciolata is gluten-free!

Founded in 1923, Rigoni di Asiago is located on the Asiago plateau, 90 miles north of Venice, where the Rigoni family has always lived and worked surrounded only by nature. Rigoni di Asiago is the producer of Nocciolata, Fiordifrutta organic fruit spread and Mielbio organic honey.

For more information, visit or

Rubschlager’s Rye-Ola Breads Put New Spin on Pumpernickel

Rubschlager BakingRubschlager BakingRubschlager Baking Corporation’s Rye-Ola® Breads, made with 100 percent whole rye, provide a flavorful source of whole grains. Rye-Ola breads contain no added wheat, fat, or sweetening, and have the true taste of Northern European breads, but are baked in Chicago by the company best-known for its cocktail breads.

All varieties are based on the Pumpernickel formula. A generous amount of sunflower kernels are added for Rye-Ola Sunflower; brown flax seeds to make Rye-Ola Flax, and black-strap molasses adds color and tang to the Rye-Ola Black Rye. Each 1-pound package contains 11 thin but hearty slices. Use them for small hors d’oeuvres by cutting first in half, then each half into three or four wedges. Rye-Olas lend themselves to both open-face and closed sandwiches, which can be served hot or cold.

For more information on Rubschlager Baking Corporation, located at 3220 West Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60651, head to, call 773-826-1245 or email


Salty Wahine Brings Hawaiian Flavor to the World

SaltyWahine-FPAward-winning Salty Wahine Gourmet Hawaiian Sea Salts is a new Hawaiian company that specializes in Hawaiian Sea Salts, flavored seasonings and Hawaii-grown cane sugars infused with fruits, like guava, mango, passion fruit, lychee, coconut and pineapple. Busy customers love the unique colors, tropical flavors and convenience of cooking a gourmet meal with Salty Wahine products.

Salty Wahine’s emphasis is on eating healthy. Coupled with tropical flavors, Salty Wahine products make eating healthy fun.

Salty Wahine started in 2008 and has since grown into an international company. Salty Wahine salts, seasonings and sugars are sold at craft fairs, farmers markets and high-end retail stores in Hawaii, Alaska, the continental United States, Canada, Germany and Saipan.

Contact Salty Wahine Gourmet Hawaiian Sea Salts by mail at P.O. Box 828, Hanapepe, Hawaii, 96716, by phone at 808.346.2942, by fax at 808.442.1230 or by email at Also visit the company online at

Saratoga Chips: The Second Coming of ‘America’s First Potato Chip’

Saratoga ChipsDid you know America’s first potato chip was called a “Saratoga Chip”? It’s true.

Saratoga Chips date back to 1853, when the potato chip was first created at Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Springs. In fact, from 1853 to 1920 all the potato chips in the country were called Saratoga Chips.

Saratoga Chips are the gold standard by which all other kettle chips should be measured. The company produces the finest tasting handmade kettle chip using only all-natural, non-GMO ingredients, then rigorously tests them to ensure that the chips achieve industry leading health claims. Saratoga Chips are all-natural, non-GMO, zero trans fats or cholesterol, gluten-free, and kosher certified.

Saratoga Chips are available in 8-ounce family size and 1.5-ounce snack sizes and come in the following delicious unique flavors: Balsamic Vinegar and Sea Salt, Honey BBQ, Rosemary Garlic, Cracked Pepper and Sea Salt, and of course the Original Saratoga Chips.

For more information head to

Scandic Foods’ Specialty Jam Line Packs More Fruit into Every Jar

Streamline All Natural Jam is a new and delicious specialty jam line focused on putting more fruit in every bite. The Scandic Foods’ recipe uses less sugar so that there is more fruit jammed into every jar, and that is why Streamline Jams taste so great. Made with no high fructose corn syrup and 30 percent less sugar than standard jams, the Scandic Foods process means that jams are expertly prepared to retain the natural flavors of the fruit.

Streamline Jams are heat-treated (pasteurized) and contain no preservatives, additives, artificial colors or artificial sweeteners. The all-natural jam line is also non-GMO. Streamline All Natural is a perfect choice for consumers who are conscious about healthy eating while still demanding great taste and the highest quality.

For information, call 281.348.2161, email, or visit

RiceSelect Introduces Three Exciting New Rice Blend Options

Rice SelectConsumers are constantly looking for alternatives to the same old side dishes. RiceSelect™, producers of well-known Texmati® rice, has introduced three new options – Royal Blend® with Chia, RiceSelect Arborio with Jalapeño and RiceSelect Arborio with Mushrooms.

These hearty, all natural, nutritious side dishes have distinctive flavors that will appeal to today’s savvy and health-conscious consumers. Delicious and easy to prepare, these tasty rice blends can be turned into entrée dishes simply by adding chicken, beef or another protein of choice. They are packed in the consumer-friendly signature RiceSelect resealable, recyclable, reusable plastic jars.

For more information on Rice Select head to

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