selling my own barbeque/hot sauce
April 17, 2006 8:11 AM   Subscribe

How would I go about selling my own barbeque/hot sauce?

I have a sauce that i know I can mass-produce on a small scale, what other steps should I take? At what volume should i worry about tax and licenses and boring stuff like that. I don't want to lose my mind or all my money. Is this sortof thing even worth trying to do?
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some good general advice here. IIRC correctly there was another AskMe thread a while back about a guy who wanted to bottle and sell his own juice. The general impression I got is that it is not feasible to do something like this leagally on a small scale. A quick search didn't turn up that thread but you may have better luck, there was some good advice in that one.
posted by fire&wings at 8:40 AM on April 17, 2006

Here's the post fire&wings was talking about.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 8:48 AM on April 17, 2006

thanks, this sortof thing seemed hard to search for.

i am not opposed to doing it on a small illegal scale, ive seen some other local sauces that look very DIY, and some of the best, local, barbeque places sell their sauce in styrofoam cups with absolutely no labeling.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 9:01 AM on April 17, 2006

FWIW, the "incorporate to protect your assets thing" may not be all its cracked up to be. I think it's worth doing, and it's better than nothing, but professors in undergrad would always tell me that "piercing the corporate veil," as it's referred to, isn't that hard. Plus, it's the first thing anyone who's suing you will try to do. After all, what's the point in suing your company if it doesnt have anything to seize?

My advice - look at the website of the nearest university with a business school anywhere near you. There will be a couple professors that teach entrepreneurship/small business. In my experience in undergrad, EVERY prof was doing some kind of consulting on the side. I never talked to any of my profs about their rates, but figure they all draw ~70K from the school (good, major university, major city). Most people I know who moonlight do it for a fair bit more than they're making...150% of a prorated 2000 hr/yr salary is about $50/hr, 300% is about $100/hr, I think that's about the range you're looking at.

I can think of at least a couple that worked with guys like you who were just starting out with a very small-time-for-now idea, etc. Stuff like guys who made an aftermarket part for a certain make of Harley and just wanted to license it to someone, etc.

A few other pieces of advice (never started my own small business, I've watched a few friends have varying degrees of success):

Worry about tax, licensure, etc., NOW. Cleaning up this stuff later is a nightmare
Find a trade organization or trade magazine. This is the cheapest way to learn about the business, and often funny in its own right (this, for example, but look for something local. If you are in a major city, there is probably a trade organization for this).
As mentioned in the other thread, a good option might just be to find a gourmet niche grocer and see if they will stock it. My whole foods seems to stock some local stuff too, so that may be another route.

Good luck.
posted by oxonium at 9:14 AM on April 17, 2006

Oh, and one more thing, to be clear. The guys who were working with people just getting started gave the impression that they'd do a couple hours here and there (i.e, you don't need to make a long term commitment to them as an advisor or something; you could just pick their brain for a few hours).
posted by oxonium at 9:16 AM on April 17, 2006

In my business classes I've heard a few case studies of well-known regional start-ups whom in their beginning phases definitely operated slightly outside the law when the production of their goods were done in their basement. These are now large, functioning companies that followed the intent of the law (that is preparing and cooking food hygenically and making sure the processes used would not create industrial waste or otherwise endager their residential neighborhood). My point being is it's not uncommon for the line of industry you're going into to start out under less than legal conditions and then make a smooth transition if the business succeeds.

Besides, barbeque sauce -- can you really get sick from that? Arthur Bryant's (arguably the best barbeque in the nation) keeps their barbeque sauce sitting out in the heat of the summer and I've never been sick, nor known anyone get sick there. Anecdotal, but I think health concerns are sometimes overblown.
posted by geoff. at 9:46 AM on April 17, 2006

If you get some sort of bacteria growth inside a poorly-sealed bottle, yes, you can get sick. It's much less about the actual product (unless it's something in which bacteria can't grow, like honey) than the bottling and packaging process.
posted by beerbajay at 9:55 AM on April 17, 2006

Some of my favorite hot sauces come from people that do the bottling at home. They sometimes make it into stores without all of the FDA approved information, too. Hot sauce is one of those items that seems to exist under the radar, at least as far as a consumer (me) is concerned.

No advice on the business side, just an observation that a lot of other people don't care about the business side.
posted by bh at 12:45 PM on April 17, 2006

I dunno. Yeah, it's definitely possible. It's just one of those things where even if you're not so risk-averse the potential downside is pretty large. The other thing thing about hot sauce is that it's low pH, high salt, low sugar. This has no bearing on its legal status but it'd make it presumably much less microbe-friendly than the near-neutral pH, moderate salt, high sugar BBQ sauce.

That said, ketchup seems to keep forever. Maybe look into some rudimentary preservatives (i.e., Na Benzoate/Benzoic acid) and see what the restrictions on use are? I know that the stuff is dirt cheap and quite benign. I'm in over my head saying any more though.
posted by oxonium at 1:03 PM on April 17, 2006

Keep in mind that there's an ocean of barbeque sauce already out there. You might start with the FieryFoods.Com article, How To Manufacture and Sell Your Own Products:
So many people I know, most of them professional chefs, dream of bottling and selling their own line of sauces and condiments. Toiling in the kitchen day after day perfecting recipes, their deeply personal creations are testaments of time, experience and love--so it is easy to understand the yearning for success and recognition. Whether it is fruit chutney or salad dressing, tomato sauce or salsa, many of these products, given the chance, can ultimately do quite well in the mainstream American marketplace. In fact, a large number of these products already grace the tables of some of the country's finest restaurants, winning critical acclaim on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, the process of graduating from the dining room table to the marketplace can be very difficult, time consuming and expensive. This is not to say, however, that it is impossible.
You could ask Dr. BBQ, Bubba, and Jesse for a little advice, and it might be a good idea to join the NBBQA.

Contact your state health agency (or county) about local regulations for running a home-based food business. There are many related links at Penn State's Food Entrepreneur Resources.
posted by cenoxo at 7:13 PM on April 17, 2006

Oh, and talk to an attorney. One bad batch, followed by a sick kid and a lawsuit, and you'll be in hot sauce for a long time...
posted by cenoxo at 7:21 PM on April 17, 2006

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