“The status quo just isn’t good enough anymore,” Kent Korte, Senior Vice President, disclosed to me one Wednesday morning. We were talking about how Original Juan Specialty Foods has fared during its transition to Spicin Foods, and before our conversation had even started, I could sense Kent was at a turning point, both in his career and at the mast of the company he has called home for many years.
There’s always been a fire in Kent; it’s one of the reasons why he’s so good at what he does. But now it’s brighter and all-encompassing—the kind of fire you can't look away from no matter its ferocity. For those of you that haven’t met Kent he is an intense man—in the good way. And, as soon as Kent answered the phone, one thing was instantly clear: Spicin Foods, and Kent, have christened a new era and one in which there's no holds barred. And Kent is 100% invigorated.
“Original Juan was a long running successful business with Joe Polo at the helm. He was a dear friend and truly a genius in a lot of ways. But when Joe died, and Scott Morse purchased the company, changes needed to be made. Over the last year or so, SpicinFoods has become Spicin Foods, so to speak, and we have adopted different philosophies,” Kent explained. “Original Juan went as far as it could go, and now Spicin Foods is running further with it. Scott and I have a vision and we are implementing that vision. It hasn’t been without hurdles but we are more than up to the task. Now we have new equipment, new processes, and, frankly, a new attitude—and it’s really exciting. The fact that Scott and I work together so well is paying dividends already and we are just getting started…Scott said he was dedicated to making improvements and steering us in a more positive direction, and he absolutely has gone over and above his word.”
Kent revealed that a big part of what Scott has brought to the table is a renewed commitment to quality. While Original Juan had been one of the top hot sauce leaders in our industry for as long as I can remember, the team quickly realized that just because they had been doing things a certain way for long enough, it didn’t necessarily mean it was the right way of doing it. Now, Spicin Foods is attuned with its commitment to its customers in every way, shape, and form and has come out stronger because of it.
“There’s so much competition now. When Original Juan first started, there wasn’t a lot of interest in hot sauces. Not like now. But now there is a lot of interest, and we don’t want what we do to go stale. We want to evolve and keep running at the front of the pack. We don’t want to run to stand still; we want to run to move forward,” Kent said. “At our core, we’re still just people who love the industry. And food. We enjoy sauces and barbecue and salsas. We cook with them as a hobby. The industry is exploding and getting bigger and getting hotter, so we’re making sure we’re out in front of all of it.”
One reason the industry is so hot now is because of shows like Hot Ones pairing celebrities with some of the spiciest sauces on the market. Viral moments featuring Shaq throwing up in a trash can and Charlie Day flipping off Spicin Foods’ hot sauces has inspired the company to look for new flavors and techniques and introduce cutting-edge players to the good ol’ fashioned hot sauce game.
“Everything is getting a facelift. We rebranded—it was long overdue. All of our classic sauces are staying, but everything is getting a new look. And we’re making new sauces in many of our best lines with the usual heat—reaper, scorpion, and ghost peppers. In fact, we’ve already won awards for our new Pain Is Good BBQ Sauce launches, so we’re pretty pleased with what we’ve launched,” Kent shared.
For example, the Pain is Good line is welcoming a few new barbecue sauces, while Spicin Foods is still working on spicy popcorn and peanut snacks. Kent also revealed that the company is eyeing the pickle category for its Pain is 100% line, which Kent believes pepper heads will be particularly excited about.
“The bar has been set really high, but at the same time, we ARE the bar. We’re not the follower—we’re just not. It’s not in our DNA. We’re looking for bigger production capabilities and transforming our business from a smaller kind of mom and pop production to big bulk packer and shipper while all the while remembering who we are and where we came from. It’s exciting for everyone and all of our customers have been really responsive,” Kent concluded.
It’s been said before, but seriously, you can always count on Spicin Foods to bring the heat. I’d keep an eye peeled for what’s next from the company and its team, even if it makes that eye water.
For more deep dives into our industry’s leading deli, dairy, bakery, and specialty foods companies, stay right here with Deli Market News.