Kickstarter Spotlight: Ken's Pepper Works Artisan Hot Sauce

As traveling foodies, we're always looking for cool Kickstarter projects. Check out Ken Stringer's Pepper Works Artisan Hot Sauce.

Ken Stringer

Taste Trekkers was able to launch because of the generous support of our initial Kickstarter campaign. We know what it's like to be aspiring entrepreneurs, so we are returning the favor spotlighting some of our favorite food and travel Kickstarter projects. -Seth

Ken Stringer studied geology and worked for an environmental consulting company. After 12 years, he traded in his rocks to work as an information technology defense contractor. Although his job has changed over the years, his love of food and all things spicy has remained constant. We talked to him about his Kickstarter campaign, Ken's Pepper Works Artisan Hot Sauce.

1. You make three hot sauce flavors. Can you tell us about them?

Gladly. My sauces are called Red Thunder, Island Sunshine and Rio Grande Mud. I like the idea of having names for sauces. It's much more fun and creative to call a sauce Island Sunshine than, say, Pineapple Habanero Hot Sauce. It's also fun to have a sauce tag line, which I list below. When creating the sauces I wanted three distinct flavor profiles that did not overlap, thus providing a variety of uses and appealing to a wide range of tastes.

Red Thunder is sweet, smoky and tangy. The main players are carrots, ginger, honey, red bell peppers, red onion, tamarind, lime juice, brown sugar, and of course, the stars of the show, red habanero and chipotle peppers. Think BBQ, pizza, wings, pasta, Asian food, beef, pork, chicken and just about anything. The heat level is medium-hot. Tag Line: Red thunder will light up your taste buds!

Island Sunshine is both sweet and savory. The sweet comes from pineapples, oranges, honey and brown sugar. The savory comes from carrots, ginger, garlic and red onion. The heat comes from scotch bonnets and red habanero peppers. Island Sunshine pairs well with chicken, pork, seafood, pizza, mac & cheese, Asian dishes and many other foods. The heat level is medium-hot. Tag Line: Island Sunshine is the perfect marriage of pineapples and scotch bonnet peppers. Say “I Do” to Island Sunshine!

Rio Grande Mud is a savory Mexican style sauce. It is earthy, smoky and complex. The cast includes dried guajillo, de arbol and chipotle peppers with red habaneros for heat. Roasted garlic is in no short supply and undertones of chocolate and coffee add balance and complexity. Rio Grande Mud is excellent on beef, pork, poultry, BBQ, steak, eggs, chili, sandwiches or anything south of the border! The heat level is medium. Tag Line: Transport yourself to Mexico with Rio Grande Mud. Ole!

2. What are artisan hot sauces, anyway?

"Artisan" is a term used to describe something that is hand-crafted in small batches and implies higher quality than a mass-produced product. For example, many popular hot sauces on the market +today contain ingredients like potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfide, artificial flavorings and dyes and are made in several thousand gallon batches. My sauces consist of ingredients such as pineapples, oranges, carrots, honey, and red onion and are made in small 70-gallon batches. These sauces are gluten free and do not contain preservatives

3. You say, "I believe in flavor first, not vinegar." What does that mean?

Vinegar is the main ingredient in many popular hot sauces. Tabasco is 70% vinegar. This is great for preservation and sometimes the extra acid is nice. But I generally don't want to dump flavored vinegar all over my food. Too much overwhelms the food. Balance is needed. My sauces contain +around 20% vinegar. You will taste the other ingredients first but there is enough vinegar for a long and stable shelf life. Think about a sauce you recently enjoyed in a restaurant. Did it taste like vinegar or was it balanced? That's my goal: balanced, bold and complex.

4. How did you start making hot sauce?

Ken's Hot Sauce

I find cooking to be therapeutic and have always loved spicy food. I began growing chile peppers about eight years ago and five years ago the two passions met and never parted. I started creating chile sauces from my harvest and eventually tried to reproduce my favorite hot sauce, Tiger Sauce. That sauce ended up being Red Thunder, although it is now very different from Tiger Sauce. Friends and family raved and encouraged me to sell them. Eventually I listened and now I am on Kickstarter trying to crowd fund my product launch. It's funny how life moves along.

5. How much are you trying to raise, and what will you use the money for if you succeed?

I am trying to raise $10,000. Most of the money will go to the co-packer, who will produce three 70-gallon batches of hot sauce. The remainder will go to labels, pallet shipping and Kickstarter fees. Successful funding will enable me to produce enough hot sauce to provide all backers with their rewards. My plan is to have 25% of product returned to backers and sell another 25% within the first 3 months to grocery stores, farmers markets and tradeshows. The remaining 50% will be sold over the next 6-9 months and provide enough funds to make a second run.


Published April 25th, 2014