history of hot sauce

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this is specifically about american hot sauces but i think reasonably applicable across the board.

two articles here. 

The History of Hot Sauce in America

Illustration by Jeremy Nguyen

Sriracha didn't start the fire

Matt Gross

January 04, 2019

Once upon a time, in 1830s New York City, a woman named Jane McCollick noticed a barefoot 11-year-old selling newspapers at Washington Market. McCollick had an idea for the “plucky young waif”: He should offer to clean up the meat scraps from the butchers and sell them to Indians in Hoboken. The kid, whose name was Seaman Lichtenstein, took her up on it and made one dollar the first day. He soon became McCollick’s ward, boarding with her, studying at night school, teaching her the bookkeeping tricks he learned, and eventually investing $600 in her food business.

With Lichtenstein as a partner, J. McCollick & Co. grew to become a manufacturer of—as one 1860 newspaper ad put it—“Pickles, Preserves, Sauces, Jellies, Jams, Catsups, Syrups &c.” Among those sauces was a hot sauce, technically a “bird pepper” sauce, likely made from chiltepins and sold in a hexagonal glass bottle. This wasn’t just any sauce, though—it’s the one of the oldest commercial hot sauces in America, and probably the oldest for which bottles (empty, sadly) still exist.

Today, this country is awash in hot sauce. From sea to shining sea, fiery condiments crown our every meal, transforming workaday eggs, chicken wings, and noodle dishes into incendiary delights. It seems like there’s always a new hot sauce debuting at a farmers’ market or Whole Foods, made from famous or obscure chili peppers. Those racks and racks of bottles fuel an industry that’s currently valued at $1.5 billion—and growing fast.

It was not, however, always this way. Cast your palate back just over a decade, and Sriracha, the so-called “rooster sauce” from California-based Huy Fong Foods, was still a niche player. Go back another decade or so, and you might not have tried anything fancier than Tabasco. In fact, the whole history of hot sauce in the United States isn’t much more than 200 years old—which is kind of odd, considering that people have been eating chili peppers for thousands of years. Here’s how it all went down.

Photo by Bob Levey via Getty Images

Long, Long Ago

The first thing to know about our now thoroughly chilified world is that chili peppers are native to the Americas. They originated in the wild in Bolivia and were spread throughout the continent by birds, which are immune to capsaicin, the chemical in chilies that makes them spicy. Chilies were first domesticated 7,000 to 9,000 years ago in what is now Mexico’s Tehuacan Valley. And like other New World crops (potatoes, beans, corn), chilies did not leave the Americas until the arrival of Christopher Columbus. That means no chilies in Indian, Thai, or Chinese food; no Spanish pimentón, no Hungarian paprika, no Tunisian harissa. Kimchi, if you can believe it, was white.

Even up north, past Mexico, there were no chilies. So when Europeans began colonizing North America, it wasn’t like they were ignoring abundantly growing chili bushes—they had to encounter chilies through other means, probably by importing them from Mexico, Brazil, and the Caribbean. And if early colonists and Europeans were freaked out by the tomato—they considered it poisonous into the 19th century—you can imagine how they might have reacted to the fiery pepper, its cousin in the nightshade family.

It wasn’t until 1807 that we have any record of hot sauces being manufactured in the United States, and even then the evidence is sketchy. Other hot-sauce histories, like this one by the great Dave DeWitt, cite Massachusetts city directories as bearing advertisements for bottled cayenne sauce. (I haven’t been able to find these ads yet.) Much of the other evidence comes from the bottles themselves, many of them featured in Betty Zumwalt’s Ketchup Pickles Sauce, a book that catalogs many rare collectibles, such as Bergman’s Diablo Peppersauce from Sacramento, California.

The American hot sauce business really picks up in the years leading up to the Civil War. While Jane McCollick was bottling her bird-pepper sauce up north, down south a new pepper was gaining popularity: the Tabasco, whose earliest known crops were planted in 1849 by Colonel Maunsel White on his Deer Range Plantation in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

“It is exceedingly hot,” wrote the New Orleans Daily Delta in 1850, “and a small quantity of it is sufficient to season a large dish of any food. Owing to its oleaginous character, Col. White found it impossible to preserve it by drying; but by pouring strong vinegar on it after boiling, he has made a sauce or pepper decoction of it, which possesses in a most concentrated form, all the qualities of the vegetable. A single drop of the sauce will flavor a whole plate of soup or other food.”

Tabasco peppers plus vinegar—sound familiar? It should, because the next decade, in 1868, White’s fellow Louisianian Edmund McIlhenny started doing something very similar, mashing up Tabasco peppers with salt, aging them in wooden barrels, mixing them with vinegar, and selling this sauce in dropper-like bottles.

Photo by Omar Torres via Getty Images

The Tabasco War

The battle over who invented Tabasco sauce is a contentious one, to say the least. White’s supporters say he should get credit, claiming that McIlhenny’s brothers-in-law were dinner guests at White’s plantation and McIlhenny may even have acquired his seeds from White. The McIlhenny side disputes all this, pointing out that the term “Tabasco” (and “Tobasco”) had broad usage at the time. The word could have referred to any pepper from Mexico’s Tabasco state, or even, according to this article, to non-pepper ingredients from the same terrain. McIlhenny historian Shane K. Bernard has pointed out that White’s sauce was boiled in vinegar, while McIlhenny’s was fermented. To me, it seems like a weird dispute, as the “secret recipe” here is rather basic. Whether fermented or boiled, chili peppers, salt, and vinegar are the building blocks of almost every hot sauce. Neither McIlhenny nor White should get credit for that.

Still, “The Tabasco War,” as journalist Amal Naj dubbed it in his 1992 book Peppers, raged over most of the next century. As the McIlhenny Co.’s Tabasco sauce grew in stature and market share, even inspiring the Boston-based composer George W. Chadwick to write a Tabasco-themed burlesque opera, it came into conflict with other sauce-makers who labeled their products “tabasco sauce.” And those conflicts wound up in court—for a long, long time. “After five decades of acrimonious court battles in Galveston, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, and New Orleans,” Naj wrote in Peppers, “McIlhenny Co. mysteriously emerged in 1948 as the winner in the Louisiana courts after a string of defeats in other parts of the country. The tabasco pepper then disappeared from the public domain and became, in effect, a proprietary item: only McIlhenny had the right to call a sauce made from tabasco peppers a tabasco sauce.”

In the ensuing decades, McIlhenny used the 1948 court order to smite its rivals—or buy them out. By the 1950s and 1960s, when the McIlhenny Co. started advertising its product nationally, Tabasco was nearly to hot sauce what Kleenex was to facial tissue: the default. Even its competitors, like Crystal, were making essentially the same style—one type of pepper (let’s not name it), heavy on the vinegar.

Photo by Jeff Greenberg via Getty Images

The Modern Era

It wasn’t until the early 1980s that hot sauce in America began to evolve again. That’s when Chip Hearn, whose family had run restaurants on the Delaware shore for decades, decided he wanted his own hot sauce. At the time, there was little infrastructure available to amateur hot-sauce makers. There wasn’t much in the way of ingredients or experienced co-packers to manufacture your product. “There was nobody that would make what we wanted,” said Hearn, who now runs the enormous Peppers.com.

He got in touch with Louisiana’s Baumer Foods, parent company of Crystal hot sauce, and made them an offer they couldn’t refuse: “I’ll prepay you to give me your sauce without labels,” he said. Hearn then relabeled them “Dewey Beach Fire.” He had his own hot sauce at last.

Hearn was not alone. Other restaurateurs were making their own versions of regional sauces and selling them at their restaurants. Around the same time, new hot sauce styles were emerging in California. In 1971, Jose-Luis Saavedra started making Tapatio in Maywood, California, and in 1980 Vietnamese immigrant David Tran founded Huy Fong Foods and created Sriracha. Mexican-style salsas like Pace Picante and Old El Paso were now occupying supermarket shelves and airing TV commercials.

In 1988, Dave DeWitt, who’d started Chile Pepper magazine with friends, put on a conference—the Fiery Foods Show—that drew 47 exhibitors and about 500 visitors to downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico. It may have been small, but for hot-sauce lovers like Hearn, it was transformative, the beginning of a movement.

“We all went down there not even knowing that all these other nuts were just as nutty as we were!” Hearn said. “It’s what put everybody together.”

The next decade saw dozens of new hot sauces hit the market, from imports like Melinda’s and Cholula to home-grown labels like Tiger Sauce and Ring of Fire. But what really defined the 1990s was the arrival of ultra-hot concoctions like Dave’s Insanity Sauce and Blair’s Death Sauce. Both were created to get rid of unwanted restaurant patrons late at night, and both were unexpected hits. Dave’s Insanity was so hot—about 90,000 to 250,000 Scoville units, thanks to the addition of chili extracts—that it was banned from the Fiery Foods Show, which only increased its cachet.

Their success begat a wave of imitators, who often cranked up the heat by using extracts, which is now frowned upon. They also pushed the boundaries of taste. This was the era when it became standard practice to use the word “ass” in your hot sauce’s name and depict flames shooting out of a butt on your label. It was cute the first time I saw it as a teenager, but the joke quickly wore thin. Still, these were the hot-sauce makers keeping the business going back then. Questionable aesthetics aside, they laid the groundwork for today.

Photo courtesy of @queenmajestyhotsauce

The Golden Age

About a decade ago, things suddenly accelerated in the hot sauce world. Every week, it seemed, new hot sauce companies were starting up, some doing variants on traditional styles, others innovating with fruits, or experimenting with new ultra-hot strains like ghost peppers, Trinidad Scorpions, and the Carolina Reaper, which was anointed the world’s hottest pepper in 2013. In 2012, hot sauce was even being called the 8th fastest-growing industry in the country, just behind “social network game development." How did this happen?

One theory has it that when the 2008 recession put a lot of guys out of work, they turned to making hot sauce professionally. After all, it requires little startup capital and produces a relatively quick return (if it’s good). But when I asked around, I couldn’t find any significant hot-sauce makers who’d started out for that reason.

Chip Hearn suggested that one change was the resurgence of farmers’ markets across America. Once they began to be everywhere, the men and women who’d developed a sideline in making sauces at home suddenly had a way to sell their wares that didn’t involve finding a distributor or broker.

“Instead of just selling to their friends and people at the office,” Hearn said, “they could take seven cases to the farmers’ market and sell them in one day.”

The flip side is that farmers have also been growing a far broader variety of peppers that can go into sauces. Two years ago, Evolutionary Organics, outside New York City, was growing 105 different strains of peppers. With great raw ingredients at hand, it’s no wonder people are inspired to create new hot-sauce flavors.

Perhaps even more important, Americans’ tastes are changing. Much of that is due to a few generations of immigration from places where chilies are a centuries-old component of the cuisine. (Huy Fong Foods, for example, doubled its share of the market, from 4.9% to 9.9% in the last three years.) But it’s also, I believe, a result of the foodie-ization of America. Everyone from Boston and Baton Rouge to Boise and Bakersfield wants to eat well, and hot sauces are an easy, affordable way to experiment, whether you want a hit of bacon in your sauce or the bitterness of coffee.

The way I see it, America’s hot sauces today fall into one of roughly three categories:

1. Immigrant Sauces: These are relatively faithful re-creations of sauces from the old country, like Sriracha, Tapatio, or the sambals from Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen.

2. Heavy Metal Sauces: The inheritors of the 1990s traditions, with over-the-top graphics and even-more-over-the-top heat. They’re in your face, adorned with flames, and—more often than not—tasty as hell.

3. Foodie Sauces: Latter-day restaurant chefs are pretty much freed from convention, and that sensibility has found its way into hot sauces as well. Expect unusual ingredients (activated charcoal, black garlic) mixed with precision and quirky graphic design.

As for the future, I have no idea what it holds. Can the hot-sauce business continue to grow at a furious rate? What new flavors and styles are on the horizon? My hope is that those three hot-sauce sectors will cross over and influence one another, producing spicy new surprises. At the very least, things will be anything but mild.



A Brief History of U.S. Commercial Hot Sauces

Dave DeWitt December 27, 2008 Chile History, Making Salsa and Hot Sauce Leave a Comment

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by Dave DeWitt and Chuck Evans 


Much of what we know about now-extinct brands of hot sauces comes from bottle collectors. There is not a great body of material on the subject of collectible hot sauce bottles, but we are indebted to Betty Zumwalt, author of Ketchup, Pickles, Sauces: 19th Century Food in Glass, who dutifully catalogued obscure hot sauce bottles found by collectors. Many bottles in the hands of collectors were uncovered from archaeological digs and shipwrecks.

Other sources of information about early hot sauces are city directories, which often contained advertisements for sauces, and newspapers. We know from these sources that the first bottled cayenne sauces appeared in Massachusetts around 1807. These were probably homemade and similar to the English sauces with the silver labels. Sometime between 1840 and 1860, J. McCollick & Company of New York City produced a Bird Pepper Sauce in a large cathedral bottle that was nearly eleven inches tall! This sauce is significant because it was probably made with the wild chiles called chiltepins or bird peppers. We also know that in 1849, England’s Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce was first imported into the United States via the port of New York.

That year was also important in the history of hot sauces because it marked the first recorded crop of tabasco chiles, the vital ingredient of McIlhenny Company’s Tabasco Pepper Sauce. That crop was grown by a prominent Louisiana banker and legislator, Colonel Maunsell White on his Deer Range Plantation. The New Orleans Daily Delta printed a letter from a visitor to White’s plantation, who reported, “I must not omit to notice the Colonel’s pepper patch, which is two acres in extent, all planted with a new species of red pepper, which Colonel White has introduced into this country, called Tobasco red pepper. The Colonel attributes the admirable health of his hands to the free use of this pepper.” Tobasco was an early misspelling of Tabasco, the Mexican state.


Colonel White manufactured the first hot sauce from the “Tobasco” chiles and advertised bottles of it for sale in 1859. About this time, he gave some chiles and his sauce recipe to a friend, Edmund McIlhenny, who promptly planted the seeds on his plantation on Avery Island.


Colonel White manufactured the first hot sauce from the “Tobasco” chiles and advertised bottles of it for sale in 1859. About this time, he gave some chiles and his sauce recipe to a friend, Edmund McIlhenny, who promptly planted the seeds on his plantation on Avery Island. McIlhenny’s horticultural enterprise was interrupted by the Civil War and invading Union troops from captured New Orleans. In 1863, McIlhenny and his family abandoned their Avery Island plantation to take refuge in San Antonio, Texas.

When the McIlhenny family returned to Avery Island in 1865, they found their plantation destroyed and their sugar cane fields in ruin. However, a few volunteer chile plants still survived, providing enough seeds for McIlhenny to rebuild his pepper patch. Gradually, his yield of pods increased to the point where he could experiment with his sauce recipe, in which mashed chiles were strained, and the resulting juice was mixed with vinegar and salt and aged in fifty-gallon white oak barrels. In 1868, McIlhenny packaged his aged sauce in 350 used cologne bottles and sent them as samples to likely wholesalers. The sauce was so popular that orders poured in for thousands of bottles priced at one dollar each, wholesale, which was quite a bit of money in those days.

mcilhenny-label.jpg  In 1870, McIlhenny obtained a patent on his Tabasco Brand (as it was now called) hot pepper sauce and by 1872 had opened an office in London to handle the European market. The increasing demand for Tabasco sauce caused changes in the packaging of the product as the corked bottles sealed with green wax were replaced by bottles with metal tops. Around this same time, a cookbook entitled Mrs. Hill’s New Cookbook, by Annabella Hill of Georgia, contained an interesting recipe for barbecue sauce that contained butter, mustard, vinegar, black pepper, and red pepper–almost certainly cayenne. So it is evident that there was a general tradition of home cooking with hot sauces in the South. Mrs. Hill also included a recipe for a curry sauce using prepared curry powder.

From an excavated wreck of the good ship Bertrand, dated 1874, we know that Western Spice Mills of St. Louis was making hot sauce around that time because 173 of their bottles were uncovered. That same year (some say 1875), Eugene R. Durkee of Brooklyn, New York, applied for a patent on a hexagonally-shaped “Chilli Sauce” bottle. Although the patent application survives, no actual bottle has ever been found, but E.R. Durkee & Company became a rather large spice and condiment company and the brand name exists to this day. Around this same time, W.K. Lewis & Co. in Boston was producing a pepper sauce in a square cathedral-shaped bottle.

In 1877, Willam H. Railton, a Chicago businessman who owned the Chicago Preserving Works, began using a maltese cross-shaped label for table sauces “prepared from a Mexican formula.” He applied for a trademark in 1883, and by 1884 he was buying large ads for his Chili Colorow Sauce. Interestingly enough, although it was a “chili” sauce, the advertising copy claimed: “It is expressly suitable for family dining, possessing a fine, rich body of exquisite flavor and has neither the fiery nor nauseous taste which characterizes most sauces.” With a typical nineteenth century patent medicine pitch, the copy went on to claim: “It relieves indigestion and cures dyspepsia. Physicians recommend it highly.”

During the 1880s and ’90s, several hot sauces sprang up, including C&D Peppersauce, manufactured by Chace and Duncan in New York City in 1883, but we have nothing left but the bottle. Sometime around 1900, the Bergman and Company Pioneer Pickle Factory in Sacramento, California, began selling Bergman’s Diablo Pepper Sauce in five-inch tall bottles with narrow necks that resembled the typical hot sauce bottle of today.

From hot sauce bottle collectors we know that Koonyik Chilies Sauce appeared along the west coast of the United States around 1900. About the same time, a Detroit company, Horton-Cato, manufactured Royal Pepper Sauce in a bottle with a bulbous bottom. And sometime shortly after 1889, Heinz produced Heinz’s Tabasco Pepper Sauce in a elegant bottle; but alas, even Heinz couldn’t compete with the “real” Tabasco sauce.

After the death of Edmund McIlhenny in 1890, the family business was turned over to his son John, who immediately inherited trouble in the form of a crop failure. John attempted to locate tabasco chiles in Mexico but could not find any to meet his specifications. Fortunately, his father had stored sufficient reserves of pepper mash, so the family business weathered the crisis. However, that experience taught the family not to depend solely upon tabasco chiles grown in Louisiana. Today, tabascos are grown under contract in Honduras, Colombia, and other Central and South American countries, and the mash is imported into the United States in barrels.

John McIlhenny was quite a promoter and traveled all over the country publicizing his family’s sauce. “I had bill posters prepared,” he once said, “and had large wooden signs in the fields near the cities. I had an opera troupe playing a light opera. At different times I had certain cities canvassed by drummers, in a house-to-house canvass. I had exhibits in food expositions, with demonstrators attached. I gave away many thousands of circulars and folders, and miniature bottles of Tabasco pepper sauce.”

In 1898, another Louisiana entrepreneur (and former McIlhenny employee) named B. F. Trappey began growing tabasco chiles from Avery Island seed. He founded the company B. F. Trappey and Sons and began producing his own sauce, which was also called “Tabasco.” The McIlhenny family eventually responded to this challenge and a several decades-long feud by receiving a trademark for their Tabasco® brand in 1906.

The trademark did not deter other companies from using the name Tabasco in their products. In 1911, the Joseph Campbell Company began selling Campbell’s Tabasco Ketchup and described it as “the appetizing piquancy of Tabasco Sauce in milder form.”

Obviously noticing the success of McIlhenny’s Tabasco® Pepper Sauce, other companies sprang up all over the country. Charles E. Erath of New Orleans began manufacturing Extract of Louisiana Pepper, Red Hot Creole Peppersauce in bottles nearly eight inches tall in 1916. A year later, La Victoria Foods began manufacturing Salsa Brava in Los Angeles, California.
The 1920s were a big decade for Louisiana-style hot sauce.  In 1920, in New Iberia, pepper farmer Adam Estilette and Jacob Frank combined forces to produce Frank’s Louisiana RedHot Sauce.  In 1923, Baumer Foods began manufacturing of Crystal Hot Sauce and in 1928 Bruce Foods started making Original Louisiana Hot Sauce.  All three of these brands are still in existence today.

The Louisiana hot sauce boom continued when, in 1929, Trappey’s expanded to two plants, one in Lafayette and one in New Iberia. That same year, the McIlhenny family won a trademark infringement suit against the Trappeys. From that time on, only the McIlhenny sauce could be called “Tabasco,” and competitors were reduced to merely including tabasco chiles in their list of ingredients. The two companies had competed with identically named sauces for thirty-one years.

la-victoria-bottle.jpg Undoubtedly because of the Wall Street collapse and the Great Depression, no hot sauce start-ups were uncovered during our research for this article until the start of World War II. In 1941, Henry Tanklage formed La Victoria Sales Company to market a new La Victoria salsa line. He introduced red taco sauce, green taco sauce, and enchilada sauce–the first of their kind in the United States. He took over the entire La Victoria operation in 1946, which today has ten different hot sauces covering the entire salsa spectrum, including Green Chili Salsa and Red Salsa Jalapeña.


In Texas, salsa manufacturing began in 1947. David and Margaret Pace operated a small food packing operation in the back of their liquor store in San Antonio. They were manufacturing syrups, salad dressings, and jellies and sold their products door-to-door. David, by trial and error, began to make picante sauce and test it on his friends. When it was introduced commercially, it was so popular that the Paces were forced to drop all other products and concentrate on the picante sauce. But the salsa business was not easy.

“In ’47 my sauce bottles exploded all over the grocery shelves because I couldn’t get the darned formula right,” said David Pace in 1992. “In the ’70s, the business exploded when the hippies came along. No question but this health stuff made the whole category explode, and it just tickles me to see these people take the ball and run with it.”

During the ’40s and ’50s, hot sauces were sold exclusively in small grocery stores, and manufacturers were always searching for new products.  In 1955, La Preferida began manufacturing a line of salsas. That same year, incidentally, the first McDonald’s opened.  And in 1958, Cajun Chef, a cayenne-based Louisiana hot sauce, was launched in St. Martinville by the family of George Bulliard.

The 1960s saw the rise of ready-to-eat products such as TV dinners, supermarkets gaining ground over the small, neighborhood grocery stores, and the increasing fascination with all things “gourmet.” Gourmet magazine, which had launched in 1941, and Bon Appetit, launched in 1955, became the arbiters of American food tastes. But where could one find the exotic ingredients for the many of the recipes that appeared in those magazines? Cheese shops were the only incarnation of what would later become gourmet shops, and they were rare. “In California,” wrote food historian Evan Jones, “cooks who bought esoteric ingredients did so mostly through mail order. Stores making and selling fresh pasta were unheard of.”

A wave of food change swept the country in the 1970s. Sometimes called the “whole foods movement,” the trend emphasized cooking with fresh, unadulterated ingredients. Vegetarianism increased in popularity, health food stores sprang up all over, and a new concept in selling food was launched–the gourmet retail shop, which specialized in selling exotic, imported foods and products from smaller manufacturers that were not available in the large supermarkets. The stage was set for yet another boom in hot sauces, and this one was led by the smaller manufacturers.

In 1972, Renfro Foods of Fort Worth, Texas, in business since 1940, acquired the recipes of Ole Foods and launched a salsa line that has national distributions today. In 1975, Patti Swidler of Tucson, Arizona launched Desert Rose Salsa, a line that was specifically designed to be sold in the specialty food shops. When her business took off, the reporters came calling and Patti told them bluntly, “People are making salsa that is no longer salsa. I still find people gravitate toward authentic flavors.”
Four years later, in Austin, Texas, Dan Jardine began production of Jardine’s commercial salsa, perhaps starting Austin’s reputation (disputed by San Antonio) as the hot sauce capital of America. “Austin is a unique place in the United States,” he said. “There seems to be a lot more salsa companies trying to start here.” A count by Austin American-Statesman food editor Kitty Crider in 1993 totaled forty-eight Austin-made salsas.

Another Texas company, the El Paso Chile Company, was started in 1980 by W. Park Kerr and Norma Kerr. “When my mother and I started the El Paso Chile Company,” Park said, “adding cilantro to a basic salsa was considered innovative. Three years later, we came out with cactus salsa—which has two kinds of green chiles and diced prickly pear cactus–and everyone thought that was weird. Now everyone has knocked it off.”

New salsas and hot sauces began springing up all over the country and some manufacturers went for both the gourmet and supermarket customers. Datil peppers (a milder relative of the habanero) and homemade sauces including them have existed for centuries in St. Augustine, Florida. In 1981, Chris Way opened Barnacle Bill’s in St. Augustine, a fresh seafood restaurant, and he soon made a hot sauce with the datil peppers to serve with his fish and other seafood specialties. Each table had its own jar of Dat’l Do It sauce, but they began disappearing at an alarming rate.

Way soon realized that his best customers were stealing the bottles of hot sauce. But then he reasoned that they had to steal it—because he had never offered it for sale! About this same time, Chris was approached by one of his customers, who happened to be a vice president of Wynn-Dixie, a huge supermarket chain. He liked the Dat’l Do It sauce, he said, and if Chris was willing to upgrade his packaging, the Wynn-Dixies would carry it. So was born the Dat’l Do It Company, which now has many products.

Between the years of 1982 and 1987, Mexican sauce sales jumped sixteen percent, and Mexican sauces suddenly were at the top of the sauce and gravy category. In 1983, Panola Pepper Company in Lake Providence, Louisiana, began with 2,000 gallons of sauce made by Bubber Brown from his mother’s recipe. That same year, Frank’s Red Hot® Cayenne Pepper Sauce was re-introduced by Durkee-French in an advertising blitz; Red Hot® would eventually challenge Tabasco® for U.S. market share.

Also in 1983, Huy Fong Foods launched their hand-processed Pepper Sate Sauce, believed to be the first Asian-style sauce to be manufactured in the U.S.  Eventually, the company came out with Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce in a squeeze bottle, which became their trademark product.  In 1985, Luther and Chip Hearn founded Peppers to distribute and retail hot sauces, including their own brands.  Later, Peppers became a major distributor of products to the Fiery Foods Industry.  And to prove just how far afield salsa manufacturing had gone, in 1986 Miguel’s Stowe Away in Vermont launched a salsa line.

In April, 1986, Sauces & Salsas, Ltd. began manufacturing the Montezuma® brand of hot pepper sauces and salsas in Columbus, Ohio. The company was founded by coauthor Chuck and over the years established one of the most diverse lines of chile pepper sauces in the world, including the nation’s number one brown sauce, Smokey Chipotle®.

In 1987, Pace was peeved at Pet over picante packaging. The largest salsa producer, Pace Foods of San Antonio, sued its biggest competitor, Pet Food’s Old El Paso. Pace claimed Pet had imitated its label, the shape of the bottle, and even its slogan. Pace’s slogan was “Pick Up the Pace,” while Pet’s Old El Paso slogan was “Pick of the Picantes.”


Pace should have been even more upset at Rosarita’s Salsa.  Their slogan was: “Enjoy a change of pace.” Pace and Pet settled out of court in January, 1988, after Old El Paso agreed to change the bottle and label. Pace also launched its famous national television campaign against its rival, where the cowboys mock the “made in New York City” attributes of an imaginary rival sauce. The campaign caused Pace to gain major market shares in the Midwest; coauthor Chuck reports that Pace Picante Sauce hurt his Montezuma® sauces and became number one in the Ohio market.

In 1987, Pace saw a major rival enter the fray as Geo. A. Hormel & Co. licensed the restaurant’s name and introduced Chi-Chi’s brand; it would eventually capture a large share of the market. The same year, Robert Spiegel, Dave DeWitt, and Nancy Gerlach founded Chile Pepper magazine, which would become the major national publication to feature hot sauces, their recipes, and advertisements for many manufacturers, large and small.


The following year, Lisa Lammé opened Le Saucier in Boston; it is believed to be the first retail shop devoted to sauces and specializing in hot sauces. Macayo Foods of Phoenix introduced a line of taco sauces in plastic pourable bottles that same year, and the first National Fiery Foods Show was held in El Paso. That show, which started with a mere thirty exhibitors, would expand to 250 exhibitors in 1996, showcasing hundreds and hundreds of brands of sauces and salsas along the way.

Thirty-five sauce manufacturers in Louisiana were producing about a hundred different brands of hot sauce in 1989, and that same year the first two U.S. chipotle sauces were launched by manufacturers. Coauthor Chuck began selling Montezuma® Smokey Chipotle®, and San Angel Autentica Salsa Chipotle was produced by San Angel Mexican Foods in Stowe, Vermont; Don Peet and Manelick de la Parra were the founders. Over in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Chris Schlesinger of the East Coast Grill began manufacturing his Inner Beauty hot sauce, which resembled a Barbadian or Trinidadian sauce. He made it specifically for chileheads, he said. “That’s the kind of person who likes roller coasters, fast cars, and stays up late looking for excitement in his life. It’s benign masochism…they experience danger without actually having it.”

In 1989, Greg and David Figueroa introduced Melinda’s Original Habanero Pepper Sauce to U.S. chileheads, and the habanero mania began.  Hundreds of brands of other habanero sauces were manufactured in the years that followed, but Melinda’s is still the number one brand of sauce featuring that chile.

Between 1985 and 1990, Mexican sauce sales grew seventy-nine percent; between 1988 and 1992, the percentage of American households buying salsa increased from 16 percent to 36 percent.  And despite the claims of Austin, the real Mexican sauce capital of the U.S. is Los Angeles, which gobbled up 3.3 million gallons of it in 1990. This appetite was due to numerous immigrants living in east and central parts of the city and salsa’s enormous supermarket appeal.

In 1990, Pace Foods sent 2,000 bottles of their Pace Picante Sauce to U.S. troops in the Saudi Arabian desert. “Many of the soldiers complain about their bland C-rations,” said president Rod Sands. The following year, the first Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Contest was held at the Travis County Farmer’s Market. It was billed as Austin versus San Antonio. “San Antonio hot sauce is world famous,” said Mike Hood of the San Antonio Current, “while Austin makes designer sauce for yuppies.” Robb Walsh of the Chronicle fired back: “San Antonio sauce is like Christmas, it only comes in red and green.” Austin won the competition, and the contest now has entries from all over the country.

By 1992, the top eight salsa manufacturers were, in order: Pace, Old El Paso, Frito-Lay, Chi-Chi’s, La Victoria, Ortega, Herdez, and Newman’s Own. Pace owned 32.3 percent of the market, according to a study by Information Resources, Inc., and published in The New York Times. The market share figures change when different sources are consulted, but Pace is always in the lead. Pace spent $10 million in advertising in 1992 to maintain that lead, outspending Pet Foods’ $5 million for the Old El Paso sauce lines.


That same year fifty new salsa products were introduced in Texas alone, including new brands or additional products by established brands. By 1993, competition from the smaller salsa companies was so fierce that Pace, Old El Paso, and a total of six of the top ten brands saw Texas sales decline three percent from the year before. During the first seven months of 1993, according to New Product News, 147 new salsa products were introduced, including Heinz’s Salsa Style Ketchup, and this number is only the reported new products.

Also in 1992, Pace Foods pulled off the unbelievable, coals-to-Newcastle coup of marketing their picante sauce in Mexico! It all happened because the company shot a Spanish-language commercial in Mexico City and brought along 350 jars of sauce as props. When the shoot was over, Robert Burke, the marketing director of Pace, left the display behind and told the grocer to keep the jars as a gift.

Several weeks later, the grocer called to say that he had sold every jar and wanted more. Such a serendipitous event caused Pace to begin distribution in Mexico, which supports the theory that a maturing Mexican population (in terms of prepared foods) is creating a non-traditional market.

Also in 1992, Dave Hirschkop launched what is believed to be the first sauce using significant amounts of oleoresin capsicum (chile “extract”).  Dave’s Insanity Sauce became an enormous hit and created a subset of the hot sauce industry, the super-hot sauces.  Dave’s Insanity Sauce was so hot that there were incidents of overserving that severely burned people out and caused one known fainting.  Show producers Dave DeWitt and Mary Jane Wilan refused to allow the sauce to be tasted at the subsequent show and Hirschkop responded with a new ad slogan: “The Only Hot Sauce Ever Banned from the National Fiery Foods Show.”  Sales boomed and have never slowed. Originality in marketing to gain a sales edge became very popular after this incident, and in 1993 Original Juan Specialty Foods introduced their “Pain is Good” line with their “Sultans of Sizzle” screaming faces label.

In 1994, another independent distributor of hot sauces and other fiery foods products came on the scene when Dave Lutes launched Hot Shots, which ten years later had 1200 retail customers.  The biggest news in 1994 was the buyout of two of the largest companies in the Fiery Foods Industry. The number one salsa manufacturer, Pace Foods, was sold to Campbell Soup Company for an astronomical $1.1 billion. The sales figure is approximately five times Pace’s 1994 estimated sales of $220 million–an amazingly high sales multiple.  In even a larger deal, Pillsbury, a division of the giant British food and beverage company, Grand Metropolitan PLC, announced that it would purchase Pet Foods, maker of Old El Paso Mexican foods. The sale price? A cool $2.6 billion. Terry Thompson, a spokesperson for Pillsbury, called Old El Paso “one of the crown jewels” of brand names, the market leader for all retail Mexican foods.

Together, Pace and Pet controlled about half of the market for Mexican sauces. “The overall Mexican sauce and foods categories are growing by leaps and bounds,” said Kevin G. Lowery, a Campbell spokesman. “They are among the fastest-growing categories in the entire food business, both retail and food service. One reason for this is electronic technology, which has spread the word about salsas and spicy foods to a new audience.   Also in 1994, Ashley Food Company introduced Mad Dog Inferno Hot Sauce, a sauce with extreme heat but a good flavor.  Two years later, John Hard launched CaJohn’s Fiery Foods with innovative design and packaging paired with tasty products of all heat levels.

During the past ten years, the Fiery Foods Industry has had its share of launches, mergers, and other changes.  Impressed with the sales of what had been almost exclusively American hot and spicy products, foreign companies have launched competing lines, like Cholula Hot Sauce, made in the Mexican state of Jalisco.  Its claim to fame is a wooden cap that distinguishes it from all other hot sauces.  Nando’s Peri Peri, a Portuguese-style South African hot sauce made with African birdseye chiles has begun marketing efforts in the U.S.   Its unique selling proposition is a unique citrus flavor that come from lemon puree added during the manufacturing process.

Nelson Thall, president of the Marshall McLuhan Center for Global Communications in Toronto, has a unique explanation for the ever-increasing popularity of hot sauces and other fiery foods: “Americans are becoming more ‘tribal’ in the their tastes,” said Thall. “And tribal Third World cultures embrace spicier foods, as opposed to the traditional ketchup-like blandness preferred by Western cultures.”

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I like Crystal myself. However that may be, Asia didn't get chiles until when from the Americas? Don't believe it, sorry just don't believe that the Americas held the patents on chiles. I saw for myself in 1962 in Bangkok Thailand my 15 year old brother on a dare from my 17 year old brother eat a little green pepper from a plant that the servants were growing and he immediately turned bright red, sweating and had breathing difficulty. He was immediately evac'd to the nearest military hospital where he spent a week in recovery. 

So our servants had to import these chiles from the America's? I call BS. They grow everywhere, especially in the tropics. 

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20 minutes ago, alloy said:

I like Crystal myself. However that may be, Asia didn't get chiles until when from the Americas? Don't believe it, sorry just don't believe that the Americas held the patents on chiles. I saw for myself in 1962 in Bangkok Thailand my 15 year old brother on a dare from my 17 year old brother eat a little green pepper from a plant that the servants were growing and he immediately turned bright red, sweating and had breathing difficulty. He was immediately evac'd to the nearest military hospital where he spent a week in recovery. 

So our servants had to import these chiles from the America's? I call BS. They grow everywhere, especially in the tropics. 

i don't think the suggestion is that this only happened in the last few decades. columbus brought them back, according to all records, so that is them arriving in europe 500 years ago. now the europeans wandered off all over, including the portuguese into india. not hard to see one of the ships, with a supply of chilis, planting some seeds. as the article says, within fifty years of columbus returning, chilis had spread throughout the known world. so that is about 400 years plus before your brothers' fun. 

this is another piece on the history. 

History of Chilli


There is some controversy about the origin of chillies/capsicums. There is even discrepancy about the botanical classification. Although some experts believe that various species came from Mexico, it is generally accepted that the ancestors of chillies originated in an area of Bolivia and spread through Central and South America in the early days. Evidence suggests that C. annuum originally occurred in northern Latin America and C. chinense in tropical northern Amazonia (Pickersgill 1971). Capsicum pubescens and C. baccatum appear to be more prevalent in lower South America. Thus, at the time of discovery, the former two species were exploited while the latter two species awaited a later discovery and remain largely unexploited outside South America today. It has been suggested that C. frutescens, in its primitive form, may be the ancestor of C. chinense (Eshbaugh et al. 1983).


Chili peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BC. There is archaeological evidence at sites located in a tropical lowland area of southwestern Ecuador that chili peppers were domesticated more than 6000 years ago, the chilli grains show that peppers were among the oldest domesticated foods in the hemisphere and is one of the first cultivated crops in the Central and South Americas. The team of scientists who made the discovery say the spice must have been transported over the Andes to what is now Ecuador as the chillies only grew naturally to the east of the mountain range. In Panama, chilies were used around 5,600 years ago. Chilies have also been found to have been used at a site occupied 4,000 years ago in the Peruvian Andes, In this case, the chilies were identified as the species C. pubescens. Newer sites in the Bahamas 1,000 years ago and in Venezuela 500 to 1000 years ago also yielded remains of the chilies


Christopher Columbus was one of the first Europeans to encounter Chillies on his first voyage in 1492to the Caribbean and named " red peppers" because of their colour and similarity in taste (though not in appearance) with the Old World peppers of the Piper genus.
Diego Álvarez Chanca, a physician on Columbus' second voyage to the West Indies in 1493, brought the first chilies to Spain, and first wrote about their medicinal qualities in 1494. In 1493, Peter Martyr (Anghiera 1493) wrote that Columbus brought home "pepper more pungent than that from the Caucasus."
Upon their introduction into Europe chillis were grown as botanical curiosities in the gardens of Spanish and Portuguese monasteries. It was the monks who first experimented with the chillis' culinary potential and discovered that their pungency offered a substitute for black peppercorns, which at the time were so costly that they were used as legal currency in some countries
Within 50 years of its discovery, the humble chilli pepper had spread across most of the then known world.


"Interestingly...it was not the Spanish who were responsible for the early diffusion of the chilli plant. It was the Portuguese who were aided by local traders following long-used trade routes, spreading the plants though the Old World with almost unbelievable rapidity...Unfortunately, documentation for the routes in which the chillli peppers followed from the Americas is not plentiful. The fiery new spice was readily accepted by the natives of Africa and India. Then from India, chilli peppers spread to not only along the Portuguese route back around Africa to Europe but also over ancient trade routes that led either to Europe via the Middle East or thru to Asia. if it wasn’t the Portuguese who had carried chilli peppers to Southeast Asia and Japan, the new spice would have been spread perhaps by Arabic, Gujurati, Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Javanese traders. In the Szechuan and Hunan provinces in China, foods from the Americas were known there by the middle of the sixteenth century, having reached these regions via caravan routes from the Ganges River through Burma and across western China..."


Despite a European 'discovery' of the Americas, chilli peppers spread throughout Europe in circuitous fashion. Venice was the centre of the spice and Oriental trade of central Europe, from Venice the trade route went to Antwerp and the rest of Europe, although Antwerp also received Far Eastern goods from the Portuguese via India, Africa, and Lisbon. It was along these avenues that chili peppers travelled into much of Europe. They were in Italy by 1535, England before 1538, Germany by 1542, the Balkans before 1569 and Moravia by 1585...But except in the Balkans and Turkey, Europeans did not make much use of chilli peppers until the Napoleonic blockade cut off their supply of spices and they turned to Balkan paprika as a substitute. Prior to that, Europeans had mainly grown capsicums in containers as ornamentals.


A few new spices reached Britain after the end of the Middle Ages. The Spaniards brought back from Central America several members of the capsicum family, which were naturalized in southern Europe. The larger fruits were imported thence into England under the name of Guinea pepper. The smallest, reddest and hottest of the American capsicums, when dried and powdered, produced cayenne pepper, the 'chyan' of English eighteenth century recipe books. Its circuitous route caused it to be transferred to Britain from India in 1538...In 1597, the botanist John Gerard referred to cayenne as "ginnie or Indian pepper" in his herbal, and in his influential herbal of 1652, Nicholas Culpepper wrote that cayenne was "this violent fruit" that was of considerable service to "help digestion, provoke urine, relieve toothache, preserve the teeth from rottenness, comfort a cold stomach, expel the stone from the kidney, and take away dimness of sight." Cayenne appeared in Miller's The Gardener's and Botanist's Dictionary in 1768, proving it was being cultivated in England--at least in home gardens."


Chilli of the annuum species were transferred into what is now the American Southwest--first by birds and then by humankind. Botanists believe that the wild annum variety known as chiltepins spread northward from Mexico through dissemination by birds long before Native Americans domesticated peppers and made them part of their trade goods. These chiltepins still grow wild today in Arizona and in South Texas, where they are known as chilipiquins. According to most accounts, chilli peppers were introduced the second time into what is now known the United States by Calitan General Juan de Onate, who founded Santé Fe in 1609. However, they may have been introduced to the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico by the Antonio Espejo expedition of 1582-83. According to one of the members of the expedition..."They have no chilli, but the native were given some seed to plant." But by 1601, chillis were not on the list of Indian crops, according to colonist Francisco de Valverde..But soon chillis were being grown by Spanish and Indians alike.. We do know that soon after the Spanish arrived, the cultivation of peppers in New Mexico spread rapidly and the pods were grow both in Spanish settlements and native pueblos...During the 1700s, peppers were popping up in other parts of the country. In 1768, according to legend, Minorca settlers in St. Augustine, Florida, introduced the datil pepper, a land race of the Chinese species. Other introductions were also occurring during the eighteenth century. In 1785, George Washington planted two rows of "bird peppers" and one row of cayenne at Mount Vernon, but it is not known how he acquired the seed. Another influential American, Thomas Jefferson, was also growing peppers from seed imported from Mexico. By the early 1800s, commercial seed varieties became available to the American public. In 1806 a botanist named McMahon listed four varieties for sale, and in 1826, another botanist named Thornburn listed "Long' (cayenne), "Tomato-Shaped' (squash), 'Bell' (ox heart), 'Cherry' and 'Bird' (West Indian) peppers as available for gardeners


They were introduced to South Asia in the 1500s From Mexico, at the time the Spanish colony that controlled commerce with Asia, chili peppers spread rapidly into the Philippines and then to India, China, Indonesia, Korea and Japan. They were incorporated into the local cuisines.
An alternate account for the spread of chili peppers is that the Portuguese got the pepper from Spain, and cultivated it in India.[9] The chili pepper figures heavily in the cuisine of the Goan region of India, which was the site of a Portuguese colony. Chili peppers journeyed from India, through Central Asia and Turkey, to Hungary, where it became the national spice in the form of paprika.
from South Asia to China and Southeast Asia is not recorded in much detail, but it is assumed that local, Arab and European traders carried the chiles via traditional trading routes along the coasts and great waterways such as the Ganges



Map showing the routes by which chillies travelled from the Americas to Africa and Eurasia. The tale begins with Columbus' voyage of 1495 (green line), but the true spread of chillies occurred concurrent with the Portuguese voyages (red lines) from 1498 to 1549 as they traversed the globe from Africa through Arabia, India, the Spice Islands, China and Japan. Also shown (blue lines) are the ancient overland routes from India to China, the Spice route from Arabia to China and the trade route from Arabia to Central Europe.

Perry, L. et al. 2007. Starch fossils and the domestication and dispersal of chili peppers (Capsicum spp. L.) in the Americas. Science 315: 986–988
BBC News Online. 2007. Chilies heated ancient cuisine. Friday, 16 February..
Cambridge World History of Food, Kenneth F. Kiple & Kriemhild Conee Ornelas [Cambridge University Press:Cambridge], Volume One, 2000 (p. 282).
The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia, Dave DeWitt [William Morrow:New York] 1999 (p. 13-4)
Food in Early Modern Europe, Ken Albala [Greenwood Press:Westport CT] 2003 (p. 32)
Food & Drink in Britain From the Stone Age to the 19th Century, C. Anne Wilson [Academy Chicago:Chicago] 1991 (p. 293)
The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia, Dave DeWitt [William Morrow:New York] 1999 (p. 68-69)


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32 minutes ago, alloy said:

I like Crystal myself. However that may be, Asia didn't get chiles until when from the Americas? Don't believe it, sorry just don't believe that the Americas held the patents on chiles. I saw for myself in 1962 in Bangkok Thailand my 15 year old brother on a dare from my 17 year old brother eat a little green pepper from a plant that the servants were growing and he immediately turned bright red, sweating and had breathing difficulty. He was immediately evac'd to the nearest military hospital where he spent a week in recovery.  

So our servants had to import these chiles from the America's? I call BS. They grow everywhere, especially in the tropics.  

The article states,  "chilies did not leave the Americas until the arrival of Christopher Columbus". European traders introduced chili peppers to Asia sometime after 1492. And well before 1962 and your brother's misadventure. It was likely the Portuguese that introduced it to Thailand in addition to India, West Africa, and East Asia.

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I've been eating chili since I was 3 (a very shocking introduction by my uncle, who told me it was tomato sauce). I remember the first time trying Tabasco sauce (I think I was 10 at the time). A family friend brought over a small bottle and said I should try it since I like chili so much. She told us, only add a few drops as it is quite hot. I ended up using half the bottle throughout the course of the meal as it didn't have enough bite.

However, those ridiculously hot hot sauces are not to my liking. I can take the heat, but they make it so you taste nothing else but the hot sauce. The sauce is meant to enhance the taste of food, not overpower it.

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Very cool info.  I put hot sauce on a lot of stuff and have different kinds for every occasion. I generally like it all fom Tabasco to Sriracha to the venerable Taco Bell Fire sauce.  There is a small company near me called Torchbearer who makes the best sauces I've had, Zombie Apocalypse with ghost pepper and The Rapture with scorpion pepper. Super spicy but taste great, and no pepper extract added.  I always find pepper extract tastes bad and ruins the sauce.

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