Spicy snacks that are actually both good and spicy are hard to come by, but Kentucky’s own KP’s Specialty Pepper Products has a formula for products that have every chance at becoming hugely popular. Makers of some novel spicy nuts and a few hot sauces, we became acquainted with them at this past Jungle Jim’s Weekend of Fire show in August 2008. Here’s some much appreciated info about the KP products not to mention some more info to tickle your fancy:
Tell us a little about yourselves…your professional background, love of spicy foods, and how you got into this industry.
My name is Leon Kirkpatrick but people call me KP. I was raised in North Carolina which is where my love for good Carolina BBQ and spicy foods comes from. I actually got into the industry through a mistake by an older gentleman who thought he had planted bell pepper plants but had actually planted habanero plants. He brought me about 250 peppers and another friend suggested that I try my hand at making hot sauce. I came up with the recipes for the two hot sauces I have now and the rest, they say, is history.
How did you decide on the name to your company?
My wife teaches High School and I teach college and we have students that call us Mr. and Mrs. KP so when I started the company I decided to name it KP’s. My students got a kick out of that!
While you make a few hot sauces, it’s your spicy peanuts, trail mix, and pistachios which are so very popular. What did you try to do with your stuff to make it different and better than similar products on the market?
Well, I started the Towering InferNuts snack line with the Sweet & Spicy Peanuts and they were a big hit, I think, because there’s really nothing like them on the market. I shortly added the Spicy Peanuts and I think they are a little different because they actually have some flavor to them and not just hot. The Spicy Peanuts and Sweet & Spicy Peanuts both won Scovies and after my first trip to the Fiery Foods Expo last year I decided to expand the line and re-introduced the Sweet & Spicy Peanuts and Spicy Peanuts but now in two heat levels’ “Childish” and “Wildish” and introduced the Spicy Trail Mix and Spicy Pistachios also in “Childish” and “Wildish”. The line has done well for me.
As for your hot sauces, whose recipe is that that you use and what is its origins? Were you influenced by other sauces/makers in the industry?
The recipes are mine. No real influences…I just wanted to try to make sauces that had a good balance of flavor and heat and were versatile.
Which of your products that you make is your favorite, and why?
My favorite products, and the one I carry in my car with me, are the Towering InferNuts – Spicy Pistachios (Childish). I am addicted to them!
Aside from your own stuff, what other hot & spicy foods (sauces or otherwise) do you like to use?
I am big on spicy BBQ sauces so I try just about every sauce I can get my hands on.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you thus far in the spicy foods biz?
Finding larger distribution for my products. There are a lot of companies that have been out here for a while and are very established. I am a relative new-comer so I am trying to patiently “pay my dues”, so to speak, and build a consistent, high-quality brand and gain a broader customer-base and wider distribution.
Is there anything new in the works from KP Specialty Foods?
I have my sights set on a couple of new products but I am allowing my Towering InferNuts line a little more time to get its “legs under it” before I launch new stuff.
Towering Inferno Habanero Hot Sauce: distilled vinegar, tomato puree, habanero peppers, salt, cayenne pepper, white pepper, onion (dehydrated), lemon juice, chili powder (chili peppers, spices, and salt), garlic (dehydrated), lime juice
Our review: This is a thin, well-blended habanero sauce with the strong underlying taste of vinegar and tomato. It’s a fairly versatile sauce that has an everyday kinda feel to it. Definitely hot like a habanero sauce should be, this one checks in at about 7/10 on the heat scale with us. The tomato-ness of it dulls the heat and adds an element of sweetness, so this sauce pairs well with anything like soups, stews, and sauces. The one thing I don’t understand is why the use of dehydrated onion and garlic? This sauce, while good, could have a whole new element of flavor by using those ingredients as fresh initially, so perhaps that would be our suggestion for future formulations. This sauce is no slouch and well worth your tasting it, but it has the potential for greatness with a few minor tweaks.
Lightnin’ Bolt Habanero Hot Sauce: distilled vinegar, habanero peppers, salt, cayenne pepper, onion (dehydrated), jalapeno pepper (dehydrated), white pepper, lemon juice, chili powder (chile, peppers, spices, salt), garlic (dehydrated), lime juice, xantham gum, sodium benzoate
Our review: This sauce truly is a sister-sauce to the Towering Inferno sauce (above) in almost every way. Similar ingredients, texture, consistency, and aroma. The big change is that this one lacks the tomato and uses jalapeno peppers instead of cayenne peppers. If nothing else, that adds a new dimension of taste that we truly like. Jalapeno and habanero are a great mix of flavors, and this sauce is no exception. Also a thinner sauce, it’s another one that mixes well into foods or goes great poured over. This was our fave with chili in fact. The heat seems a little more potent as well, perhaps an 8/10 or so if you eat enough of it. Love the flavor, love the heat…love to see it made with fresh garlic and onion. Nuff said! Try some and see. This was our fave hot sauce of the two.
Towering InferNuts – Sweet & Spicy Peanuts: peanuts, sugar, vinegar, tomatoes, habanero peppers, salt, cayenne pepper, white pepper, onions (dehydrated), lemon juice, hot chili peppers, spices, garlic powder, lime juice
Our review: It only takes a few of these to really that this snack is the prom queen amongst all the the other beauties. A tinge sweet at first taste, you’d be tempted to think that these are like a bunch of other sweet peanuts you’ve tried before…until the heat hits! The more you eat, the more the heat builds…but it’s so well balanced that you can simultaneously enjoy the heat & sweet at the same time. The heat is healthy big for snack food, perhaps a 5-6/10 for me, but it doesn’t build much higher than that no matter how much you eat.
The great thing about these nuts, and this is the case with all the ones from KP’s Specialty Pepper Products, is that there’s not a lot of extra salt, oil, or any extra shmutz left all over your hands while you’re snacking. They’re pretty neat, well-made, and don’t make a big mess. Huge positive marks for that aspect of it.
Towering InferNuts – Spicy Peanuts: peanuts, salt, spices, dextrose, dehydrated habanero pepper, maltodextrin, natural flavors, onion powder, garlic powder, citric acid, malic acid, extractives of paprika, natural smoke flavor, peanut oil
Our review: Ever had a snack food that tasted like it was made with hot sauce? Well, then you’ll truly appreciate these peanuts. They look like a lot of other spicy peanuts, but they pack some PUNCH! Some of the spicier, best-tasting peanuts we’ve tried in recent memory, these probably hit about 7-8/10 on our heat scale and caused a little pleasant sweat on the forehead. A little messier than the Sweet & Spicy peanuts, these are still an idea snacking option if you want the heat without any dilution from the sweet stuff. Awesome combo of heat & flavor.
Towering InferNuts – Spicy Trail Mix: peanuts, cashews, almonds, corn flour, unbleached wheat, flour, canola oil, sesame seeds, bulgar, tapioca flour, turmeric, annatto, seasoning (salt, onion powder, garlic powder, spices, modified food starch, paprika, carrageenan, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate), yellow corn mesa, soybean oil, sugar, chili peppers, spices, natural flavor (contains milk), paprika, maltodextrin (corn), natural smoke flavoring, oleoresin paprika, Red 40, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, cocoa powder, whey powder, nonfat milk powder, soy lecithin, vanillin, coloring (blue 2 lake, blue 1 lake, red 40 lake, yellow 6 lake, yellow 6, yellow 5 lake, yellow 5, blue 1), gum arabic, corn syrup, confectioner’s glaze (carnauba wax, beeswax, shellac), spices, dextrose, dehydrated habanero pepper, maltodextrin, citric acid, malic acid, extractives of paprika, peanut oil
Our review: This review is an example of pure paradox and self-conflict. I can rave about the taste all day long. Wonderfully spicy and peppery with just a touch of sweetness if you find one of the odd chocolate M&M-like candies lurking within the mix. I can similarly rant about how the list of ingredients is a whole long list of stuff you should be very concerned about. Lots of artificial colors, preservatives, and chemical-sounding names that scare me a little. Is this any different than any other trail mix? Possibly, but this product needs some ingredients engineering to clean up that part of it and this trail mix would be damn near perfect. The taste is utterly amazing & spicy, and it’s worth trying for that alone.
Towering InferNuts – Spicy Pistachios: pistachios, seasoning (salt, spices, dextrose, dehydrated habanero pepper, maltodextrin, natural flavors, onion powder, garlic powder, citric acid, malic acid, extractives of paprika, natural smoke flavor), peanut oil
Our review: Pistachios have such a different texture compared to peanuts that it really changes the over taste profile of this snack, and the heat’s effect on the palate is a little dulled compared to the spicier peanuts and trail mix. Still spicier than most snack foods of similar ilk, this one is a touch milder and will appeal to chileheads and non-chileheads alike. We call the heat about 5-6/10 with not much accumulation, but the heaviness of the pistachios does fill you up a little quicker as well. Also a great mix of flavor and heat with this one. Yum!
The bottom line: Tired of those crappy spicy snacks that populate your local grocery store or convenience food mart? Ever find that your so-called spicy snack options just aren’t spicy enough? Well, then you need to pick up a few bags of these spicy snacks and give them a try. Their hot sauces are pretty good as well, and we’re using them in pretty high rotation here. That’s endorsement enough alone. Enjoy!