Where do I start?
I guess I’ve always liked hot spicy food. I have fond memories of spiking my mother’s pasta sauce with cayenne once I figured out that, that was what supplied the magic. I used tabasco and chili flakes on everything. It wasn’t until the early 90s though that I discovered the kind of heat that habanero brings. My brother gave me a 6 pack of hot sauces for my birthday one year. I don’t remember them all, but one sticks out. It was a habanero sauce called Trinidad Hot Sauce. That would be an interesting coincidence later… I was hooked and a whole different world appeared.
I started buying hot sauces from all over the world in bulk and began selling them in my music stores. Mostly to support my habit. Not long after that I met a woman (Cevie) in Jasper from…you guessed it Trinidad. She was selling her sauce locally there and I ended up selling her sauce in our music store there and in our Prince George stores. It wasn’t long before people were coming in specifically for that sauce. We sold it in baby food jars. No label. Probably wouldn’t get away with that now. Haha! I would buy the peppers and the jars and Cevie would make the sauce. We got half she got half. It was an awesome arrangement. But Cevie was moving to Toronto. Oh no. I was sad. But Cevie said “don’t worry I will show you how to make the sauce.” I had been experimenting with making my own sauce. It was terrible stuff. This guidance was a big deal. All of a sudden my sauces were edible. I didn’t use her recipe exactly but I was on the right path now. I started making my own sauces and to my surprise people liked them! One of my employees Blake Cookman came in with some labels he designed and stuff started to get real.
Blake and I started selling hot sauces and seasonings at the Farmers Market in Prince George. Back in those days we made our sauces either in my apartment or we'd rent kitchen time from friends that owned restaurants. Usually we'd have to go in after hours and bring all our supplies and gear with us. On a good day, we might have knocked off a hundred bottles or so. So when the opportunity came to use a full blown commercial facility in Salmon Arm, BC, I took a gamble and made the move. That was June of 2002. Blake maintained our website, designed labels, private labels, posters, flyers, print ads, and any other marketing literature that we needed. The Salmon Arm facility was a wonderfully equipped shared use kitchen that was funded by Community Futures of the Shuswap. Unfortunately, the kitchen closed after a few years and I was on my own. That whole experience however was key because until then I was not aware of what kind of equipment would be required to take this business to the next level.
By that time, the business growth was phenomenal. Our sauces had won many International Food awards and were being sold in grocery stores across Western Canada. I got lucky and met a guy with a building in Enderby that he wanted to rent and he offered to build me a kitchen to suit my needs. That was 2006 I believe. I’m still here.
How did we get here?
My philosophies are simple. First, we use the finest quality ingredients I can find. We are so fortunate to be situated in the agriculturally diverse Okanagan. I have been able to form relationships with the people that grow our produce. It's easy to make the best when you start with the best. Our philosophy of quality continues by always making small batches. Each batch is hand crafted, and I work meticulously to make sure that the flavour and quality are consistent and up to par. And finally, I insist on freshness. I don't keep much more product on hand than required. This way everybody gets as fresh a product as possible.
Over the years I added BBQ Sauces and Mustards to the product line. We must be doing something right because we continued to win awards in all categories in The Fiery Foods Challenge, the Scovies and the Worldwide Mustard Competition. I think we’re up to 27 now even though I haven’t entered anything since 2012.
Where are we going?
It’s quite possible that you all may have had many of my products without even knowing it. I do lots of Private labeling. These are just my sauces with somebody else’s label on them. It’s become the majority of my business. Pretty sure I have to keep making those. Gotta pay the bills.
My focus on the business direction changed about 5 years ago. All these years in the Okanagan changed my way of thinking. I stopped making things out of Pineapples and Mangos and such. Carbon footprint became a personal concern with me. My inner hippie came out I guess. I’ve been farming garlic peppers and herbs for my products and even though I still make many of the old products (I would get lynched if I didn’t) I think this is the new direction. I don’t grow everything but I know many local farmers that I buy produce from. I have a new line under my name (Denzel Sandberg) I started last year that I use almost entirely local Okanagan ingredients. Some of the peppers I like just don’t happen here and I am a hot sauce maker. Although I make more product than ever, I no longer want to take over the world either. Gonna try and keep it reasonably local. I have a website in the works to sell directly to consumers and hope to expand more that way. I take several months a year off to spend time in Mexico and that is important to me. Other than that, I’m just going with the flow.