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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

So You Want to Sell BBQ Sauce?

I get questions about selling bbq sauce and bbq spice rubs frequently via e-mail.  I've written a few posts about my research previously, but thought I'd do a more recent post for anyone with similar thoughts.

If you want to start by bottling and selling your own bbq sauce recipe, you're probably looking at about $10,000 in start-up costs because most bottlers will only do it in fairly large batches. That's an estimate based on research I did several years ago, so it's likely even higher now.

I found a bottler a few years ago who would do small batch bottling (less than 500 gallons), but based on my experience this is somewhat risky. The bottler I was using went out of business before filling my order and he kept my deposit. He changed his name and relocated the business to another state, so I was completely out of luck. Other than filing a complaint with the State Attorney General's office, there was little else I could do.

If you want to put your label on someone else's recipe, you can probably pull that off for $3,000-$4,000 to start depending on how much your liability insurance costs, the corporate structure you choose, how much you want to advertise, and several other variables.

The best thing to do is do a Google search for private label bbq sauce suppliers. You'll likely find 5 or 6 possibilities within 15 minutes or less.

I decided to pursue bbq spice rub instead of bbq sauce. Spice rub has a much lower cost of entry than bbq sauce, but it's also a Catch 22 because bbq sauce sells much, much better.

Whatever you decide, I think the "gimmick" you have for your name and the design of your label and overall branding approach is much more important than your actual recipe.  The best bbq sauce in the world might not sell very well if you can't, or don't know how to market it.

In my personal opinion, taking the "selling it on the side to friends and family and at bbq contests" is not a viable business strategy.  I tried that for 4 years with my spice rub. And, although I did not lose money doing it, I didn't really make much either.


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41 comments:

Chris said...

Interesting to hear an inside point of view on that experience. I would never try it only because there is already so much competition in that market.

DFW BBQ Catering said...

Never knew it was so much work!

http://www.bigracksbbq.com. BBQ in dallas, tx

Anonymous said...

It is a lot of work but it definitely is worth it. I just got my product to market and I would say the estimates are a little on the low side but then again I did bring two sauces and a spice rub to market at the same time.

www.lilsmokersbbq.com

chris said...

Wow..sure is a lot of work. I guess if you have a great sauce, the work will pay off with some luck

kim said...

I recommend checking out Ashman Manufacturing Co. They are based in Virginia Beach, VA and have successfully helped bring brands to market (they do have a 425 gallon minimum). A current "hot" brand is Pork Barrel BBQ, who you may have seen on the reality show Shark Tank. http://ashmanco.com/

And I completely agree with The BBQ Guy's advice on name and label design (although I wouldn't call it a "gimmick", but rather "good branding"). We've helped brand some great sauces and lines and are advocates of DOING IT RIGHT, or don't bother ;-)
http://redchalkstudios.com/

Mary said...

Very interesting read!! New to your blog, happy I found you!

Mary
Delightful Bitefuls

Anonymous said...

I note that you mentioned that selling to friends and at BBQ contests is not a good sales strategy. Do you have suggestions as to where to sell it - that is if you already have a good product?

GTS

The BBQ Guy said...

GTS,

Selling to friends and at contests alone without some other type of retail outlet, did not really produce enough sales volume for me. If you are a multiple time World Champion contest winner, then perhaps you can achieve enough sales volume to generate a large profit, but establishing relationships with retail stores looks much more promising to me.

This is a double edged sword. Alot of sales creates a cash flow issue for you. Too few sales won't generate any profit.

My strategy would be to establih relationships with small, local retailers and then grow from there. At some point though, you might need a working capital loan depending on the "float" from the time you deliver the product and the time you receive payment and the overall sales volume you achieve. If things really take off for your product, it's likely you won't be able to operate on a pay-as-you-go (i.e. cash) basis.

Warehousing space is also a concern once you outgrow your spare bedroom.

Brian Kerry said...

The first major English BBQ Manufacturer with added technology www.bukcan.co.uk/BBQ-Detail-3

Les said...

It's interesting what you say. I've been selling some BBQ rub, mainly on Ebay with some success for about a year and a bit. In fact I stopped over Winter but received emails from people asking for me to relist and sell more. I now have a number of repeat customers and I'm considering taking it along a commercial route.

Outdoor BBQ Grills said...

Hi Brian,

I am in love with your blog. I run have a website about BBQ Grills and Recipes and I'd LOVE it if you can place my link on your blogroll/sidebar. Let me know what you think of it :)

URL : http://www.outdoor-bbqgrills.com/
Keyword: Outdoor BBQ Grills

Best Regards,
Jonathan

Jeremiah "Red Dog" Johnson said...

I've been thinking for years about doing my own rub or sauce. I've worked with chefs in the past that did it and it's a tough road. Kinders Barbecue has been very good at taking an award wining recipe and turning it into a store brand. You have to the barbecue tour and get the name out. It take awhile, but do able. Thanks for the info my friend.

Anonymous said...

The bbq sauce industry is a tough nut to crack but exciting! Stage Coach Sauces started off as a small operation in a kitchen and has grown into a manufacturing facility. It was not easy to do but with dedication and time, it can happen.

Stage Coach has helped dozens of people also launch their brand onto the market with a reasonable 300 gallon batch minimum.

Ethan Danstrom said...

This was an interesting insight into selling rub. I have been working on ours for about a year, slowly refining the recipe and building contacts. We have sold about 100 jars so far, and have given many away as samples/gifts. I had never thought about re-labeling somebody else's rub, but I guess if you are fleshing out a product line that is cheaper than starting from scratch. We are getting some shelf space at a small grocer, with connections for larger ones if that goes well.

It was nice to see the list of things that I don't include for future conversation & marketing. Being somebody that just started this on a whim, I don't even know what anti-caking agents are (other than blending the spices and brown sugar really well in the Cuisinart). Now I can list all that junk as not included in the purchase price.

I do take a bit of an issue with your use of the term "gimmick" A truly good brand isn't a gimmick, but has soul and a story. A good brand is about a specific passion, and somebody's drive to put their own small dent in the universe. Some people try to leverage a gimmick to cover the gap, but that leaves a shallow flash in the pan brand. Long haul quality and a true bond with your customers is only going to happen when you share something deeper than just a monetary transaction.

I might not make a ton of money off my adventure*, but I am certainly not going to add more dreck to everybody's day in an effort to clear some more profit. I worked for a while doing branding for other people, and it always frustrated me when I wasn't able to tease some sort of passion from them. I felt my job was to tell their story in the clearest way possible, and set them table for future communications as their company grew. The trouble is that some people really didn't give a shit about their job, or really didn't know what the hell they were really doing. It is incredibly hard to brand apathetic crap.

Now I get to use my skills to build my own brand and tell my own story. This is a lot more fun.

-Happy Grilling.

*Probably not

The BBQ Guy said...

One of the most popular pork bbq rubs used in bbq contests for many years started out as a gimmick. In fact, the gimmick was so key to selling the product the gimmick was trade marked and is now synonomous with the brand.

It is my understanding that others have tried to use the trade marked name generically and have received letters from various lawyers asking them to stop using the words to describe their product. In this one example, the gimmick has become the brand.

Don't get me wrong, building a brand is highly desireable albeit much more expensive than building a gimmick.

I'd venture to say that there are many, many great products that will never sell in mass quantities because they don't have a memorable gimmick to help them get the brand established in the market place. But...that's just my perspective after attempting to build a spice rub business for 7 years unsuccessfully.

A recent Shark Tank episode I was watching seemed to support my view as well.

Weber q320 said...

Just put a link from my site to yours there are some quality info on barbequing here, I have a few top recipes on my blog if you want to check them out at:
http://weberreview.com

Just to note, depending on how you use sauce with barbequing can it dry your meat out and burn it?

James Strickland said...

Great Blog everyone, Getting Rub and Sauce to market is truly a long road. But the excitement and the joy of seeing smiles when they try your product out weighs all the work. So go for it and have fun!Just remember to support the community that will support you when you make it happen.

Messy Mouth BBQ, LLC
James Strickland

Rich C. said...

Your comments are right-on. I started marketing Dimples BBQ Sauce after years of selling it at barbecue competitions. It has been on the market for about a year and is available on-line and at specialty retailers in NC. At this stage, advertising takes up most of the profits but we're having fun and meeting some great people. Hopefully, Dimples will take us into a nice retirement.

Anonymous said...

I just came across this blog and information while researching a bit on marketing my sauce. It is not a barbeque sauce. In my opinion barbeque sauces have flooded the market and trying to break into the barbeque sauce business as a first shot to success is risky business. Making a barbeque sauce or a hot sauce, without establishing your name on another food product to start, is only going to get lost in the sea of those sauces. Great information though. I'm going for it! I sold 4 cases in a week and a half and have had 100% positive feedback from everybody who tried it. Wayneford's Grillin' Sauce. Coming to a store near you. :)

Anonymous said...

I have been working on getting my BBQ sauce to market now for 9 months. I have two hot mfg companies in posture to go. Bottles picked out and label completed. It has been a full time 2nd job for me. I had no idea the depth of my venture. I have two sales contracts pending, one of which wants to brand my sauce with their brand. Total cost associated from my start including, mfg, bottles, label designs, law fees, LLC, etc..$10,000+ and counting. I'm excited, I have a great story and brand, the sauce is super, no doubt, but I have been told the brand / story will be what sells the sauce, at least at first. I do not get over excited, we will just see where it goes.

jlmac27 said...

what kind of anticaking products are there out there and can anyone explain the importnance of them.I can see my rub sitting for awhile and getting hard.I use a lot of brown sugar.Thanks guys glad I found this place.

The BBQ Guy said...

Bad Byron's Butt Rub, which in my opinion is one of the best pork spice rubs on the market, uses microcrystalline cellulose according to the ingredients list on the label.

Here's a link to several others you can check into: http://www.foodfigures.com/Mineral-salts-and-Anti_caking-agents_g5.htm

jlmac27 said...

thanks bbg guy going to check it out

jlmac27 said...

thanks for your help

george said...

i have been making my product hampton bbq sauce for several years and i can attest it is very hard to promote a quality sauce due to the price point of the ingredients especially when as i have a preservative free/shelf stable product. i have to sell it only to high end stores where they sell it at $7 a bottle. a limmited market but i get repeat orders because people love the sauce.
hope to make it big one day but the costs otway the possibilities.

Neil said...

Hi BBQ Guy - Do you happen to know what FDA Regulations are in place if one was interested in starting their own Rub or Sauce Packaging Plant?

The BBQ Guy said...

Neil,

This link is probably a good place to start: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodIngredientsPackaging/default.htm

I suspect their a number of highly compensated consultants that could help :-)

Julie Reinhardt said...

Great blog and a perfect subject matter. I have packaging on the brain tonight as we are thinking about launching a few products from our BBQ restaurant, so to add, here are some good sources for bottles and containers I found: http://www.sks-bottle.com, http://freundcontainer.com and www.specialtybottle.com Julie (Smokin' Pete's BBQ)

The BBQ Guy said...

Nizmo,

I have no idea, but it certainly sounds questionable.

Anonymous said...

This is Perfect! My sauce was named at a National Sauce Competition(2012) and Im getting ready to start Bottling and selling it. will start at home and move on from There!
Ken

Outdoor Oven Dude said...

Great post, very informative and we truly enjoy your blog. Not sure when and if we're going to create a sauce out two to market but we know have a much better understanding of what it will take. Many Thanks!

The Count of Al Dente said...

Good thread. I see that many of the comments are from people who have the same problem that I've seen on some of the restaurant shows like Kitchen Nightmares: going into a business without knowing what you're doing. I have a few basic suggestions: First, take a real deep breath. Think hard, do you really want to do this. It does take a lot of work and could easily take over a year or two just to get something good going. - Do your research. Don't ask at blogs. Go directly to your local health dept. - Read books on food science, use of herbs/spices, cooking processes, etc. - Do you want to continue? - See where the nearest commercial kitchens with hourly rental rates are - Study your options for beginning, small scale marketing - outline your plan (very important) - one of the keys for retail marketing is having variety. Just one product won't sell very well. You should have at least two or three types of sauces. - For a friend of mine, the largest expense was label design. Get a professional for this...

These are my plans at least.

katelynn G said...

I love this article. I am a 22 year old stay at home mom and was thinking about selling my bbq sauce but i can not afford all that comes with it. I really wish it was easier. I came up with my recipe when i was 15 and have won 57 bbq competitions since. I do have my bbq sauce copy righted though. Will that help in the future if i ever make enough money to sell it?

Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying the blog. There's a lot of great info here. I've just getting started in the BBQ sauce world. It's something I've always enjoyed and not until recently have I thought of producing and selling it. What's the cheapest way to have a nutritional label made and what all is required before you can begin to sell it?

Thanks, Mark

Anonymous said...

We would love to help start some of you all with small batch production! We have been around for over 10 years now!
www.BardstownFoodManufacturer.com

Bryan Harrell said...

This is a great blog. Could someone please help with this spice blend. Any suggestions on branding or getting it out would be so helpful. Thank you so much!
http://www.8thwonderspice.com/

The BBQ Guy said...

I may have missed it on your website, but I kept looking on the site for a list of ingredients. I see that it's made up of 17 different items, but many people must see an ingredient list before they choose a product. Some friends of mine like to see the suggested daily allowance when they spice rubs too. Maybe you could add a copy of the ingredients list and nutrition information on your site.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I have an original BBQ sauce/marinade guranteed to take off. I'm interested in a. partner with the "know how" positive attitude , "in it to win/win it" drive and personality in the Junction City, Ks area which is center of the U.S.A. as we grow/expand from the inside throughput the U.S.
How I know it will boom. Friend's down south New Orleans, a place known for exotic foods/taste would ask me to grill/BBQ for their party's yearly and as my ribs/chicken are being taken right off of grill as people try/taste my BBQ ribs/chicken, complete strangers to me would take their hats off to me for the original flavor they've never tasted before as a nice crowd surrounds me while I'm grillin, conversing how I should open up my own bar & grill...something i would love to do. I spend about $1oo give or take for the meats and marinade to grill for a party that has 20/up to 50 guest that arrive to the BBQ/party. At the same time, I try my best to not let my head grow big cause of all the compliments.
So whoever is serious on helping me build/grow this for sure win/win bbq sauce/marinde, I can be reached at jesselewis671@yahoo.com. Thanks for your interested and hope everyone will beable to taste & enjoy the original new bbq flavor ill be distributing here in the U.S. in the near future, with the right partner to venture the same goals/successful dream as we unfold the dream into a reality. Hope to hear from from someone with same interest soon. Grillin/BBQing for 20yrs using my original marinade I've created. Jesse :)

Anonymous said...

Stage Coach Sauces is located in North Florida and has helped over 150 different start up companies start their sauce business. I would highly reccomend them. They are not a huge company nor are they corporate owned which makes it perfect to call and speak to the owner who has loads of information he is willing to share with anyone new to the industry. Start up costs to get a product launched is only $950 including everything your product needs to be "supermarket selling ready". You can visit www.stagecoachsauces.com to get in touch with them. Great service and family owned and operated, which makes for the best support and help.

Anonymous said...

I have been selling my bbq sauce at farmers market. And doing very well. Now I have a store that wants to sell it. What is the mark up percentage in selling to a store. 30% 40%
Thanks
Tracy
O! IC BBQ SAUCE


Anonymous said...

HI! I'm currently associated with a BBQ smokehouse restarurant and wee are looking at bottling and packaging our sauces and rubs to sell to our customers. Do you know if there are extra laws to abide by for this or can we just start bottling and selling it?