Posted October 27, 2005 by Nick Lindauer in Makers

TorchBearer Hot Stuff

Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Of The Patriot-News

Look out Tabasco.

A Mechanicsburg company, Torchbearer Sauces, is hoping its habanero-based products with their quirky pop art labels eventually top tables across the country.

The 1-year-old company, operated by David Lynch, 26, Ben Smith, 29, and Tim Wortman, 26, has already nabbed several awards for its products.

Its eight sauces range from the mild Everyday Sauce, to Slaughter, the “hottest natural sauce in the world” at 38,202 Scoville units. The line also includes Sombrero Salsa and Sugar Fire, a sweet-hot dessert sauce.

If things go accordingly, the threesome plan to be hawking their sauces on QVC and selling them to Wegmans, Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma.

“We’re hoping to be a large national condiment, fast. We’re not small thinkers,” Lynch said.

“We’re willing to take a lot of risks,” Smith added.

The friends met while students at Harrisburg Area Community College. For several years they and 20 to 30 close friends would gather weekly to prepare dinners and see who could eat the hottest foods.

“We were secretly trying to burn each other out,” Smith said.

The dinners led to the creation of a habanero preserve. It was so good that Lynch and Smith took a road trip to Texas to stock up on habaneros, one of the hottest peppers.

Within 72 hours, they were back in Pennsylvania with 666 pounds of peppers. For two weeks, they did nothing but chop, bag and freeze peppers to use in the sauce.

In the beginning, they made the sauces by hand using immersion blenders but demand grew to the point earlier this year that they contracted Beanie’s Chuck Wagon in Lancaster County to take over production.

Unlike most sauces on the market, Torchbearer uses no vinegar, water or preservatives, making it an all-natural product. The thick sauces are sold in 8-ounce screw lid jars and are made from a base of carrots, mandarin oranges and onions.

“It just seemed like the carrot would match with the habanero and the mandarin orange, a citrus, goes with habaneros because habaneros have a fruity flavor,” Smith said. “The onion adds body and gives it a lot more sweetness.”

Habaneros are the sole pepper of choice.

“We love habaneros, that’s why we use them. It has the best flavor. We hate jalapenos, we think they taste horrible,” Lynch said.

The Sultry Sauce is the group’s first creation. It has also won the bulk of awards including a second place in the XXX Hot Sauce category at Chile Pepper Magazine’s Zest Fest last month in Texas. They also won three awards at the Cajun Hot Sauce Festival in Louisiana.

The line climbs to the Slaughter Sauce which is advertised as the “hottest natural hot sauce.”

“I think we wanted to see how many habaneros we could cram into one jar,” Smith said.

The Sugar Fire Sauce was inspired by Wortman who is allergic to onions. It is made from papaya, mangos, habaneros, brown sugar and pumpkin spice and goes easily with desserts, especially vanilla ice cream.

The sauces boast many culinary uses and can be used as sandwich spreads, in marinades, dips, burgers and stir fries. “A darn good condiment that enhances what you want it to” is the group’s motto.

They’ve created a small recipe book with two dozen of their favorite recipes, from Vyn’s Spaghetti Sauce to Torchbearer Mac and Cheese.

The eye-popping labels which include a cast of bizarre “rudimentary folk art” characters who live in Pennsyltuckey have drawn attention to the products.

“Their packaging is unusual because it’s in an eight-ounce jar, very colorful, bright. Their sauces are more thick than traditional sauces, more spoonable. They’ve been able to capture the sweet to the most extreme heat,” said Dave Mackey, owner of Belches N Burps in Strawberry Square.

The Neiman Group in Harrisburg created the labels. The firm learned about Torchbearer after Lynch met over lunch with an acquaintance from high school who works at Neiman.

Two days later the firm called saying they wanted to do a pro bono marketing campaign for Torchbearer. The three jumped at the offer.

As for the future, Torchbearer is working on introducing more products and hiring additional staff. They also have a habanero cheesecake they’ve created and they’ve sent baskets of the sauces to publications including GQ magazine, hoping for publicity.

“It’s such a good product, if you get it to the people, they like it,” Lynch said. Torchbearer Sauces Vidian Spaghetti Sauce 1 bottle store bought spaghetti sauce 1 large onion, chopped 2-3 tomatoes, cubed 1 green pepper, chopped 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped 2-3 tablespoons Torchbearer Sultry Sauce Italian seasoning, to taste

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan. Cook garlic, 1/2 of onions and green pepper in sauce pot. Place spaghetti sauce in pot, add rest of the vegetables and Sultry Sauce. Let simmer for 25 minutes. Torchbearer Sauces Fluffer Nutter 2 slices bread 2-4 tablespoons peanut butter 2 tablespoons marshmallow fluff 2-3 teaspoons Torchbearer Sugar Fire Sauce

Spread peanut butter evenly on one slice of bread. Spread Sugar Fire Sauce on other side of bread topped with marshmallow. Place halves together to form sandwich.

SUE GLEITER: 255-8230 or sgleiter@patriot-news.com

Nick Lindauer

The Original Hot Sauce Blog