Written by Mascoville Owner Ard Heinkens
My Name is Ard Heinkens. Thomas Van Blijswijk is one of my best friends. Our love for traveling and spicy foods led us to create Mascoville Original Habanero. Started in 2018, this is our story from blending our first bottle to export and outsourcing in The Netherlands and South Africa.
I remember as a little boy seeing my grandfather putting such an amount of Indonesian sambal oelek on his fried rice, the whole plate turned fiery red. My grandfather had worked in Indonesia in the 50’s and learned to appreciate spicy food. Soon enough, I was hooked as well. Born in The Netherlands, I’ve always been exposed to exotic foods, some of them obvious remnants of the Dutch colonial history, around the world between Europa, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. My first real hot sauce was Encona Hot Pepper Sauce. Blazing hot for my 12 year-old taste-buds. After that, a lot of other hot sauces followed. Indonesian and Surinamese sambals have always been a favourite as well and remain a staple in our household.
Mascoville Original Habanero
I moved to Cape Town, South Africa in 2013, where there is a big market and community involving spicy foods, spices and chilies. One look at the condiment section in shops and you’ll see a real hot sauce bonanza going on here! A big part of the South African kitchen has Malaysian and Indian roots, our climate is perfect to grow chilies from home and most fridges contain one or more spicy condiments at any time.
In November 2018, I emptied out a large bottle of imported hot sauce. Being quite expensive here, my wife suggested to just make my own spicy concoction. I’m a home chef and always interested in new foods, so this was an excellent idea! I started making small batches of sauce, coming up with various recipes, using different types of chilies, cooking, fermenting, writing down the progress and recipes along the way. We found a local chili farm that grows the prettiest habanero chilies I’ve ever seen and after a number of weeks of cooking and tweaking, batch 17 was a winner. By this time one of my best friends in the Netherlands, Thomas, came on board. Being an internet marketer and exotic food fanatic he suggested making an actual product out of this and have some fun with it! We started looking for a name and found a designer to work on our branding, logo and labels.
We wanted to make and market a high-quality product, handmade in small batches, using nothing but ‘real’ ingredients. In June 2019 we launched Mascoville Original Habanero. Made up of the Spanish word ‘mas’ for ‘more’ and ‘Scoville’ for obvious reasons. Mascoville is a cooked habanero hot sauce, made with fresh fruit and hints of caramelized onions and garlic, coming in three different flavours. When designing the packaging, we looked at old wooden beer crates with glass bottles and had custom wooden crates made for 3 and 8 bottles, great for gift packs and display in shops.
A start-up scaling up.
We started selling Mascoville at local markets, online and through word of mouth. Production was getting out of hand and very impractical to do from home. We found an established food brand owner with her own halal certified factory for chutneys and sauces. The certification would make our products suitable for the large Muslim community in Cape Town that loves spicy food and snacks. When we partnered up a new world opened: bulk ingredients, upscaling recipes, food safety, retention samples, stock taking, etcetera. Joining up with an experienced party was of significant value: we got many tips, tapped into her contacts and were warned for common pitfalls when upscaling.
Soon multiple shops stocked Mascoville, due to the different look and taste compared to other products on the market. At the moment we are still getting more stockists, scaling up to make export and production in The Netherlands, updating our label designs and working on flavours like smoky garlic, Szechuan pepper infusions and ghost pepper sambals.
We did make some mistakes and learned important lessons along the way: costings, realizing packaging is important (and expensive!), mishaps with large batches, label legalities, running out of stock, the value of interacting via social media. Even though our business is still small, it’s great to have our own product and returning customers.
Does our story inspire you to come up with your own unique hot sauce recipe? Follow our Instagram page and browse for inspiration and how-to’s on Youtube, where a massive community of hot sauce lovers is proud to share recipes. Follow a couple of food-safety principles and just get started. Your friends and family will love it!
If you want to taste Mascoville, have any questions or want to share something else: get in touch!
All the best from sunny South Africa!
Ard and Thomas.