Written by BOMBANANA Owner Kevin Bhattacharyya
Like many things in this world, BOMBANANA Hot Sauce began as a happy ‘accident.’ We never intentionally set off to create a unique hot sauce for our community - just to make a sauce we really like. But here we are.
While BOMBANANA Hot Sauce first launched in April of 2020, our story dates back to 2018, when co-founders Jared Schacter, Jonny Moss, Grant Dukus, and Kevin Bhattacharyya all agreed to be roommates at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In the small house they all lived in, the co-founders figured it would be best to cook collectively, and they subsequently started a cooking rotation. In their first year of living with one another, the co-founders shared countless feasts and experimented with a multitude of different flavors. All brought joy in their own light. Little did the co-founders know they were eventually setting the foundation for BOMBANANA Hot Sauce.
Fast forward to September 2019. The co-founders had just moved back to campus and were getting back in their cooking rotation routine. One night while preparing al pastor tacos, Jared Schacter - who has experience cooking professionally in fine dining in New York City for chefs Daniel Boulud, Christopher Stam, and Rafri Frias -- decided to experiment with a banana-based hot sauce he thought would pair nicely with the main course. IT WAS AN ABSOLUTE HIT! Never before had the co-founders encountered a taste like this one, and they originally joked about selling small batches of the sauce to friends and family. That ‘joke’ soon turned into reality, and shortly after the al pastor taco night, the co-founders started crafting what would become BOMBANANA Original, a unique blend of chipotle and arbol chilis, bananas, vinegar, and assorted spices.
At first, BOMBANANA’s original capacity was strictly for friends and family. We made small batches in our kitchen on Greenwood Ave, individually bottled our sauces, and controlled distribution to those within our network. A single BOMBANANA sticker graced the front of the bottle, and that was it. But once word spread around campus, and friends of friends started approaching us to inquire about purchasing our hot sauce, that’s when we knew it was time to further share our spicy creation with the greater community. At the beginning of November 2019, we started with a batch of 100 bottles, a variety including our original sauce and our Muy Muy, a hotter version of our original. By December we had basically exhausted our inventory, but demand continued to soar. So we formed an LLC and officially founded BOMBANANA Hot Sauce.
As with founding any company or venture, there are a multitude of lessons to be learned in the process. For us, one of our most important lessons was how to accurately scale our recipe for a production line run. While we had perfected our recipes for small batches ranging around five gallons, we were unsure how it would translate into a 1200 bottle production run. Thankfully for us, our co-packing partner at FEAST Detroit assisted us through this process, and we would not be where we are today without his help and guidance.
One of our favorite memories throughout our hot sauce journey would be when he had the opportunity to sit down with the founder of Zingerman’s Delicatessen, Ari Weinzweig. Before we were BOMBANANA Hot Sauce, we were just four college seniors with a great recipe. In meeting with Ari, we learned about how he was able to grow Zingerman’s from a corner deli shop into the culinary empire it is today. He recommended we draft mission statements and orient our goals so as to serve as a roadmap that would help us grow our business in a healthy and feasible progression.
Another favorite memory of ours occurred when we had the chance to visit our production facility in Inkster, MI. There, we collaborated with our partners at FEAST Detroit, and after tweaking our recipe slightly so as to make it compatible with a full scale production run, we sampled a finish batch and knew that it was 100% our sauce. To say that we were excited is an understatement. We were beyond ecstatic that our recipe scaled so nicely to properly function on FEAST’s production line, and that’s when we knew we were in business.
Some of our most lasting memories were when we shared our sauce with friends and family within our networks. Watching their faces light up and receiving strong words of encouragement is something we will never forget. This all would not be possible without our extremely loyal follower base. To that we say, thank you for believing in us, and we looked forward to continuing to provide you with the best hot sauce imaginable.
Having attended the University of Michigan and founding BOMBANANA in Ann Arbor, we identify our community as the Michigan community. Ann Arbor is an extremely food-oriented town complete with flavors ranging all over the culinary spectrum, so BOMBANANA fits right in. The Michigan community is also one of action, and quite entrepreneurial in its own right. Students and community members alike take great pride in their work, whatever it may be, and especially like to support those within their social and professional circles. From the Ross School of Business have come businesses and ventures of all varieties, and throughout our journey we regularly utilized these networks for advice and insight, knowing full well that these avenues for guidance would benefit us in the long run.
Early in our journey, we were introduced to SaladsUp/Joey Queso, a new quesadilla pop-up restaurant serving late night eats within prominent Ann Arbor bars. One night in February, we were asked to join Joey Queso in the basement of Rick's American Cafe, where we sampled our hot sauce alongside fresh tortillas, and had the opportunity to further connect with our community in-person. Who could have guessed a shot of BOMBANANA Hot Sauce would make a great chaser, let alone a perfect compliment to quesadillas.
For other hot sauce entrepreneurs, we encourage you to make what YOU want to eat, and not what the status quo expects you to make. We are a doers company, and action is integral to our mission. Make what you believe in, and others are sure to follow. Be daring. Take calculated risks, and you will surely reap the rewards of your labor. Furthermore, don’t shy away from mentorship. If anything, SEEK it out. Your network is there to support you, and you’ll be surprised at how many friends, family, and acquaintances are more than willing to assist in any capacity they can.