The gourmet hot sauce market is a competitive one, says Robert McDade, president of New Orleans based Natural Selections. Brands compete as much on the basis of how the product looks on the shelf as on the way the sauce tingles the tongue. "Not only do we have great artwork on the labels, but the recipe is very good," he says, talking about his successful line of "Alligator King" sauces. But that's not why his product pops. You see, attached to each and every bottle of hot sauce is a genuine gator foot. Yes, an actual, preserved by taxidermy, made into a key chain, foot of a formerly wriggling alligator.
"We thought it would be an incredible marketing idea. It makes the packaging really unique," says McDade. "Each bottle comes with a preserved alligator foot as an attachment." Making hot sauce is just a part of the Natural Selections business, as the company also makes other alligator novelties and products, such as gator jerky and hide items. As a result, there are a lot of legs that would have otherwise gone to waste, and that presented a unique opportunity. "We thought it would be hard for other people to knock us off because they would have to pay for the feet, while that's an item we generate ourselves," explains McDade.
Adding the foot to each bottle incurs a cost, but less than a competitor would incur, given that the raw materials are on hand. "It costs money to produce," says McDade, "but since we start with the raw item, and then do the taxidermy and add the key ring ourselves, our cost is minimal compared to someone else who would have to buy the foot key ring, which would be very expensive."
The line has been a huge hit for Natural Selections. "We've offered them for around eight years, and they get more popular every day," says McDade. "Lots of people collect hot sauce." The company offers a line of 12 sauces, and it does well at retail, with McDade noting, "It turned out to be a best seller." The company's most popular sauce is the "Gator Guts" and the hottest is "Cold Blooded Killer," says McDade. When he says "hottest," he means it, as that sauce measures at 1.5 million Scoville units. By comparison, a jalapeño pepper is 2,500 to 8,000 units, a cayenne pepper is 30,000 to 50,000 units, and police grade pepper spray is about 5 million Scoville units.
The Alligator King hot sauces wholesale for $4 per bottle, except for the Cold Blooded Killer, which sells for $6. Retailers can expect to at least double that in stores, says McDade, and there is no minimum order. "We want to see the items in the stores, and then we know we'll get the re-orders," he explains.
For more information:
Natural Selections Inc.
1401 Distributors Row, Suite A
Harahan, LA 70123
Toll Free: 800-246-5984
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