Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Hot Sauce Marketing Heats Up

Once upon a time--after the Civil War and into the dawn of the 20th century--Tabasco had the hot-sauce market to itself. Its famous concentrated pepper sauce spiced up bland foods drop by drop. Banker Edmund McIlhenny founded the firm, and his 2d great-grandson, the current head, sums up the original venture this way: "There was no commercially sold hot sauce before Tabasco. Edmund invented the category."

The now iconic Tabasco bottle is an example of early recycling in action: McIlhenny originally used discarded cologne bottles for his sauce because they were readily available, and users could dispense just one hot drop at a time. When he began marketing the sauce commercially, he ordered new "cologne" bottles because the size and shape made sense for his hot sauce. The bottle became so identified with the product that Tabasco trademarked the size/shape. You can see Tabasco on Facebook, where it has more than 3.2 million likes.

In recent years, new hot sauces have invaded grocery shelves, and competition continues to heat up. Huy Fong's chili-and-garlic sriracha sauce is a good example: It has become increasingly popular, especially among foodies, and also has a highly recognizable bottle profile and label, including the rooster.

Sriracha is such a "hot" food product that Tabasco now has its own version...as do other sauce marketers. Although Huy Fong's owner David Tran never trademarked the "sriracha" product name, he says the new-product activity in the sauce market increases awareness of sriracha and acts like free advertising for his, the original sauce of its kind. Check out Huy Fong on Facebook (240,000+ likes), where founder David Tran is the face of the brand. 

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