How a Microbiologist Crafted a Better Hot Sauce
Some of the best entrepreneurs in the world have achieved success by breaking the rules. Building a successful food business requires a growth mindset and outside the box thinking. That’s why when Matt Behringer, founder of Behringer Pepper Co., a new Washington, DC hot sauce company, saw that Union Kitchen was hiring team members in their stores, he decided it was a perfect opportunity to get hands-on with the Accelerator and learn how to launch a product. But how did a long time hot sauce foe decide to launch a hot sauce business?
The story of Behringer Pepper Co began a couple of years ago when Matt developed what he describes as an “unsustainable kombucha habit.” Matt’s total obsession with the beverage led him to youtube, where he began to learn about the fermentation process and eventually produce the bubbly drink on his own. Once he got kombucha under his belt, he began to experiment more with fermentation. Sauerkraut, pickle making, basically, if you could ferment it, Matt fermented it! After fermenting pretty much everything under the sun, Matt realized that his longtime distaste for hot sauce, a condiment he previously described as “spicy vinegar,” might actually be a business opportunity. What if he used his newfound passion and expertise for fermentation to develop a better hot sauce? Were there other consumers out there, like himself, who didn’t like the taste of hot sauce? Wanted better flavors? Were obsessed with fermentation? Matt got to work.
Matt made it his mission to ferment a better hot sauce that didn’t taste flavorless but brought in the positive microbial gut health that fermentation provides. Many elements of Matt’s childhood pointed to the fact he would one day be a food entrepreneur. Matt’s dad was a restaurant maintenance Tech, and as a kid, Matt would tag along on his jobs where he spent countless hours in and around kitchens. While his family encouraged him to think about a career path outside of restaurants, his passion for the space led him to keep coming back time and time again. His attempt at getting a “real job” started with studying microbiology in college. Matt’s intention was to be a teacher, but he always held on to his side kitchen jobs.
When Matt was ready to take the leap and start Behringer Pepper, he left his job and began to research kitchen spaces. Through his search, Matt noticed that Union Kitchen was hiring team members in their stores. Matt decided that before applying to the Accelerator he wanted experience in the Union Kitchen stores, learning from consumers about what drives their purchasing decision. “It gave me a good sense of how products move, I was completely naive to the retail process,” Matt said. “Anything you can do to get to know the flow, get to know the stores, talk to people,” is Matt’s big advice for people looking to launch their own products.
Learning the retail side of a food business was not Matt’s only hurdle to launching Behringer Pepper. During the research and development process, Matt experienced endless boilovers. Essentially, a boilover is when there is good fermentation, but not enough air, and the sauce finds a way to boil over and out of the bottle. When Matt first began testing with consumers, he was shipping bottles of his hat sauce to friends and family across the country. What he didn’t expect was to get feedback that the hot sauce was seeping out of the bottles! Working closely with the Union Kitchen Accelerator team and their manufacturing industry partners, Matt figured out the solution. He has since nailed down the manufacturing process and no longer finds his hot sauce experiences the boil overs that it did in its earliest days.
With the recent launch of Behringer Pepper Co., Matt was most excited to see his two years of hard work finally sitting on the shelves. Behringer Pepper Co. is launching with two flavors, Original and Chipotle which are now available at all five Union Kitchen stores, with online orders coming soon.