Re: [CH] consumer opinion

John Benz Fentner, Jr. (
Sat, 16 May 1998 05:37:31 -0400

Judith Stone wrote:

> I've been asked by a well-known national trade publication to do an
> article on consumer opinions about hot sauces.  I know all of you are
> experts in the field and would love to include your opinions in my
> article.  After all, you are the "top of the food chain" in the hot
> sauce business" as the editor put it and I know will make a great source
> for me.

Actually, most of us are the buzzards of the food chain...we'll try just
about anything that can be reduced to bite sized pieces at least
once...witness the threads on sphincters and grits. If somebody came up with
a recipe for Taxicab Salsa half the list would try it and half of those
would argue over the best variety of taxicabs to use. (The other half would
say it wasn't hot enough.)

> I would like to know what prompts you to buy one hot sauce over
> another.  What rings your chime,  so to speak.  It is taste, heat
> levels, color, labels, price, advertising, word-of-mouth, salesmen's
> advice or anything else that causes you to reach for that "special"
> bottle.  Also, if you don't mind, I'd also like to quote some of you in
> the article because I feel there is a great cross-section of people on
> the list.

Here in Darkest Noo England, where the usual selection in the supermarkets
runs the gamut from Durkee's to Tabasco (much as Dorothy Parker once said of
Katherine Hepburn that her performance ran the gamut of emotion from A to B)
we pretty much have to depend on word of mouth and mail order. In retail,
I'm much more likely to buy something that I can sample first.

I've found most of the sauces I really like from this mailing list. If one
of this bunch likes it, I probably will too. On the rare occasions when I
trip over something locally I buy based on the ingredient list, color and
consistency. In general I avoid anything that lists generic  "hot peppers"
or "chile peppers" and grab anything that lists "habaneros". Weird colors
(El Yucateco Green), ingredient separation or watery consistency turn me
off. Heat level isn't enormously important...a little hab powder can fix up
a mild but tasty sauce in short order. Occasionally I'll buy by brand name
if I like one one of their other products (Melinda's) or if they get good
reviews on the list (Walker's Wood).

I ignore advertising, salesmen's hype and label design. I've been burned, so
to speak, once too often by a "Blazingly Hot Nuclear Devastation Death
Sauce" that tasted like ketchup or burnt raccoon.  Price isn't a big
consideration if it's something I like but I do shop around on line for the
best prices or buy stuff I use a lot (like Bufalo Chipotle) by the case. A
sauce that is (a) good and (b) cheap, like Jim Campbell's Firey Habanero,
stands a much better chance of going into the regular rotation. (Hint to the
List: Next time you order from Jim, add a few bucks to the check and ask him
to send you a surprise...yee ha!)

All the usual disclaimers (although I'm susceptible to bribery)

John Benz Fentner, Jr.
Unionville, Connecticut, USA
"Lex Non Favet Delicatorum Votis"