Re: [CH] consumer opinion

Jim Campbell (
Sun, 17 May 1998 21:44:13 +0000

Well, I've been waiting a bit to offer my two cents worth.  This might ramble 
some so you've been warned in advance.....  This will also be from the 
viewpoint of someone who is somewhere between doing this as a hobby and 
trying to make a serious go of it.

Many people complain about vinegar.  Unfortunately vinegar has simply too 
many advantages for it NOT to be used.  Many people shun artificial 
preservatives, artificial ingredients, and such and as a result shelf life 
becomes an issue.  Vinegar offers itself as a pretty good solution to 
producers.  It performs an excellent role as a preservative, and is fairly 
economical.  It is also said to be healthy for you.  Many an old timer has 
bragged to me about the health benefits of vinegar.  It is also mentioned 
extensively in my wifes' homeopathic medicine literature.  There are also a 
great many people that actually LIKE vinegar.  Economics is a major factor 
as well.  Using things other than vinegar either means 'artificial things' or 
relatively expensive ingredients.  The vast majority of the public is not 
going to pay for a $10.00 bottle of hot sauce.

I think that most people object to the flavor of vinegar.  This is pretty 
uderstandable.  Also, as a consumer myself, I object to paying big bucks for 
something that is mostly vinegar.  There are a lot of different ways to use 
vinegar and still not have the resulting sauce have that 'taste', except to the 
most sensitive.  

I also wonder about the 'big name' sauce vs the 'little guys'.  For theoretical 
example:  I sell a hundred of cases a year.  I'm now considered a small time, 
quality producer.  The sauce is well received and now everyone wants it.  The 
next year I produce thousands of cases and compete with Old El Paso.  I then 
become one of the dreaded 'mass producers'.  What's changed?  

Another contradiction in general comments is wanting to have a nicely 
labeled, high quality, good colored, multi-ingredient sauce, for $2.00 a bottle.  
Many of those things I have discovered are mutually exclusive.  It staggered 
me to find that I could spend more on a label FOR the bottle than I had in 
sauce IN the bottle.  How do you choose?  People will say to strike a balance, 
but that is a pretty subjective thing!  I believe it is what's in it, not what's on 
it that counts, but unfortunately that is not necessarily the best marketing.  

Taste is a pretty individual thing as well.  Someone else's 'truly horrid' might 
be a large group of others' 'to die for'.  I make what I like & I suspect that 
most of the others do as well.  I believe I'm almost to the point where I can 
tell what part of the country someone is from by their reaction to various 
things like sweet, vinegar, and fruit.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to 
market a suace that is all things to all people.  This is mostly due to our tastes 
becoming more educated and that is a good thing IMHO.

It is interesting (and rather telling about the money in this business) to note 
the number of people that make their living off of hot stuff.  There are 
really very, very few.  Most all of the big name sauce makers who I know 
have a primary job as well such as a restaraunt or chef.  As Luke has pointed 
out, better bargains are usually found by supporting these people directly.  
By the time they sell the sauce to a distributor, who in turn sells it to a 
wholesaler, who in turn sell it to a store, who in turn sells it to you, the price 
has gone up quite a bit.  Neither good nor bad, it's just the facts of life.

Gereral comments also mention quality ingredients.  It is sometimes scary to 
see what happen to you when trying to purchase ingredients in large 
quantity from the open market.  Growing your own is certainly the best way 
to go but that is not a cheap proposition and is fraught with difficulties of its' 
own!  I've been forced to plant as late as mid- July (when I normally start 
harvest!) and have been frozen out as early as mid-September.

As stated at the onset, this has rambled a bit.  I've tried to let you see a little 
more of what goes into a hot sauce in all of its' apsects.  As always, I certainly 
haven't intended to start any debates- just wanted to offer a little insight.

Hope this helps!

-Jim C  

I also got booted from the list server for a week or so, so I apologize if I've 
missed something I should have replied to.