Thank you very much! I’m a bit reluctant to carry products available from Walmart, though. What I’m really looking for, mostly, are great products that have limited distribution.
Wow, I did not know they sold chili crisp at Walmart. Grumpy Grandma must be so happy.
Hi, everyone! I’m just back from a trip to San Francisco, where I attended the Fancy Food Show at the partially under-construction Moscone Center - my first Fancy Food Show. It was a very interesting experience. It’s easy to get sidetracked: I tried some outstanding 13-year Wisconsin cheddar, the best asiago cheese I’ve ever had (also, amazingly, from Wisconsin) and some delicious chocolate and toffee, but none of those are things the site will carry. My brother, who’s assisting with this project, and I concentrated on the purveyors of spicy and other savory condiments and sauces. For example, there is a man named Jake who makes barbecue and hot sauces, and we liked every one of them - here is his website. He was friendly and gave us the last two ribs he had cooked, so that we could have lunch. In fact, most of the purveyors we spoke with were nice, which is not surprising if you think of them as people who are passionate about food and delight in bringing people pleasure. Some other highlights were a Bavarian company named Essendorfer - I thought all their flavored pestos were delicious, so I’d like to carry some of them but have to make a decision about the scope of what we’re selling, at least at first. Another category of great condiments we tried were mustards. For example, there’s a guy from Wisconsin who makes an outstanding Fig Balsamic Mustard. He also makes a great lemon curd, in case we decide to carry sweet sauces sooner or later. We also spoke with an American woman who makes what she calls chile crunch - a chili oil-based sauce with crispy chili and garlic inside that made me think of Chilli Crisp, but I see that that sauce instead uses peanuts.
The scope of the items we will carry is one of the things that has to be decided on before launch. We’re currently planning on concentrating on spicy and savory sauces, though we might also include some dry spices or spice mixtures that are really outstanding. A propos, there was a vendor who had voatsiperifery for sale. We sniffed it and were very impressed. However, the wholesale price is very high, which is a consideration.
Also while I was in San Francisco, I tried a bunch of Japanese condiments my brother bought during trips to Japan. We can’t even read many of the labels, but quite a lot of the sauces were very good to excellent, well-balanced ones. My sister-in-law is Japanese, so either she may translate the labels or we can get someone else to do that. Then there’s the task of contacting the companies and finding out what the wholesale prices and minimum wholesale orders of the products are.
You might think that at a food conference, everyone stuffs themselves, but that’s not the case when you’re walking through every aisle looking for the best condiments and sauces you can find. It actually requires a lot of stamina to do business at the show when you’re scouting out whatever you can find in one or two categories, and someone who’s as focused as we were doesn’t eat more than small amounts of samples of extraneous products. On the afternoon of the last day, though, a lot of vendors give away large quantities of products, because they can’t take them back with them. So my bag almost broke that day, but mostly because of samples of hot sauces.
In the coming weeks, we will be trying more samples of sauces and condiments and getting more pricing and minimum order information. If you have any other ideas of particularly great spicy and savory condiments the site should carry, of course we’re all ears, and thank you for all your advice.
One thing we’re considering is whether to start off selling only spicy items (e.g. hot sauces) or both non-spicy/slightly spicy savory items plus spicy items. How would you advise us? Or to put it another way: What category of products are you more interested in? Spicy, savory or a mix of both?
For me, a mix of both would have the most appeal, as I don’t use many spicy products (bad stomach on my end) - but having access to a range of hot sauces and such, that I can offer to guests to doctor up their plates, would be good, as well as a resource for gifts.
Also, if you start off as purely spicy, that may affix your brand in the public’s mind as “source for spicy stuff” and if you choose to branch out in the future, then you might need to do rebranding.
@OP, what is your targeted audience? I was just reading an article yesterday about how the Japanese population in Lexington, Kentuck!!! has explodes over the last 30 or so years due to Japanese industries coming in. There are now super Asian markets there, as well as restaurants. Also have you checked out Amazon and if you’re going to be competing against them. Its rare that I can’t find something there. I joke that if I can’t find it there I probably don’t really need it. Not trying to be negative but I’d for you to lost a lot of money and time. Just my two cents.
I definitely have checked out Amazon. There are more items they don’t sell than you would think. Also, the breadth of Amazon precludes that site from being curated. Sure, there are reviews, but there’s no personal point of view reflected on the site and what it carries.
I would say that our target audience would be connoisseurs like you, who are interested in trying particularly delicious, interesting products that you might not have come across on your own.
In terms of the prevalence of Japanese or other East Asian markets, there are still very wide swaths of the United States and Canada where such a market is 100 miles away or more. In addition, some of the American companies that are making great products we’d like to carry have very little web presence and don’t have distribution to supermarkets or chain stores of any kind.
I think you’re right, and pretty much everyone I’ve spoken with has argued more or less strongly for a focus on both spicy and non-spicy savory products, so we’ll go with both.
Your point about branding is very well taken. We are in the process of selecting a site URL, so this is a very topical question for us right now.
Habanero-blackberry: not too sweet and only mildly spicy, one.of the best sweet chile preserves I’ve had.
Thank you. Sounds awesome! I notice they represent themselves on Facebook as a Jalisco company with only domestic distribution. Where do you purchase these preserves?
My friends got it somewhere around Guadalajara.
Excellent. Thanks for the great recommendation! I may need to eventually hire someone with better Spanish skills than us to communicate with them, but I will surely keep them in mind!
I went to the 6th Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo in Greenpoint, Brooklyn today with my girlfriend. It was a way different experience from the Fancy Food Show I had attended in San Francisco in January. The Fancy Food Show is an industry event to which the general public are pretty much excluded and people are looking to do a lot of wholesale business. The Hot Sauce Expo, which will continue in my absence tomorrow (technically later today, Sunday), is a public event that requires only $12 and change for tickets (and I believe $10 if paid in cash at the venue). It’s also specifically devoted to hot sauce (some alcoholic drinks, milk and bottled water are also available, as are barbecue, hot dogs and a couple of other food items, but they are sidelines), and loud though not ear-splitting heavy metal music plays from the “Stage of Doom” for most of the day.
More importantly, for my purposes, there was one absolutely phenomenal vendor, at least one other terrific one and several very good ones, among the larger number of ordinary ones and a few downright bad ones (if you’re going on the last day, please trust me and do not try the crab salsa!). The mix of vendors was quite interesting, with a good representation from New York and nearby states from Massachusetts to New Jersey, others from the South (one great one is from Florida and was in the far side of the room) and West and some international ones from Australia (who had a good gingery sauce) and England. My girlfriend also enjoyed the expo as a retail customer who tried most of the same sauces I tried and a few others and bought 3 sauces.
I’m still writing up my notes about the vendors, but definitely plan to use some products from some of the best ones who exhibited today.
At the end of the show, both of us had some beer from Lagunitas, one of the exhibitors, and a blessedly non-spicy Polish meal at a food store with tables called Polka Dot (my girlfriend also bought several items to go for her 2nd-generation Polish-American mother) and then walked down to Williamsburg to have some good hot chocolate and chamomile tea at Martha’s Country Bakery. I plan to lay off the spice tomorrow, too, but it was certainly a good afternoon and a very worthwhile trip to the expo.