Posted March 20, 2007 by Nick Lindauer in Hot Sauce News

Crystal Hot Sauce returns

Crystal Hot Sauce returns
by Kathryn Jezer-Morton

After 18 months of exile and a tough fiscal 2006, Crystal hot sauce is once again being produced and bottled in Louisiana.

It’s been an odyssey for the iconic 84-year-old company but CEO Al Baumer of Baumer Foods said the company is growing comfortable in its new digs in Reserve after moving from New Orleans post-Katrina. The company is finishing a $4.5-million rehabilitation of its new plant.

“It’s going well. It’s been a long process,” he said.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed Baumer Foods’ Tulane Avenue manufacturing facility, and Baumer soon was researching companies nationwide to pack Baumer’s products. The company moved its bottling operations to Tennessee, North Carolina and the Northeast.

“We contracted with these companies to make the product for us and ship it to a location where we could have it distributed.”

This arrangement cost the company in shipping, packing and manufacturers’ fees.

“It was devastating on the financial,” Baumer said of the storm. “We’re dealing with it through insurance payments and personal assets. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that we had enough insurance to deal with all that (damage and cost) We didn’t.”

The company phased out its mustards, preserves and jellies, but continues to produce Crystal hot sauce and Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, steak and wing sauces.

Although Baumer Foods revenues dropped 20 percent in 2006 to $27.8 million from $35 million in 2005, Baumer anticipates revenues will reach pre-Katrina levels by 2008.

“We’re picking up pretty quick in ’07,” he said.

In November 2005, all damaged equipment at the Tulane Avenue plant was shipped to South Carolina to be cleaned and repaired. The company began leasing the plant in Reserve in March 2006 and is still working on finishing touches.

The facility, a former plastic bottle plant, required a lot of rehabilitation before the company could move in, Baumer said.

“It’s just an ongoing process,” Baumer said. “But hopefully we’re nearing the end.”

Nick Lindauer

The Original Hot Sauce Blog