Ep. 093 – How to get Into 200 Stores as a Fiery Artisan Brand with Ana and Drew Stevens, Founders at Pepper North

I’m a big fan of interviewing small businesses that are rocking it and Pepper North is no exception.

For one, I can ask them practical questions on how to get started and I get really grounded and tactical answers. Another reason? I get to try their amazing products.

Ana Stevens found me on linkedin and asked to be interviewed. She then sent me some of her amazing products for me to try, big fan of their blueberry barbecue sauce. Canadian listeners, these products are exclusively for you (for now).

So a big thing that really surprised me about Pepper North is that not only is it completely family ran, but they are selling at over 200 stores in the Toronto area. I dive in deep to find out how they try to get their products in stores and I found it really informative.

Other highlights in this episode includes how important a story is on a label, the huge local movement going around in Canada and a great dissection on what makes these two founders such a great team.

About Pepper North

Pepper North was born out of a love for growing super-hot peppers and handcrafting delicious gourmet hot pepper products. We believe in using the freshest locally sourced ingredients possible in order to create a flavour experience that will be enjoyable for all.We are a family run business established in 2013 located in Oshawa, Canada. We began our journey into the hot sauce world much like many others, by growing hot peppers in our home garden and turning them into delicious spicy products for friends and family. As demand began to grow, so did our batch sizes. Adding eye catching labels, we started attending local farmers markets and festivals to rave reviews from our customers and fellow hot sauce lovers. Before long, we were making a name for ourselves across Canada with our line of delicious super-hot sauces.

Currently our award winning hot sauces and condiments are all natural, free from added preservatives, gluten free, and can be found in over 200 stores across Ontario and beyond.

“We are truly excited and humbled to bring great hot sauces and condiments into Canadian households because we put a lot of love, passion & dedication into each hand crafted batch”.

Sponsor – FoodGrads

If you are even just a little bit interested in a career in food & beverage, you should join FoodGrads.  It’s an interactive platform where you can hear about different careers, hear from your peers, have a voice and share your story as well as ask specific questions and get feedback from industry experts across the sector.

You can create a profile, add your resume and search for co-op, internships and full time opportunities just for Food Grads. Employers can find you too, they can recruit you for jobs and projects they need help with to give you the relevant industry experience you need.

Join FoodGrads today! Just go to Foodgrads.com

Sponsor – ICON Foods

What’s worse than marketing saying, ‘we have to clean up these sugars?’

They want clean label sugar reduction because that’s the trend.

So I advise you to skate to where the puck is going. Whether it’s to make your product a bit healthier or following the ever-changing FDA laws, my friends at Icon Foods – formerly Steviva Ingredients – are here to help. They have more than 20 years of R&D experience with natural sweeteners and sweetening systems in a wide range of applications. With a product list of twenty different sweeteners and plug-in sweetening systems that keeps growing, you can’t go wrong. Check out stevivaingredients.com to learn about the newest all-natural sweetener solutions and collaboration opportunities.

For more information, visit ICON foods at ICONfoods.com

Episode Highlights

-Why putting a story on your label is really important
-Why controlling everything gives you amazing control
-Why it’s harder to grow Peppers in Canada (duh!)
-The power of local food in Canada
-The power of having a creative and administrative founder
-A discussion on sales
-Why sorting M and Ms

Describe your business in a sentence or less: We produced all natural gourmet hot sauce using locally sourced ingredients
When someone noticed your sauce first, what do they notice specifically?: The labels first because we do our own labels
Romance Panel- describes the panel on a food label
Favorite part about your job: Drew: Creating new sauces. Anna: Build relationships
What was the hardest thing to learn in making your business?: For Ana, learning the different aspects of the food industry
Describes the steps it took to get to where you are today?: Been a long 4 years. Started out selling seeds. People wanted hotter and hotter and we kept on giving them hotter and hotter
Where do you get the peppers?: We grow them ourselves but we supply the farmers the seeds.
How did you grow?: Food and drink shows, fancy food shows, contacting local stores. We are currently in 200 stores.
How do you get into these stores?: Went on Google, typed up specialty food stores, sample to store managers,

You have to be there in person
Do your research! The place has to sell sauces. Call on phone or email them (if they ask)
Ana has a wholesale list that explains the products, ingredients, story, and cost (quantity/case)

Why did you decide to start a food business?: Drew always loved cooking and growing fruits and vegetables. Ana loves interfacing with customers.
Quick Tips: Walt Disney and Roy Disney’s dynamic is the same as Ana and Drew
How do you think of new products?: I think of an idea in bed and create a new product. For example: Blueberry Hot Sauce
My Food Job Rocks: It’s never a dull day. There is something to do every day
Is your product seasonal?: Different SKUs sell more depending on season
Quick Tip: Canadians don’t like pectin
What type of food trends are popular?: Hot sauce is exploding. Fermentation is also growing huge such as Kombucha
One thing you’d like to know more about?: Food Science, shelf-life things, consumer behavior
Quick Tip: A sale 1 to 1 is easy. Selling in a grocery store is really hard because the competition is fierce
How did you get inspired to get into food?: Drew: Mother taught him how to cook, his wife encouraged him to start on his own
Did you quit cold turkey before jumping into business?: No, Drew did things on a  side for the year. Ana went on maternity leave
Favorite Kitchen Item: Slow cooker using Pepper North Sauces. Ana likes to make snacks and whipping up rice krispy squares
Quick Tips: Analyze the ways people cook or eat and notice why they are in the roles they are in,
Favorite Food: Drew makes sandwiches like Philly Cheese Steaks and Pulled Pork Sandwiches. Favorite food is pizza
Starting a Food Business: Ana: Do your research, ask the questions, do the regulations, find the logistics. There’s a lot. Drew: Be prepared that not everyone is going to love what you make.
Do you have any advice for starting a food buisness?: Stay true to yourself and your product and yourself will shine. Just keep going, don’t give up.
Where can we find you guys for advice?: Pepper North. Facebook. Ana is on linkedin

Other Links

Stargazer: 75% all pepper based
7 pot primo – Troy Primo in Louisiana
Fancy Food Show experience
Local in Canada versus local in United States – Half of the people who go up to Drew ask where it’s made
Canada’s maternity leave is a year
Equifruit interview
Use their blueberry sauce on chicken wings and ice cream
Afterglow hot apricot jelly – apricot zuchinni


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *