2023 Our Best Year Ever

2023 Our Best Year Ever

Mark McAulay

TL;DR

Launched 3 new sauces and one new collaboration sauce
Finalist in two international awards, two UK wide awards and one local award
Won 2 awards and finished joint second in another. Added another Great Taste star to our collection
Other than that, we got on with making 179 batches of hot sauce. That gave us a yield of 20,235 bottles. All filled, labelled, sealed and tagged by hand by one eejit in the worlds finest sauce lab.

The “needs biscuits and a cup of tea version”

By mid January, we had a functioning kitchen. We got busy stocking our warehouse and getting our products out across the UK once more. It was a busy time but we started to get back on top of things. Until the increasing demand meant we didn’t.

Businessing

We did some “businessing” throughout this year. We decided to be a more active part of the local business community. We made ourselves available wherever we were able. Things kicked off when Opportunity North East invited us to speak at one of their events. We went on to take part in the local Food & Drink awards this year also. We joined the Business Gateway Growth Program. Hopeful this would help as we try to scale the business. We’ll stay engaged and write about the outcomes in full, next year.

We took a larger geographical look at where our stockists are, where our brand was most popular and why. Over the year we added more stockists in more areas than ever before. Aberdeen, Inverness, Elgin, Dundee, Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds, Nottingham, Cambridge, Bristol and Portsmouth. We maintain a strong number of stockists across London. We pushed on into France in the second half of 2023. We end the year in conversation with interested businesses across the globe.

Awards

We figured we’d enter a few this year and see how it felt after not entering any last year. We started big. Entering “Hot Summer Night ​International Hot Sauce Competition” out in California. We’ve entered this one before. This is a blind taste competition against amazing hot sauces from across the world. They donate the entry fee to help underprivileged kids have a better chance in life. That got us thinking about paying for awards and we made a decision. We will no longer enter “pay to play” awards where the money is retained in a profit making private company. We've spent a significant amount of money to get a pat on the back from a profit making private business. We don’t see any real winner here except the company raking in the cash and so, we’ve chosen to step out. We’re probably going to stand alone on this but the only awards we’ll pay to enter are those who use the money to help others.

By May, we’d discovered that one of our entries to those awards out in California had done quite well. We found ourselves in the final 8 of “best hot sauce label in the world” for our 7 Pot Pineapple. That’s as far as we got in the end. We'd been on the edge of our seats as the rounds passed and the finalist pool reduced down to the final 8. We’d find out in July that our Mustard had made the top 10 best spicy mustards in the world. It also left the awards and went on to spend its remaining days in the competition organisers fridge. Some achievement for a daft wee sauce company in Scotland. Taking on heavy duty contenders from across the globe, out in California and coming out well.

The first of our wins came in June at North East Scotland Food & Drink Awards. Our 7 Pot Bramble sauce scooped Best New Product. We were so sure we weren’t winning that we didn’t even bother with the “black tie” request for the awards dinner. We had a lovely feed and made some new friends. Before we knew it, we were on stage shaking hands with the boy from Deacon Blue and accepting the award.

Best New Product 2023

We won a great taste award for our 7 Pot Mango sauce this year. This is the first time we’ve mentioned that.

Meanwhile, we learned that Miso and PI-RO were both finalists in this years sauce awards. The results arrived in December. PI-RO took gold for Best Collaboration. Miso finished joint second place for Best Ferment in the 2023 Sauce Awards. What a way to end the year!

 

Prototype club

We launched our Prototype Club for real and twice scaled it this year. It now has three times as many subscribers as when we launched. Three experimental sauces from our lab, delivered every 3 months. We’ve learned a lot about running our first subscription service. We’ve seen very little drop off and the couple of slots which did open up were immediately snapped up. We’re going to double the size of it this year to let some of the significant waiting list in. There are a lot of fridges out there craving the perpetual new shiny shiny in hot sauce. We have proven there are others like us. Get ready to join the original and best prototype club in 2024 as we open the doors once again.

Sauces

We launched 3 sauces this year and retired a bunch of stuff you may not think we’d have been brave enough to. It’s like you don’t know us at all ;)

Let’s look at what we retired. But let’s not dwell too long on it. There’s a future to embrace.

7 Pot Mango and 7 Pot Bramble are both gonners. We have a finite supply of our 7 Pot chillies each year and we need to use them where they matter most. This decision means we can make much more 7 Pot Pineapple each year. If year on year demand and sales are anything to go by, I’m sure most of you are more than happy about that.

“Het Sass” will now drop off our labels for the main part. It has served its purpose and delivered everything we hoped it would. We are cool about reducing its presence now. It grew our brand exposure in ways and locations we didn’t expect. It helped us find a sauce based on its common base process that we could take out to the world. Of the five Het Sass variations, a very clear champion emerged. And honestly, it wasn’t the one we thought. From our Original, Smokin’, Het Het, Miso, Bacon range, we would have backed “Smokin’” to be the most popular all day long. But in 2023 when we ran the numbers, we got a surprise. By a massive margin, Miso is the most popular of all time. It now gets rewarded with a new label and joins the Singularity Sauce Co. core range. The rest of the Het Sass range will return as occasional specials. Het Sass will never die.

Mustard is gone too. Kinda… We’ve got a plan for that. Some of you have experienced this through Prototype Club. It’ll be along soon enough.

So let’s focus on the future

Three new headliners arrived this year. There were a couple of boxes we wanted to tick and one we felt we hadn’t quite ticked. So we made things right. In the months between September and November, we dropped the sauces we’d been working on.

September saw us both enter and leave the hot sauce arms race at the same time with Our Hottest Sauce. A monster using a mix of Moruga Scorpions, Ginger, Lime, Maple Syrup and Rice Wine Vinegar. We like the flavour of Moruga Scorpion chillies. Of all the mad superhots we’ve eaten raw, we prefer the flavour of these to Carolina Reapers for example. We then started adding ginger until we felt those chillies couldn’t take any more. Lime juice gives it an edge and Maple draws you in to a false sense of security. Then those Moruga Scorpions get to work. This isn’t an immediately regrettable experience. This one says hello and shakes you by the hand before it builds. Going on to own your face for a few minutes while questioning your last few minutes of decisions. It’s polite but it’s angry at the same time. We have no intention of ever making a hotter sauce than this. That’s not to say we won’t do so by accident though, we do have a prototype club and we’re only human…

October saw the release of what will definitely become our most popular hot sauce. We fixed Buffalo sauce. Hot sauce should be for everyone. Traditionally Buffalo sauce is a mixture of hot sauce, honey and butter. So there are two reasons immediately why we need to be better. Honey and Butter are not for everyone so they’ve got to go. Then that first ingredient has always bothered us a bit because it assumes that any kind of hot sauce will do. Not here it won’t. Let’s deal with that too. And while we’re on our mutha fuckin high horse, let’s go all in for this one. Let’s avoid the sad ingredients. No cheapo white or malt vinegar in this Buffalo sauce. And you know what? let’s have none of the 14 recognised allergens either. Seems like a sauce worth making. It became our crusade. The four pillars of Buffalo as we see them, are Heat, Tanginess, Sweetness and Silkiness. We’re hitting the lot or we don’t do it. Firstly the base. We’re staying true so we’re dealing with aged cayenne. We then added smoked paprika, garlic and salt to develop that flavour. Developing flavour is our job, ok? With a nice “heat” experience in the bag, we went after that “tang” and for that we went left field. Binning off vinegar left us only a few options. We went for the most unexpected of those options. Local Kombucha heroes Raw Culture hit us up with their kombucha base souring. This is the good shit they ferment before turning it into fizzy pop. Tasting that madness with what we’d already put together was one of the greatest moments in making sauce. But we weren’t done yet. Next up was “sweetness”. The easy part. We’ve been using the flavours of light brown sugar forever. A natural fit and an easy win. The last challenge was the “silkiness”. We nipped round to see Pete at Bandit Bakery. The best human to help us find something which could complete our masterpiece. And Pete never fails to deliver. Not once. You’ve breezed into his bakery and bought what they make there right? Exactly. Pete saved us a lengthy, expensive round the houses of vegan butter alternatives. He got us where we needed to be double time! And so we put it all together and we’ll be dammed if this is not the best buffalo sauce in the game. Accessible to everyone. Anyone can buffalo anything they want. Hot sauce is for everyone, right?

And so to our last new sauce of the year then. The sauce we’d hoped “Het Sass: Original” would be, but didn’t quite make it. We re-grouped, built on our experience and released Everyday Hot Sauce. A Louisiana style hot sauce not sticking to the rules. Not on our watch. We kept that Cayenne flavour and heat, like we should. We built on it with sweet paprika, smoked paprika and garlic powder. Then we used imported Japanese rice vinegar. Less abrasive, smoother and a little sweeter. We threw a little cumin into the mix because we know what we’re doing. This was the first of our prototype club sauces to make it all the way to a core range product. First it appealed to our exclusive club of hot sauce maniacs and then it hit the mark with everyone else.

All three of these new sauces are dressed in finest illustrations done by STALLAN of course. You can tell they are from the same hand that did our Buy Ice Cream artwork back in 2021. We have only ever worked with local artists on our labels. These three additions from Stu continue to show why he’s in such demand from further afield. A top guy with legendary drawing skills. There’s more to come. Promise.

Speaking of Buy Ice Cream, It’s not a year of Singularity without our unhinged dessert sauce concept. This year we created a hot raspberry sauce. Inspired by the red sauce you’d accept from the geezer in the ice cream van. You know the one you say yes to without thinking and then kinda regret it. That’s the feeling we wanted to re-create but with a different, more exciting kind of regret. Regret focussed on heat and sharpness, rather than a “what’s this gloopy sweet red stuff on my ice cream?” The sauce vanished as usual. Every year we have set a 50 bottle limit. We plan to tear up that rule in 2024 so more of you can re-discover fun in hot sauce.

We dropped a special this year too. Going back a couple of years, we made a redcurrant & habanero jelly you all went completely bananas for. So it was about time we returned to the jelly making business. We sourced a load of Scottish honeyberries along with Scottish grown habaneros. Then we made “Hot Honeyberry Jelly”. We had less than 100 jars and it vanished. Cheeseboards, hams and gravies got the upgrade of their dreams this year. It was so popular, we will make more. Loads more.

But let’s wrap the sauce range chat up with Miso. We planned for record orders in 2023. We believed we’d made enough to meet demand until the end of January. We were wrong. we sold out of Miso 2 months earlier than planned at the beginning on November. A couple of factors lead to this. Being named as a finalist in the 2023 Sauce Awards helped. But mostly, you all completely lost your shit for it in a far greater way than we could ever have predicted. We don’t blame you. We’ve been flying the flag for our miso sauce for a while. It’s having a change of clothes for 2024. The same recipe but it now takes its rightful place in our core range.

We added a new collaboration hot sauce to our roster also. We were back at fiery shenanigans with our pals at Fierce Beer. A sauce to compliment their Mexican style lager “Cerveza”. We did what we do through the medium of yellow habaneros and other assorted joy. “Fuego De Cerveza” is here. Grab some, pick up a few tinnies from Fierce, make tacos and have the perfect night in. Or maybe pay House of Botanicals in Aberdeen a visit and try your hand at THIS LITTLE RIPPER!

Events and Outings

We had a public outing early in the year, as part of our sponsorship of The Aberdeen Lynx Ice Hockey Team. We helped put together a hot wings challenge. Two Jacks faced off and the large crowd enjoyed every minute of it. We receive almost monthly “our business would like to do a hot ones style event”. Most of the time that's as far as the idea goes. It was great to actually do this with people who would actually see it through and go on to make the best of it. Everybody was well entertained and it’s still spoken about 7 months on. We’ll go again in 2024 I reckon.

Elgin Festival of Food smashed us to bits in August. We first attended in 2022 and it was huge. We got such an amazing welcome from the people of Elgin that nothing would stop us coming back in 2023. This years event really took things to another level. Firstly the people were more incredible than ever. The amount of you we met last year who came back to see us this year was brilliant. We hope those of you who had heard about us last year and came to see what the fuss was about this year will be back again. The chat we had kept us laughing all day. The organisers were the most welcoming and helpful of any one day event this year. The army cadets helping out were brilliant. This was the single most fun day we had in 2023. We love you Elgin and we’re coming back in 2024.

The most local event to where we live is Apple Sunday at Pitmedden Garden. This was the third year in a row we’ve attended and was once again a huge day for us. Perhaps because we’re so local to the event or because the event is so well attended, either way we love being there. It’s a huge family event celebrating the annual crop of apples in the National Trust orchard. We get to rub shoulders with a very limited selection of the best of local producers. Businesses like Seidar, Udny Provender and Jane Keenan. We come home with apple pies and bags of different cultivar apples every time. We’ll be there, terrorising staff and visitors alike for as many years as we get invited.

We ended the year with 6 weekends at Aberdeen Christmas Market. We broke all sales records this year. We completely sold out of everything we had by the end of it. We projected a significant increase in sales from last year but that wasn’t even close to the demand this year. The most surprising thing for us was the number of visitors we had from Trinidad. In our first weekend, a large group came to see if we had the chops to make decent hot sauce. Our 7 Pot Pineapple did the job. One lady gave me a sample of her homemade hot sauce. It was really delicious. Scorpion pepper hot too. We chatted a while and exchanged numbers for future hot sauce funs. Over the remaining weeks, we had people, couples and families, all from Trinidad, stop by. You all wanted the 7 Pot Pineapple sauce. Perhaps word spread from the first group who visited? Perhaps our Pineapple sauce appeals to residents of that awesome sounding country. We loved meeting you all and your kind words and high praise made our day each time. We met a lot of interesting people. Fans new and old. We had loads of fun with the other stall holders and of course, sold a tanker load of hot sauce. We hope very much to be back next year and we’ll be ready. Huge appreciation from us towards Fraser and Rebecca at Charlie House. These two really shone. We watched them spinning all the plates over the weeks. They supported everyone throughout. Outstanding job.

Wrapping things up and saying thank you

After a 2023 where we learned the limits of what one person is capable of, we’re ready to grow in 2024. We’ve made some big changes to our range. It had become too large. Particularly for a one man crew. We’ve made these decisions now so we don’t go into 2024 with an unwieldy number of different sauces to make. This reset gives us the best chance of not running out of sauces. We can always add to our range later when we have the team and automation in place to cope with production. We’ve made decisions on where we’re going to focus and where we’re going to stop focussing. We’re leaner, sharper and ready for 2024. We now need people to join us. We'd like to add some automation too. We need input and support from our local business support organisations. These things will help us to catch up with increasing demand. We had to say “sorry, it’s out of stock” far too many times this year. Reducing the number of times we say things like that has to be our priority.

None of this happens without the support of family and friends. My wife Kathryn sees me at my best and my worst. She pulls me out of the clouds when I need to focus and she drags me out of hell when I’m at my lowest. This might sometimes look very much like “The Mark Show”. I can assure you this sauce co wouldn’t stand a chance without Kathryn's input. Thank you to everyone who has helped, supported and guided us through a difficult year. Thanks to our prototype club members. Thanks to everyone who ever braved the weather to come and see us on a market stall somewhere this year. Thank you to everyone who liked, shared or otherwise put up with our social media nonsense. Thank you to everyone who bought something this year. That you put your trust in us enough to put our products on your actual dinner is something we never take lightly. Your belief and support in what we’re doing keeps this show on the road.

Nothing has stopped us yet…

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