We take pride in the fact that our sauces do not undergo fermentation, a process commonly employed by most hot sauce makers to craft their recipes. In Part Two of this series, we will discuss the history of hot sauce and another famous condiment in America, as well as our choice not to use fermentation in our sauces.
In 1840, Edmund McIlhenny moved to Avery Island in southern Louisiana, where he was introduced to small chili peppers from the Tabasco region of Mexico. These peppers thrived in Avery Island's hot and sunny environment. Although the peppers were small, measuring only about 4 cm long, they packed a real punch in terms of heat. Avery Island, apart from being perfect for peppers, was also a salt dome that supplied salt to the U.S. During the Civil War, it even provided salt to the Confederate army until Union soldiers captured and blockaded further salt supplies to the southern soldiers.
After the war, McIlhenny had a passion for these hot peppers and an unlimited source of salt required for fermentation. He collected used whiskey barrels from liquor manufacturers and filled them with crushed Tabasco peppers and salt. The peppers were left to ferment for up to three years in Avery Island's hot climate before being mixed with vinegar and strained to create the final sauce. McIlhenny released his Tabasco hot sauce to the public in 1868, which must have been quite a curiosity at the time, considering that the American palate was predominantly bland, with nothing spicier than black pepper in most American pantries.
The popularity of Tabasco sauce led to the emergence of many other hot sauce makers, some of which have come and gone, while others are brands we all grew up with. Bernard F. Trappey Sr., who had worked at Tabasco, decided to create his own hot sauce in 1898, giving birth to Trappey's Louisiana Hot Sauce. Crystal hot sauce was introduced in 1923, and Texas Pete made its debut in 1929. Despite the name, Texas Pete was actually made by a barbecue restaurant in South Carolina. When searching for a name, the company founders decided to use "Texas" because the state was known for its spicy food influenced by Hispanic culture.
As these familiar hot sauce brands flourished, the American palate for spicy food continued to heat up. In addition to the growing popularity of hot sauce, Mexican and Chinese cuisines brought their love for spice to American tables. In fact, since 1992, Mexican salsa has outsold ketchup in the U.S., and other pepper-laced ethnic cuisines such as Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, and Korean have become more mainstream.
Since the late 1990s, small craft hot sauce makers have gained recognition. Building upon the Louisiana style of hot sauce, these makers have utilized other fermented hot peppers, introducing a completely new variety of hot sauces ranging from mild to insanely hot, and from savory to sweet. With Americans' increasing desire for spicier foods and a hot sauce industry offering a wide range of flavor profiles, hot sauces represent the fastest-growing segment of the American condiment market, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.9%—that's faster growth than BBQ sauce and rubs, mustard, and even America's former favorite condiment, ketchup.
So, if fermented condiments are so loved and selling so well, why doesn't Hoff & Pepper ferment their hot sauces? "The answer is quite simple," says our founder Aaron "Hoff" Hoffman. "We're just following in the footsteps of H.J. Heinz. He was a visionary who demanded the highest quality condiments with the freshest flavor possible. Heinz took a condiment that was previously fermented or had fermented ingredients and instead mixed fresh tomatoes and spices with vinegar, acidifying the ketchup to make it safe for storage while highlighting the freshness of the tomato. We, too, want to create the highest quality hot sauces and ensure that our fresh Tennessee-grown peppers are the centerpiece of our sauces, so Heinz was a natural example to follow."
Our numbers speak for themselves. We have experienced a 4,076% growth since our first full year of business, and last year we sold a total of $3 million. Our sauces are available in over 4,400 retail stores across all 50 states, and we have earned multiple awards. We hold the record for the most consecutive wins at the New York Hot Sauce Expo and have even appeared on Season 16 of Hot Ones on YouTube, reaching 11 million worldwide subscribers.
If you believe in using locally grown peppers and avoiding fermentation to create the highest quality, fresh pepper forward hot sauce on the market, maybe you should consider investing in Hoff & Pepper!