Newks Hot Sauce Story written by Jake Newcomb
Newks Hot Sauce is a company based out of Portland, Oregon that started right at the end of 2019, before the pandemic shook the world. Jake Newcomb (hence the name NEWKS), started a Kickstarter campaign to get the company off the ground. The humble goal of $3,000 was hit within 24 hours, and Newcomb was able to take those funds to purchase a business license, sign up for an acidified food processor license, get business insurance, buy cooking equipment, and all the other miscellaneous startup costs. Since then, Newks has had a very strong and steady growth rate. Within 3 months of operating as a business, Newks was in contact with the popular hot sauce subscription company called ‘Fuego Box’, and was asked to be featured in their subscription boxes. In May of 2020 their Hot Pepper Sauce (Newks hottest flavor), was featured in their hottest subscription box. Later on in the year, the Newks Groovy Green sauce would be featured in their mildest box. That got their sauces into thousands of people’s hands, and helped grow the brand.
The Newks original recipe is a very unique hot sauce. It is called the ‘Kinda Mild’ and features Bananas, Habaneros, Carrots, Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, Agave Nectar and more. The use of bananas in a hot sauce seemed to peak people’s interests, and it grew quite popular. It wasn’t long after this, when the Smokey Chipotle sauce was created. This is the only sauce in the Newks line up that does not feature fruit. It has earthier tones, coming from the root vegetables. Ingredients in the Smokey Chipotle include Beets, Purple Cabbage, Purple Onion, Garlic, Tomato, Chipotle Peppers, Jalapeño and Serrano Peppers, Brown Sugar and more. This quickly became a popular sauce. It was used in a pizza sauce for a popular West Coast pizza chain called SIZZLE PIE. Newks had to make about 50 gallons of sauce for them, and the pizza launched in the summer of 2020. It was called the PINK FLAMINGO, and it was absolutely delicious. It brought a lot of attention to the Smokey Chipotle sauce, and it went on to be perhaps Newks’ bestselling sauce for the year.
Feedback started coming back from Newks fans. It seemed that Newks was on a path of something special, and could become a real full-time business. One of the critiques some fans would say is that they love the flavor of the sauces, but they wished there was a very mild sauce. This is when Newks decided to create their Groovy Green hot sauce. This was created for people who are chasing pure flavor, and not much spice. In typical Newks fashion, the recipe involves fruit. This time in the form of green apples. The Groovy Green sauce includes Granny Smith Apples, Jalapeños, Maple Syrup, Serrano Peppers, Tomatillos, Green Bell Peppers and more. It was a big success when launched and really helped add a new dynamic to the Newks line up.
Newks is also known to collaborate with a lot of artists and musicians. The main artwork was drawn by the artist Jo Moyer Battick, who does incredible work (find her on Instagram). They have also created a few fun shirt and sticker designs with other talented artists such as Marenna Skinner, Marvin Velasco and Gillian Hunt. Newks also collaborates with musicians often. The first collaborative hot sauce label they made was with the songwriter Emil Amos of the bands Holy Sons, Grails, Om, and Lilacs and Champagne. Newks took their original sauce and made some commemorative labels, featuring artwork from Emil’s albums, and putting them on the bottles. Newks has done similar collaborations with the bands Lilacs and Champagne, Soft Kill and most recently, the psychedelic rock band Elder. There are a couple more exciting future collaborations in the works.
Newks runs a busy schedule these days. They are present at 5 Farmer’s Market’s a week in Portland, Oregon, and are constantly cooking to keep up with demand. They can be found in about 25 retail stores at this time. Mostly they are located in Oregon, but some are in other states.