Hot sauce is becoming more and more popular as a condiment and continues to show as being widespread throughout the globe. New varieties of hot sauce are become available everywhere and more and more people are entering the hot sauce business…successfully! Here are 18 tips to making hot sauce sales successful.
1. Know the sales price point
Knowing the price point of your hot sauce will allow you to make a profit without overpricing your hot sauce or going into debt because it is under priced. Research how similar products are priced and continually find ingredients and packaging at lower costs.
Don’t determine the price at which you want to sell your sauce before you have calculated the cost of making it. This could cause you to over price or under price your product and neither are good for a startup business.
Generally, a good price point for a 10-ounce bottle of hot sauce is between $5.00 and $10.00. Traditional hot sauces with a few simple ingredients are closer to, or under the $5.00 range but gourmet sauces that use expensive ingredients and complex process will be near the $10.00 range or more.
2. Use fresh peppers and ingredients
Dried peppers and spices can be stored for long periods of time, but fresh ingredients taste best. Even if you are putting peppers through steps of processing…fresh is best! Fresh ingredient will present themselves better in flavoring throughout the sauce.
While neither dried, fresh or pepper powder will preserve better than the other, using “fresh ingredients” is a great selling point. All forms of hot peppers are available but drying and crushing into powder is additional processing that just doesn’t need to be done.
3. Sample your sauce frequently
When I worked for a produce company, we would sample fruit from every box on every palette for ripeness and freshness. Even if you have a fool proof system of making, processing and packaging your sauce you should have some kind of quality control in place by sampling and tasting your sauce.
If you have a vendor who regularly supplies produce for your hot sauce than you may have a contract that specifically states when the product is to be delivered or you should at least expect it. This type of quality control can be addressed before purchases are made.
Taste samples should be made before and after bottling. Tasting raw ingredients for quality before it becomes sauce will save you having to discard an entire batch of sauce. If you have taken safety measures with the proper pH you still have to ensure it is sealed properly and this is another method of guaranteeing your sauce is ready to be shipped. Different stages of your sauce production will taste different and you should know the subtle nuances throughout the process.
4. Test the pH
Testing the pH of a sauce is very standard in the industry and can be related to quality control. You should have a target pH of about 3.4 and need to achieve that for every batch. The quantity of sauce will not alter the pH reading (if you have converted to the correct measurements) but temperature will.
This testing can be done in your kitchen or sent to a laboratory for more precise measuring. Testing meters can be purchased relatively inexpensively but lab testing will probably be more accurate. However, lab results can cost hundreds of dollars per sample where meters can be less than $20.00.
5. Let others try your sauce
Allowing potential consumers to sample your sauce is an excellent way to gather real research on the flavor, heat and general customer reaction of your hot sauce. You can start with friends and relatives at parties and add in colleagues or work associates.
If you are already set up at farmers markets and festivals this would be a great opportunity to introduce a new recipe or variation of a popular sauce to consumers who already love hot sauce. Always have crackers, breads or other substances that can absorb heat if consumers are not accustomed to hot sauce.
The larger the audience you are trying to reach with your samples, the costlier it can get. Consider it marketing and promotional methods but gather data if you can. Everyone loves free samples.
6. How to seal your sauce
You don’t want to sell bottles of hot sauce that are not hermetically sealed. Most start up hot sauce businesses will use a combination of a seal top and the hot and hold method to ensure safe packaging methods. If your sauce has a concentration of vinegar than this will certainly lower the pH and help with preservation. Additional shrink seals can also be applied to guarantee a tamper proof container.
Simply screwing a top on may prevent leakage but you will want to ensure longevity of your sauce. Shelf life testing can also be done in laboratories and will show your consumers you have done the research. Simple put…a consumer is not going to buy an open bottle of hot sauce.
7. Bottle type can make a sale
Some bottle shapes are instantly recognizable as condiments that represents what is inside of them. Hot sauce will commonly come in a standard 5 ounce, 10 ounce or 12 ounce woozy bottle and this makes it recognizable as a hot sauce. Custom made bottles or unique bottle shapes will certainly attract customers but will drive costs up substantially. Glass bottles can already be a significant amount of your operational costs so keeping these cost lowered can be very beneficial to operations.
Wide mouth bottles a great for thicker sauces, but these are typically identified as dressings or barbecue sauces. Maybe your unique brand of hot sauce is closer to this type of sauce and this bottle shape will work.
8. People won’t buy it
There is a small population of people who will buy your hot sauce simply because it is hot sauce. Spend equal efforts on marketing and advertising. Hot sauces are increasing in popularity but are usually driven toward a select audience and you need to know who they are. Work on the demographics of who eats hot sauce and market your sauce towards them.
Displaying hot sauce to the wrong population of people will make all of your efforts feel like a waste of time. Research shows that a large consumption of hot sauce is from increasing ethnic populations and males from 20 to 45 years old.
9. Labels sell
Providing a unique name for your sauce or an attractive label is an opportunity to visually display your product with the attention of making a sale. Label designs will not be nearly as expensive as custom bottles but can provide the same uniqueness to your product.
Label designs can be made through online graphics programs or graphic software and can be applied by hand or with relatively inexpensive equipment. This is common for entry level entrepreneurs, but you may want to also provide nutritional labeling along with product display labels. It shows professionalism and is required by the FDA if you are selling outside of your circle of friends or beyond farmers markets and festivals.
10. Have it tested for shelf life
The length of time that your product can stay fresh is valuable information to you and your customer. Costs can be between $500.00 and $800.00 for results and may require the submission of multiple samples. Shelf life testing, “best if used by” and expiration dates are not an FDA food label requirement.
Testing can be done to determine a “best if used by” date at most laboratories. This is another aspect of your product label that shows the customer a level of professionalism toward making a sale. It is also general information that is good to know about your sauce.
11. Prepare for low sales
Entrance into the hot sauce market is fairly easy compared to other products but any start up business can prove to be slow in the beginning. Prepare to spend most of your time and money on marketing or promoting your hot sauce product.
Set up operations to make and manufacture sauce at short notice if you get large orders. However, you may not want to produce cases of product in anticipation of sales, but good thing about many traditional hot sauces is the extended shelf life.
Consumers can be hesitant to purchase a new product, but this can happen in any type of business. It does not necessarily mean that your product doesn’t taste good…you are just not getting it in front of the right audience. There is a demand for hot sauce.
12. What food does it go with?
Pairing food with beverages such as beer and wine is very common. If you have a food that your product goes well with than communicate that to the consumer. There are many common foods that pair well with hot sauce such as tacos, burritos and other ethnic foods but maybe you have found a new food that pairs well with your sauce. Providing samples to customers at events would be a great way to introduce your paired items.
13. Find an inexpensive container
The packaging of your hot sauce can be over half the over all cost of making and selling your hot sauce, if you are using a simple combination of ingredients. Buying bottles in bulk or finding a less expensive vender will allow you to decrease production costs. Plastics will be much cheaper than glass but will need different packaging methods.
Smaller containers are not always less expensive than larger ones so determine the size you want ahead of purchasing. Always buy a few sample products to determine quality before you purchase cases or palettes. Sometimes inexpensive can mean a lower quality or lower grade in product.
14. Don’t try to outsmart the consumer
Mislabeling products or marketing deception will not take you very far in sales and can also be subject to fines, penalties and shutdowns. In recent years there have been consumer advocates educating people on their purchases.
Although purchasing a bottle of hot sauce is not always a huge investment most people who spend money know what they want to spend money on. Don’t mislead them. It will put you out of business very quickly, its unethical and illegal.
15. “Heat” of a hot sauce may be a good selling point but doesn’t always have to be
Many brands of hot boast about the amount of heat that their hot sauce has and that is commonly printed on the label. This is good advertising as this is the main reason why someone may be consuming hot sauce. Many independent producers list the SHU on the labels.
I don’t necessarily like the heat and that is not why I eat hot sauce. I love the flavor of different peppers and the pungent flavors that come with them. Adding other ingredients can decrease the heat as well and this should be presented on the label as being a mild sauce. This could be a selling point as well.
16. Know your competition
There are a lot of different hot sauces on the market, in stores and online. You may think your sauce is unique only to find that there is actually some similar sauces available. That’s OK but you need to know who they are, where they are available and how much they cost.
17. Expect to invest time and money with no return
This can be true of any start up business. Upfront costs may be equipment, supplies and marketing. Promoting your hot sauce is as important as the recipe and this can take more of your time and money than you may have expected.
18. Love what you are doing
Whether you are making sauce, bottling it, packaging, marketing it or promoting always love what you are doing. If you get to the point where you really loathe what you are doing it is time to re think you strategy and approach.