So, you wanna know How to get your sauce to Market Huh?
Ok, I’ll tell you. But first…
I won’t get into a lot of history other than I created our products in the restaurant I used to own. It was called Rugged Cross BBQ.
Great food, terrible location (trust me I need to do a series like “10 steps to bankruptcy using the restaurant business, a How-Not-To Saga!!)
It turned out to be a blessing as, I’m sure, most failure stories do.
Anyway, we always had people who would RAVE about the Apple-Chipotle Glaze. My good friend and now business partner Carl Johnson pushed me to do the research and find out how to get our sauce to market.
My wife and I cashed in our 401k’s to open the restaurant so we had next-to-nothing to work with as far as money goes.
The contract packagers (Copackers) I found would do our products but would produce it in the hundreds of gallons…and thousands of dollars so I did it myself.
I bought bottles online with caps and security seals. I designed and printed labels at home on 8.5 X 11 label sheets and then would laminate the whole sheet then cut and apply the labels to each bottle. It was very labor intensive but the bottles looked good! I couldn’t afford to have the product lab tested for nutrition labeling so we did worry about it!!
I would make batches in the kitchen at 4-5 gallons at a time and bottle it all up and put it on shelves in the dining room. We sold EVERYTHING we made!! I usually even had standing orders!
Carl called me a few months later and asked about cost. I told him that it would cost more than we had to do it right. He said he had the money and told me to get numbers, so I did.
When I called months before (I only knew of 3 or 4 co-packers) none did batches in quantities that we could afford. I called them back to see if anything had changed and the packer in Tennessee had opened a small production kitchen for people like me!!!
So it began!
Our first packager was about 6 hours away in Tennessee.
They emailed me a non-disclosure agreement to secure secrecy. I sent them the recipe and a sample that I made along with a check for $250. The money would cover the formulation (3 attempts) and lab testing. They transposed the recipe up for big quantities and made a small batch and sent it to me. I was blown away! It was REALLY good! Not quite where I wanted it to be but VERY close! The second sample was spot-on. Since I paid for 3 attempts, their formulator called me to ask about doing a “Hot” and “Mild” version. I said try it. He sent my 3rd sample and lets just say that it still might be smoldering somewhere!! It was AWESOME!!!
We stayed with the second formulation.
Now I had been designing the labels at home on the cheap with a program called Print Shop. That was fine for what we were doing but the labels had to be put on at the time of the production run. I had been asking my designer/artist friends if they could show me how to do it. My friend Derek did a label for me but the printer couldn’t use the format. They had a graphic design department who would be tickled to death to do it for $85/hour.
So I self-enrolled in You Tube University and learned how to use Photo Shop! That took me about 3 months but I did it!! I was able to duplicate his label from scratch and put it in the right format and get things rolling!
We would also need bar codes. I found a discount website and bought 3 for about $80 each. More on this move later.
We had 1000 labels printed and shipped to the co-packer. A few days later the co-packer called to say they had run just over 46 cases…I was outta my mind with excitement!!! So Tammy and I set out to go pick up the order.
It would have cost around $300 to have it shipped so we went and picked it up in my Ford Expedition. It cost a bit less even with the gas hog so it was a no brainer to us!
We had quite a few orders since then. We also changed the company name and introduced the world to 2 other flavors!! We sold nearly 2500 bottles of sauce in our initial 25 locations and have shipped to 10 states and donated a portion of our profits to the Wounded Warrior Project. We’ve done all this as a debt free company too!!
We needed to get our costs down so we decided to look at other co-packers. A friend recommended one from Indiana. At least PART of our cost savings would come from driving less than 2 hours vs. over 6 hours!
I called the prospective packer and started the process. I was in for a pleasant a surprise right away. In our initial conversation, I asked about their process and the fee. I knew our former packer had raised their fee to $500. The new packer said they didn’t charge anything for the formulation part! WHAT???? He said they do the formulation at no charge and that once the formula was right that I would pay $60 for the lab testing!! Out with the old, In with the new!!
Last Thursday I received 2 bottles from our new co-packer. These are the 3rd samples and they are right on the money!!! Perfect!
We have a brand new look for the labels too! We wanted something more “Branding friendly” and wanted a look that hopefully reminds you of WWII Aircraft nose art! I did the new design and when I look at it, it makes me feel good!
Now for a quick word on barcodes…UPC’s
I looked online at GS1.org. Barcodes come from them. The way they work is you buy a licence for a number of barcodes…10, 100, 1000, 10000, 100000. Think carefully about this. Lets say you sell shoes. You have 5 different styles, in 5 different sizes and EACH gets a different code. We only had 3 sauces so I chose to buy 3 barcodes from a discount website at around $80 each to save a bit off the $250 for up to 10 codes from GS1 and to avoid paying the licence renewal of $50 each year. The licence is important because it identifies your company. The codes I bought don’t identify 2 Vets BBQ, they identify the company I bought them from. It’s common for individuals and small companies to do this. These codes are fine for flea markets and local mom and pop grocers but I am re-branding the company for growth. If we want to grow big we’ll need wholesale distribution and the licence matters to them.
So I channel my inner Dave Ramsey regarding my 1st barcode purchase and call it a “stupid tax”
“You live and learn or you don’t live long”
Stay tuned because coming VERY soon is a page where you can order our Glaze of Glory sauce!! We plan to roll out the other flavors later this year and to introduce a few new ones next year!
I’ll share follow-ups as things progress!
I wanted to do this post because you might have a dream to do something and don’t think you “have the stuff” for it.
My wife and I cashed out our retirements to open a restaurant that we would end up closing almost 5 years later and going through bankruptcy. We lost 2 houses and our only car. If we can do it, so can you!!
I am giving you permission to IGNORE negative thoughts and chase your dreams!!