Ken Stringer first started making his own sauces in 2009 because he didn't want to pay $3 a bottle for Tiger Sauce. He grew his own cayenne peppers in pots out back on his deck and made sauce for himself and his friends. "They were like, 'This is really good. This isn't right if you don't sell this,'" Five years later, he's launching Ken's Pepper Works.
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"A lot of the mainstream sauces aren't that hot. I think it's gotten a bad rep over the years with the super hot things and videos of people eating ghost peppers," Stringer says. "My sauces aren't that hot, but they're probably hotter than Franks or tabasco but not by a whole lot. I like it to be hot enough so I can put it on all my food and not have to stop because it's too hot."
Ken's Pepper Works has three sauces to begin with: Red Thunder, "sweet, smoky and tangy"; Island Sunshine, which is "sweet and savory"; and Rio Grande Mud, "a savory Mexican-style sauce." Stringer's first sauce was made with the cayenne peppers, but two summers ago it was so hot he only got two peppers from his plant in three months. He decided to rework the recipe to make it more commercially viable.
Stringer narrowed his flavors down to the three that he thought gave very different flavor profiles, thus offering something for everyone. He turned to Kickstarter simply because of the overhead involved. Bottling and packing the hot sauce costs a lot of money. He has a co-packer, but it's not like they're going to package two cases at a time. It's more like 70 gallons.
"It's also a great way to get future customers," Stringer says. "If I do beat my goal and we have 300 people on board, that's 300 potential customers." He's looking to raise $10,000 before May 1.
If it gets funded, he'll be taking Ken's Pepper Works to several farmers' markets this summer, and he's in talks to distribute though Schnucks, Vivano's in Fenton and Figaro's hot-sauce store in St. Charles.
"It seems like whenever I put this out for people to taste it no one could agree on which one they like more," Stringer says. "So that told me that it hit a wide variety of tastes."
You check out Stringer's Kickstarter page here.