How to Bottle and Sell Your Own Sauce

Is your homemade hot sauce the best of the best? Learn how to turn that fun hobby into a lucrative business.


| June 13, 2012



Bowl-Of-Hot-Peppers

Consider the implications of your homemade hot sauce recipe as it relates to flavor, marketing, and future sales. Do you want it to be all-natural? How do you feel about salt? Does your sauce need thickening, and if so will you use a natural thickener? How do you feel about thickening your sauce with xanthan gum, which is a common thickening and stabilizing agent?

TARA DONNE

Add a shot of hot sauce to your favorite dishes, and spark a fire to thrill your taste buds. Make the hot sauce yourself, and you can boost the heat, try out different vinegars, play up a favorite spice, or adjust other ingredients to make a fiery condiment that’s truly your own. In Hot Sauce! (Storey Publishing, 2012), Jennifer Trainer Thompson offers everything you need to know about making hot sauces, and then gets you started with 32 recipes that span every style, from a three-ingredient Louisiana hot sauce to a Caribbean concoction redolent of tropical fruits and ginger. The following excerpt from the book’s appendix outlines the basics of how to bottle and sell your own sauce. 

Breaking Into the Homemade Hot Sauce Business

Many hot sauces begin as a homemade concoction, which grows into a legend among friends and family and eventually develops into a business that one hopes is lucrative. Maybe you run a restaurant, have a sauce that your customers crave, and decide to take the plunge and bottle it, to sell at the restaurant or to a wider audience. Or maybe you are a hot sauce collector, have tasted hundreds of sauces, and think you could make one that’s better. Perhaps you’re a computer programmer by day and an amateur sauce maker by night, you have been dreaming up culinary concoctions and think you’ve stumbled upon a great formula. Whatever your pathway to getting sauced, the first step is to come up with a recipe. There are several aspects to consider.

Test, test, test. Work on your recipe, refine it, change it, experiment with it. Take your time and really develop it. As Miracle Max said in The Princess Bride, “You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” Once you’re convinced that you’ve got a few great versions, invite friends whose palates you trust to come over for a tasting and some honest feedback. Perhaps you decide to serve three different styles of a sauce you love — one’s hotter, one has more curry, one has more ingredients. Set them out in bowls to test, and within each of those three categories, offer two or three versions (maybe one has a teaspoon of cinnamon, or mustard, while another doesn’t). Ask people to comment honestly; ask which sauce they’d buy for $5. Keep a careful log of comments and a record of what ingredient proportions went into each sample. Keep repeating these tastings, throwing out the versions no one likes, and asking strangers to taste them as well, until you hone in on a recipe that you and others think you can’t live without.

As you develop recipes, think about cost. I once came up with an awesome recipe for ginger-fig chutney, which I still adore; I make it every fall to give away as gifts. People love it. However, the price of the ingredients (fresh figs, fresh ginger) made the chutney prohibitive to bring to market. Plus, I could get fresh figs only in the fall. When tested using ground ginger, it wasn’t good, and dried figs didn’t work either. So the recipe died on the vine. If you make a sauce at home, say, with fresh artichokes, consider that you’ll want fresh artichokes (and what that implies in terms of cost and availability) when you bottle it, too.

Think about color. People will be turned off by an ugly sauce. Consider the five senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. I don’t recommend putting hot sauce in your ear, but you definitely want yours to have an appealing look, smell, texture, and taste.

Consider the implications of your homemade hot sauce recipe as it relates to flavor, marketing, and future sales. Do you want it to be all-natural? How do you feel about salt? Does your sauce need thickening, and if so will you use a natural thickener? How do you feel about thickening your sauce with xanthan gum, which is a common thickening and stabilizing agent?

al_2da_v1n13
9/30/2017 3:01:16 PM

Hey kev man, this is the best comment I've read all day. I was looking for information on how to break into the hot sauce business, and articles like this can be exciting but really misleading. And I hate to be misled. You shed a lot more light on the industry in your comment than anything in that article. You really seem like you know what you're talking about, and seem pretty passionate about it too. Which is great. How's the process coming along for ya? Any major tips or advice?


kev man
9/6/2017 12:12:11 PM

You completely ignored the fact that you need FDA certification (a $400 class) for Processing and Packing Acidified foods and you need your facilities registered and inspected by the FDA and State Department of Agriculture. Just a quick paragraph glossing over some sample questions to ask the health board or yourself is lazy work. This is actually the hardest and most important part of starting a food company-the legal regulations. You should have done the research and found out what questions to really ask and answer. This is partially right: "Nutrition labeling, for example, is not required to sell your product, but it matters to health-conscious buyers." Only if you are doing units less than 100,000 in a year or employs fewer than an average of 100 full-time . To qualify for this exemption the person must file a notice annually with FDA. Note that low volume products that bear nutrition claims do not qualify for an exemption of this type. And im citing source: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm053857.htm You don't mention: Suppliers FDA labeling requirements Lab testing for shelf life and nutritional content Schedule processing Taxes All you talk about is the fun part of a food business, like cooking, and making labels, and picking out bottles, and scoping out competition. The real work is complying with food safety standards. Even though you didn't include anything someone couldn't come up with themselves if they too 10 minutes to think about it while on the toilet, why not add links to supply companies, like where to get the bottles? You don't want to bother looking for on demand sticker companies and compare a few prices of standard sized labels for your readers? This article as written by someone with who has no idea how to break into the commercial hot sauce business. This is coming from a guy who is in the middle of going through the process. If she knew what she was talking about, she would follow up and and answer questions. Then again, most of the comments are SPAM. I guess trash attracts trash.


kev man
9/6/2017 12:12:01 PM

You completely ignored the fact that you need FDA certification (a $400 class) for Processing and Packing Acidified foods and you need your facilities registered and inspected by the FDA and State Department of Agriculture. Just a quick paragraph glossing over some sample questions to ask the health board or yourself is lazy work. This is actually the hardest and most important part of starting a food company-the legal regulations. You should have done the research and found out what questions to really ask and answer. This is partially right: "Nutrition labeling, for example, is not required to sell your product, but it matters to health-conscious buyers." Only if you are doing units less than 100,000 in a year or employs fewer than an average of 100 full-time . To qualify for this exemption the person must file a notice annually with FDA. Note that low volume products that bear nutrition claims do not qualify for an exemption of this type. And im citing source: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm053857.htm You don't mention: Suppliers FDA labeling requirements Lab testing for shelf life and nutritional content Schedule processing Taxes All you talk about is the fun part of a food business, like cooking, and making labels, and picking out bottles, and scoping out competition. The real work is complying with food safety standards. Even though you didn't include anything someone couldn't come up with themselves if they too 10 minutes to think about it while on the toilet, why not add links to supply companies, like where to get the bottles? You don't want to bother looking for on demand sticker companies and compare a few prices of standard sized labels for your readers? This article as written by someone with who has no idea how to break into the commercial hot sauce business. This is coming from a guy who is in the middle of going through the process. If she knew what she was talking about, she would follow up and and answer questions. Then again, most of the comments are SPAM. I guess trash attracts trash.


ohkevman
9/6/2017 12:12:00 PM

You completely ignored the fact that you need FDA certification (a $400 class) for Processing and Packing Acidified foods and you need your facilities registered and inspected by the FDA and State Department of Agriculture. Just a quick paragraph glossing over some sample questions to ask the health board or yourself is lazy work. This is actually the hardest and most important part of starting a food company-the legal regulations. You should have done the research and found out what questions to really ask and answer. This is partially right: "Nutrition labeling, for example, is not required to sell your product, but it matters to health-conscious buyers." Only if you are doing units less than 100,000 in a year or employs fewer than an average of 100 full-time . To qualify for this exemption the person must file a notice annually with FDA. Note that low volume products that bear nutrition claims do not qualify for an exemption of this type. And im citing source: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm053857.htm You don't mention: Suppliers FDA labeling requirements Lab testing for shelf life and nutritional content Schedule processing Taxes All you talk about is the fun part of a food business, like cooking, and making labels, and picking out bottles, and scoping out competition. The real work is complying with food safety standards. Even though you didn't include anything someone couldn't come up with themselves if they too 10 minutes to think about it while on the toilet, why not add links to supply companies, like where to get the bottles? You don't want to bother looking for on demand sticker companies and compare a few prices of standard sized labels for your readers? This article as written by someone with who has no idea how to break into the commercial hot sauce business. This is coming from a guy who is in the middle of going through the process. If she knew what she was talking about, she would follow up and and answer questions. Then again, most of the comments are SPAM. I guess trash attracts trash.


jdegannes
6/14/2015 4:26:03 PM

I have been sitting on a great Caribbean hot sauce recipe for quite a number of years. I sell it locally with great reviews and repeated customers. Many of the suggestions you listed - I did. But I have been struggling with marketing as well as pricing/finding actual labels (not name) and shipping hot-sauce individually can be very expensive. Do you have any suggestions as to how to get this product to outside customers? This article opened my eyes a bit but I am stuck!


Toby
5/21/2015 1:25:58 PM

Hi Everyone i have been developing a recipe for a hot chilli sauce for about 3 months and i would like to start bottelling soon, but i am not sure about how long it will keep on the shelf. Most of the sauces i have looked at at the supermarkets have some or other preservative. Can anyone give me any advice about preservatives. Any help will be greatly appreciated Regards Toby


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Imverysaucy
4/25/2015 10:08:44 AM

Hello, great article! i always think of people making sources in quality controlled spotless commercial kitchens, is the any info on kitchen hygiene, i know the obvious keeping countertops and utensils clean, but what abour wearing a hat , gloves, keeping bottles clean, do you have to steriilize the bottles in boiling water, do you add preservatives, or does the vinegar act like a preservative with the citric acid? i sure everyone is real scared about making sources that spoil quickly or worse someone getting sick, than the whole business is gone. Thanks Jack.


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james
9/1/2013 11:53:19 PM

Tonya, I live in So CA. What kind of sauce is it? Have you tried selling it at Farmers markets? Did you test it out really well and get some winners version? You might try local restaurants, or small local stores but make sure it looks professional, been inspected, clean, and safe. What kind of self life are we talking about, a few weeks or months?


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9/1/2013 11:51:50 PM

@Tonya, I live in So CA. What kind of sauce is it? You can email james_cc@hotmail.com or tweet @lightcandle. Have you tried selling it at Farmers markets? Did you test it out really well and get some winners version? You might try local restaurants, or small local stores but make sure it looks professional, clean, and safe. What kind of self life are we talking about, a few weeks or months?


james
9/1/2013 11:50:47 PM

@Tonya, I live in So CA. What kind of sauce is it? You can email james_cc@hotmail.com or tweet @lightcandle. Have you tried selling it at Farmers markets? Did you test it out really well and get some winners version? You might try local restaurants, or small local stores but make sure it looks professional, clean, and safe. What kind of self life are we talking about, a few weeks/months?


Tonya
9/1/2013 6:43:27 AM

I have my sauce. I believe in the sauce with all my heart. I’m just a stay at home mother hopping this could be our chance to live better. I can’t find a bottler near my house…I have deer light all in my eyes. Can anyone give my some advice on how to get my product out to the store? I don’t know anything about the preservative side either


Tonya
9/1/2013 6:43:24 AM

I have my sauce. I believe in the sauce with all my heart. I’m just a stay at home mother hopping this could be our chance to live better. I can’t find a bottler near my house…I have deer light all in my eyes. Can anyone give my some advice on how to get my product out to the store? I don’t know anything about the preservative side either






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