Written by Haico's Hot Sauce Owners Angela and Haico
We are Haico and Angela and we are the owners and operators of Haico’s Hot Sauce with Haico being the crazy inventor and Angela being the (self-proclaimed) VP of bottle washing.
In order to get a bit of an idea why this couple from the cold white north (Ottawa, Canada’s capital) came to make hot sauces, it is a good idea to start at the beginning.
Haico is not originally from Canada, but he moved here in 2005. Now, something you need to know about him is that he grew up in a very multi-cultural background and grew up with several spicy foods. His family has cultural backgrounds from Indonesia, Surinam, India, etc.
When he moved to Canada he was looking to find flavourful hot sauce to spice up his food (much to Angela’s horror as she did not even use ground black pepper on her food!). Unfortunately the only hot sauces he found were the traditional red vinegar based hot sauces that are available to the masses… We all know them….
Disappointed, Haico started growing his own peppers and started experimenting with making hot sauces. After introducing the hot sauces to his friends, the demand for the sauces grew and people started buying the hot sauces for their own personal use.
The hot sauces that Haico made and still makes really focus on freshness and local ingredients. The first ingredient of each hot sauce is always peppers. A lot of people may think that this would make all the hot sauces pepper forward, but using a balance of fresh locally sourced ingredients provides a wide variety of flavours and heat levels.
Haico got in contact with Chilly Chiles, the biggest hot sauce retailer in Canada. Chilly Chiles told Haico that they would be able to carry the sauces if the sauces complied with the guidelines for commercial sales.
Fast forward two years and we arrive in 2015. Due to a minor accident at work Haico was not able to move for 6 weeks and he finally made some time to pursue his dream of becoming a commercially available hot sauce. He started a Kickstarter project and gathered information from some of the senior hot sauce makers in Canada that had been in the market for a long time. The project was a success and Haico and Angela were able to purchase their first 1200 bottles! All the labels and requirements were met, a commercial kitchen was found and they were off!
The product proved to be very successful in the local market. In order to sustain the demand, Haico and Angela had to temper some of the initial enthusiasm for the product to make sure demand by the existing customers could be met. There were only so many peppers that had been grown.
It became quite clear that Haico and Angela needed to increase their crops and that the back yard would not suffice anymore to fulfil the need for peppers. Luckily they found a field nearby which has been used for the crops ever since. Production has grown exponentially and the initial 1200 bottles that were enough for the first year have grown to almost 20.000 bottles in 2019.
One of the great things about the hot sauce community is the openness of the established hot sauce manufacturers when asked for help. Haico and Angela have always made it a point to pay it forward. There are currently at least 10 – 15 hot sauce or wannabe hot sauce makers in Ottawa that Haico and Angela have been in contact with. The start-up companies often struggle with the maze of rules and regulations. Since Haicoand Angela have walked the same path, Haico and Angela are very happy to help others navigate this maze by giving them advice and information on their own experience.
The Ontario and Canadian hot sauce community seems to be operating in a similar fashion as the Craft Brew market. We are all taking on the big guys without taking away each other’s market share.
Due to the rise in demand for quality hot sauces, Haico and Angela have decided to organize Ottawa’s first Hot Sauce Expo, Heating Up The Capital on May 30, 2020. This is a long-overdue expo in the nation’s capital and it will be featuring hot sauce makers from all over Canada and maybe even some surprises from the USA and Europe.
Haico’s Hot Sauce line is ever-expanding. Currently, there are 10 hot sauces in the standard line up, 2 limited edition hot sauces (depending on how the crop was that year for the Carolina Reapers) and one BBQ sauce. Haico gets bored quite quickly, however, so he is always experimenting with new peppers and recipes. This often results in seasonal hot sauces that are only available in limited quantities and for a limited time.
Finally a personal message from Haico himself for aspiring hot sauce makers: “I (Haico) really encourage aspiring hot sauce makers to chase their dream. You never know where you may end up. For me it started out as a ”necessity” to fulfill my desire for quality hot sauces and it seems I was not alone. I have quit my full-time job and work on hot sauce full time. The great thing about this hot sauce community is that it is like one big family! We visit several hot sauce expos a year and it is amazing the people we have gotten to know over the years. Every year we get to expand our family with more people we meet in person. Should you have any questions on how to start, feel free to contact us through Facebook, our website, Instagram or even snail mail. We will help you out as much as we can with the knowledge we have gained over the years.”
-Haico & Angela