When we wax a little nostalgic about our history of loving hot sauce, it always comes back to Dave’s Gourmet. Why, you might ask? Because Linda tried to “impress” Joe by eating a little chili with way too much Dave’s Insanity Sauce on it (on a 98-degree day in Washington, D.C., by the way), and lived to tell the tale. While it wasn’t Linda’s most shining moment in terms of decision-making, we can always get a chuckle by recalling that tale for family and friends. Dave has cemented himself as a major player in the hot & spicy foods industry, and has been for quite some time. It’s been quite a while since we’ve talked to him about anything substantial or done any product reviews, so we thought it was time to see how things are going for Dave out there in California and ask him about some stuff that has been on our mind:
What’s new with the man behind the straightjacket these days?
We have a new Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce and are growing the Jolokia peppers. We have a new Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce that followed our Spicy Heirloom Pasta Sauce and our three other fantastic pasta sauces. In fact, we just won an award for Best Pasta Sauce from the NASFT, which is probably the most difficult food competition to win.
It seems like many people know you for your original Insanity Sauce. Would you consider that your “signature” sauce, or do you have a love/hate relationship with that sauce?
I think that we started out being insane and now we are more in the camp of multiple personality disorder. We have the Insanity Hot Sauces and Snacks, which are doing well, and the Dave’s Gourmet Premium Organic Pasta Sauces, which are doing even better. I still love my original sauce. It stands for much of what my company aspires to be: innovative, different, does what it says, fun, delicious in its own way, etc.
You are no longer attending many of the larger industry shows for hot & spicy foods, such as the Fiery Foods Show in NM and ZestFest. Is this by design or are you done with those types of shows for good?
We found that we see many of the same customers plus many more at the larger gourmet shows, so we choose to focus our resources there. I don’t know if we might return periodically to some of the spicy shows.
Is your new product development focused more on diversification of your entire product line or do you commit a lot of effort to the hot & spicy foods and sauces?
One of the good aspects of growing is we have more r&d resources. We probably devote the same or more time to hot & spicy, but because we have more time, we devote more to non-spicy. Wherever we can make fantastic items that are different and fun we will – spicy or not.
A vast majority of your products are made with ingredients that are all-natural or organic, and you seem to avoid a lot of the additives and preservatives (such as high fructose corn syrup for example) that are a plague on our food supply in general. How important is it to you to maintain a high quality of your products’ ingredients?
Quality is incredibly important, but I think of quality as a product that is safe and consistent. Beyond quality there is a commitment to support premium ingredients that drive better flavors, healthier products, and products that are best for the farmers and environment. We would like to strive for that higher standard and look at the entire food chain.How involved are you in producing and developing new products?
All the products start and end with me. I am the driving force behind the products. For every product we produce, several died on the R&D floor. We have blind taste testing standards now which mandate that a product must be the best or it won’t reach the light of day. I am involved in the ingredient selection and in every tasting
What is your view of your place within the hot & spicy foods industry and how do you envision your legacy when you retire from it eventually?
I created the first super hot sauce, the first hand signed limited edition hot sauce, and the only Adjustable Heat Hot Sauce. In the process millions of people had fun enjoyable experiences with our sauces and a few hundred thought they were about to die. What this is worth or how it is viewed in the history of hot sauce only time can tell. I certainly am aware that I have not cured cancer nor invented the wheel.
Have you ever used any of your products in any Jewish holiday meals? You gotta find something to spice up the gefilte fish, y’know.
It is interesting to see patterns in buying demographics. Everyone knows that Southeast Asians and Latinos are big spicy food eaters. The biggest buyers for our products seem to be mainstream Caucasians and African Americans. Jews as a group are not our biggest buying group, but there are certainly a number of Jews that are deciding to pass over the more tame traditional fare and get Insane.
Aside from a better financial future for your company, do you have any professional goals that you would like to achieve?
We really want to have a larger impact on improving people’s lives through food. Initially this will be by creating better flavors and innovative items. Eventually we would like to identify food related challenges in society and help solve them (obesity, malnutrition, etc.).
What would you say to those chileheads who may be interested in your products but haven’t tried them, or to those who may have gotten away from them for a while?
What are you thinking, get on board! Please.