Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Short, Amateur's Guide To Selling Hot Sauces

I love hot sauces. I love spicy food. I love the burn and the cooling sensation of endorphins flowing through my body, easing the pain. I also love to think up of business ideas.

Hot food is become more and more popular. Mexican. Indian. Thai. And so on. All of these ethnic foods are growing in popularity and their love for spice is following them into the upper realms of culinary acceptance.

Sadly, most people and most supermarkets are limited to jalapeno peppers or pickled hot banana peppers. Sure you've got some "spicy" ethnic sauces coming onto the market but hot sauce is like good music. The real good stuff is in the underground. It's the yet-to-be-discovered. It lives in small venues across the world. Thankfully, delicious and spicy hot sauces are at home on the net.

For review on thousands of hot sauces on the market, take a tour at the http://www.hotsauceblog.com/. These mad chilly heads test hot sauces, review them, give recipes and generally have a blast (both coming in and certainly going out ;). They provide information on how to get your hands on their reviewed hot sauces and much much more. The good thing about hot sauces is that they can be shipped and most hot sauce makers are set up for mail orders. Most hot shops are also set up to make deliveries (for my fellow Canadians, please see http://www.chillychiles.com/).

But if you're not one for flavourless internet shopping, your local hot shop is the best place to go. "But Pat," you say, "there aren't any hot shops in my area!" My answer to that would be that you've already got all the ingredients for an entrepreneurial venture. You like it hot and you want more of it.

So let's say we start small. You have two options: 1) visit every single hot sauce makers website and gather their wholesale information --- wholesale is the price retailers pay which they then mark up to sell to consumers; 2) process your orders through hot sauce wholesalers such as http://www.hotsaucewholesale.com/. The advantage with the second option is that these wholesalers can split cases. This means that you don't have to buy, say, 50 bottles of one hot sauce. Instead, you can order one of this, two of that, four of these, etc. At first you'll want to sample the market so split cases is the best place to go unless you want to make a trip to a hot sauce store and have the owners there guide you through your options. Regardless of how you choose to proceed, the important thing is that you want product knowledge without having to re-mortgage your house.

Once you know which hot sauces you'd like to sell (I suggest you start small and then build your way up), you need to decide where and how you're going to sell these. One great inexpensive option is to set up a booth at your local farmer's market. The fee shouldn't be very high and the advantage is that you get to speak to alot of people face to face, let them try out some sauces, and get your name out there. A farmer's market is where people go to see what's in season. They love food. They love making food. They love talking to people. At least that's the vibe at my market.

Once you've become comfortable with the basics of product knowledge, ordering, finances, and sales, you can either open a permanent hot shop, sell your hot sauces on a special rack at grocery stores (you'll need to make arrangements with the administration for this), open a mail order business, market your product at events and festivals, etc. etc. etc. The possibilities are endless. Heck, you could even create your own hot sauces and start bottling and selling them to the world. Visiting hot pepper festivals and making a name for yourself.

Whatever you want to do, hot sauces and the chileheads who love them are part of a very fun, unpretentious culinary world.

Here's a list of award winning and larger hot sauce maker websites:

OH! And if this blog entry has led to you starting your own store or making your own sauce, or anything, I wouldn't mind a free sample....really.....a small fee to pay for inspiration and business consulting....right.....be a pal...............


sylvia hernandez said...

everything looks good, you did pretty good putting this together, now let me ask you something, i have been making my own habanero sauce and i used to just give it away to my family, but now more and more people want it so i started selling it and not to brag but everyone tells me its the best, i would like for you to try it, to hear your opinion, so let me know how to get some to you. ill be waiting to hear from you..

Stone Spoon said...

Thanks Sylvia! What I would suggest for you to do is start peddling your product at hot sauce festivals. Go see people who know the business. In business you can usually either sell your idea for a fee or royalties(a recipe in this case) or market it yourself. Now there is no shortage of hot sauces on the market but if your's is as good as everyone tells you, then you might be on to something.

You can use the internet or yoru local farmer's market to start distributing your product. Then you can grow from there at your own pace.

Having a product bottled and distributed could be something of a pain in the rear if you're not an expert but that's where other hot sauce companies might come into play. Call one and make your proposition. They bottle and distribute and pay you royalties (a percentage on the amounts sold).

I hope this helps. And thanks for the offer of sending me some of your sauce but at the moment I've got about 16 bottles in my fridge that aren't going away very quickly ;) Maybe one day I'll find Mrs. Hernandez's Hot Habaneros on the shelves and then, well, then I'll have to BUY it.


Brian Theriot said...

My name is Brian Theriot, cajun, and we want to begin online sales about our new products and existing under www.castlestoneinn.net

we will add the word sauces to take you to the pages within our castlestone site related to sauces and sales.

Okay we want to sell online. Do you sell or should you sell 1 offs to people and is shipping included in the prices? I must bought a bottle of matouk's online and it was 5.99 out the door so I guess shipping is included. Is it best to have shipping included in the single bottle price?

Need help

Patrick Thibeault said...

Sorry for the ridiculously late reply Brian. I'm far from being an expert on sales but what I would suggest is contacting wholesalers and not selling your sauce directly to consumers. They would deal with the whole sales and distribution side of things. Then your site could just redirect them to the wholesaler. Hope this helps :)