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.
Hi, everyone! I’m probably overdue for an update, so here it is!
From Saturday, June 30 - Monday, July 2, I attended the Fancy Food Show at the humongous Javits Center in far west Midtown Manhattan. It was an immense show, and I spent a few hours on the first day and 7 hours apiece at the show on the second and third days.
There was huge international representation. For example, in the Italian section, which occupied two rows and then some, Cascina San Cassiano was one of the most outstanding vendors. I must have tried a dozen sauces and jams they make, and none of them was anything short of excellent. I also got to try a unique product, Peschiole al Tartufo Estivo, which are very small young green peaches without pits yet, lightly pickled in black truffle water, made by Savini Tartufi. And these are just two highlights from the Italian section.
Among the interesting American products were habanero pralines, which we may carry, and jams that are only slightly sweet and include tea in them. And then back in the international sections, there was the tomato sauce with mastic oil from Santorini, the fantastic smoked chili powder produced by the Mapuche Indians in Chile, the hot piri-piri sauces from Portugal…
Of course we can’t carry every product. Some companies require a 5-pallet minimum order for wholesale, other companies produce very good products that already have wide distribution, and others charge so much money for wholesale that we’d need to sell very expensive subscriptions to include their products (perhaps an option if there turns out to be a lot of call for that later). But there were quite a few very interesting products that we may be able to carry soon.
I had to leave town the morning after the end of the Fancy Food Show, and I am only now nearly done writing up my notes on vendors and products on spreadsheets and following up with questions about minimum wholesale orders, wholesale prices at different volumes, lead times and sometimes possible smaller sizes of sauces that normally come in large jars.
One thing that’s clear is that we will sooner or later - and probably sooner - be doing a lot of importation. We will almost definitely be importing from Japan, probably from Canada, and quite likely from some countries in Europe and South America. An excellent South African company is also in the mix, and of course we are very interested in leads some folks have given us on good bush tucker in Australia. If any of you have any insight into anything we should consider doing to make the process of importing easier and more effective, please let me know.
Other things we’ve been dealing with are purely related to starting a business: Applying to start an LLC (not too hard to do but requires a $200 payment to the state if you do it in New York, and then comes with an onerous publication requirement, to essentially advertise for 6 straight weeks in a daily and weekly newspaper of the government’s choice in the county where the LLC’s office is, although that can be in not-too-expensive Albany County if you use an agency), getting an Employer Identification Number from the IRS (also a simple process) and filling out more necessary forms. Opening a business bank account is another task that should be performed soon.
There’s more to say, but I have to get some sleep, as my other life as a musician beckons, with a 1.5-hour gig at a nursing home tomorrow (technically, this afternoon), a dress rehearsal on Tuesday and a rock concert on Thursday (if you’re interested in that, click here - I’m a guest artist and play on the title track of the new CD).
This stuff is great, it’s sort of ginger marmalade. I make a coconut milk-ginger sorbet with it.
Thanks for the suggestions, Sgee and Robert. That sorbet sounds awesome!