UPDATE: The live AMA has officially ended, but keep the questions coming! I will do my best to answer EVERY SINGLE ONE!

In 2012 I moved to Austin, TX with my girlfriend Erin. Me as a musician and her as a graphic designer. We bought our first house, a dirt cheap foreclosure in South Austin and immediately tilled up the back yard to plant habaneros because, well, habaneros are the BEST. Yellowbird is a story of how two crazy people started a small hot sauce brand in Austin that somehow developed a cult following and gained significant national recognition. I've never done one of these and I am absolutely HERE to answer your most random questions.


Comments: 740 • Responses: 86  • Date: 

Raccoala346 karma

As far as I know, Yellowbird has never been featured on Hot Ones. Was there ever any interest in getting one of your sauces on the show?

runquik688 karma

We haven't! Even though Sean Evans has shouted us out in interviews a handful of times.

I don't want to give any spoilers but...wouldn't it be cool if there were an exclusive Yellowbird Sauce just for Hot Ones?

Anyway, yeah, that would be cool.


Raccoala145 karma

I'm sure the Hot Ones bump is significant for the brands that are featured on the show. Thanks for responding!

I first had your sauces at a place called Real Good here in Chicago. And now I'm plowing through my second bottle of your organic habanero.

runquik122 karma

Nice! I actually didn't know Real Good was carrying our stuff! I will go give them some high soon as winter is over ;)

Axel-Adams31 karma

Hey! I serve at a popular Diner in Austin while finishing up my bachelors, I absolutely love your stuff. Whenever a guest asks for Tabasco or Cholula, I let them know we also have an Austin Local brand they should try, and 80% of the time people are down to try and it and I’ve almost never had anyone still prefer cholula or Tabasco afterwards. Keep doing what you’re doing!

runquik7 karma

omg I love you so much right now! I will keep doing what I'm doing if you keep doing what YOU'RE doing!

thatgirlwiththecough176 karma

My family loves your stuff, but we just ran out of the two bottles of sauce we brought back from the US. Are there any stores in the EU that sell your products?

runquik231 karma

Your family obviously has amazing taste! We don't really have much distribution in the EU but Stuart who runs Hot Headz, imports our products and does some sales on Amazon and his website on that side of the pond. You can find them here:


thatgirlwiththecough86 karma

Thanks! Unfortunately it looks like it will cost over 20€ to ship a single bottle of sauce within the EU. I can fly to the UK on Ryanair for that price (but I won't of course, because they are horrible) . Oh well, at least folks in jolly old England can enjoy some good sauce after brexit.

runquik185 karma

(making notes: "do not fly Ryanair")

I'm just imagining that you get on the plane and they're like "Thank you for flying Ryanair. I'm your pilot, Ryan, and I am assisted by my copilot Ryan on this flight."

waltrwhitwalkr64 karma

They're like Spirit, but worse. If you don't check in online, they charge $60 per passenger to check in at the airport, found out that one the hard way....

runquik55 karma

$60 to check in?! What is this, the stone ages??

portablebiscuit49 karma

If I've learned anything from the Flintstones, stone age air transport was via a pterodactyl wearing a pilot hat. There was no upcharge apart from the glib "it's a living"

runquik28 karma

Haha! It's been a while since I've watched The Flintstones but I do remember loving how sarcastic most of the servile dinosaurs were.

warriorofinternets10 karma

It’s so they have to pay less people to do check in, which in turn helps them keep ticket pricing down.

In my experience people who hate Ryanair are the ones who expect regular service on a discount air service. Don’t want lower levels of service, pay the extra 150 euros to fly with British airways or KLM and then you won’t have to pay to check in at the airport.

If you want the savings buy the ticket and check in online like a normal person.

runquik5 karma

We're looking at you, Ryanair! How do we tag them and start shit with them on this thread? This doesn't work like Twitter. I'm dizzy.

cell-on-a-plane3 karma

Stoned ages.

runquik3 karma

That's how you do it.

rabidnz19 karma

Your supposed to send him bottles. Are you new here?

runquik25 karma

I actually am new here. What does this thing do? <pulls lever>

NotAKinderguardian11 karma

Wrong lever Kronk!!!

PrEsideNtIal_Seal5 karma

Did you mean to dunk them in that vat of hot sauce?

runquik9 karma

Whoops! Um....<presses button>

<presses button again>

Ndsamu140 karma

Just stumbled upon this. Your Serrano sauce might be the best sauce I’ve ever tasted. And I’m so glad you didn’t weaken the Serrano heat. Hits almost as hard as some habanero sauces. Keep up the great work!

Forgot I have to ask a question so what is your favorite hot sauce, outside of your brand?

runquik132 karma

Lol thank you! I mean you don't HAVE to ask a question, you can totally just talk about how awesome we are ;)

But to answer your question, my two faves are Secret Aardvark and Marie Sharpe's.

starlight34773 karma

What a coincidence it is to see this! I just moved to Austin and saw your sauce in a store here. My son is an excellent cook, and I thought we could share the bottle. It's funny, because I asked the guy there about your sauce. He said it was "ok, but not "interesting. They sell that in all the HEBs and everything." I was kinda smirking inside, because it just sounded pretentious to me. I'm a little shy, but I forced myself to ask, "What do you mean, interesting?" He pointed to some other, smaller, pricier bottles. They might have had a fruit or something to distinguish them. All I wanted was a general sauce, but one I hadn't seen before. I waited until he left the area before putting a bottle of your Habanero sauce in my basket :)

runquik100 karma

Haha! That's pretty funny feedback!

Welcome to Austin, btw, where the current weather (63 and sunny) is considered "winter" and you will see people walking around in "coats".

And to your point, it's been really awesome to grow this brand. I have noticed, as we get bigger, that some people don't think we're as cool anymore or that we're sellouts. Like, I came from the music industry, and it's very similar to people really liking a band until they get discovered and then being like "well, i liked them better when they were starving".

People are funny, ain't they?!

dave-ming-chang49 karma

Going to be in Austin this month visiting family, do you guys do tours or have a self-store that we can visit? Love your sauce, have every flavor currently!

runquik79 karma

Thanks for the love! We aren't set up to do tours of the facility YET. Since we're audited by the FDA, USDA, state, county, SQF etc, we'd need a significant amount of additional build out to separate visitors from food prep area so they could still see everything.

But visiting Austin is, itself, like a Yellowbird tour! All the coolest restaurants have our stuff out ;)

paullynde41 karma

So you started it eight years ago, is it still cooking?

runquik64 karma

OH SHIT brb gotta turn the oven off

runquik41 karma


Actually nm, house is burnt down

zanethebeard15 karma

Damn, R.I.P house.

runquik30 karma

k back. got a new hous

zanethebeard13 karma

Heck yes. RTR

runquik19 karma

fuckin A

MontanaXVI39 karma

While you've carved out quite a niche for yourself in the market, did you ever feel pressure from the big players in the industry when you first started out? Were there times early on that you would go in a store and see all the Red Hot, Tabasco etc. and think that you couldn't make it or was this just motivation to keep pushing.

Do you have plans to introduce any other condiments besides hot sauce?

runquik87 karma

As someone who was totally new to this industry, it seemed like magic how products just got on the shelf at a grocery store. So, I didn't really feel pressure from the big guys at first because it was just like THRILLING the first time I saw our stuff on a grocery store shelf (our local Wheatsville Co-op here in Austin)!

We still try not to spend too much time thinking about the competition. I'd say that most of the "big guys" are making very different sauces from what we make. Like, if you are a die hard Frank's fan, well we don't really make a pepper sauce like that, so go right ahead! The biggest area where we feel the difference now is that we'll get a call or something for some event sponsorship. Like, there are a lot of music festivals in Austin and we've gotten some calls like "hey Tabasco is offering $50,000 to sponsor such-and-such event but we'd loooove to have Yellowbird sponsor it instead." So we just let Tabasco spend that $50,000 ;)

To answer your other question, we do have some plans to offer some more diverse products, but we're not going to make ketchup, mayo, or mustard. We will be sticking in our wheelhouse of fresh, organic, and spicy ingredients. We have some new refrigerated dips that you'll be seeing in Whole Foods this June and will be launching some small batch sauces exclusively through our website this year. It'll all be hot!


PixiePuff103036 karma

What made you decide to make organic versions of the sauces? Is the taste very different from the originals? Do you intend to keep the originals or will they eventually be replaced by the organic versions?

So far I've only tried the original Habanero and Ghost Pepper flavors and they're both some of my favorite hot sauces.

runquik68 karma

Good question! We wanted to make everything organic from the start. And we were at first growing all the peppers in our back yard. As demand grew, it became harder to find fresh, organic peppers so we had to initially launch without the certification. I'd like to eventually do nothing but organic but it will be a gradual process.

The other biggest difference is that we use dates and raisins in the organic line instead of cane sugar or agave nectar. This makes the biggest taste difference in the Sriracha. I personally prefer the organic versions now because (a) I personally know all the farmers for that line and (b) the dates are almost caramelized and, regardless of health benefit, I prefer that darker flavor.


hannahftw35 karma

Wanted to say the Blue Agave Sriracha is my favorite food and I put it on everything. I even got some in my stocking this year. What's the best gift you've gotten in your stocking?

runquik37 karma

Boom! Thank you so much!

I didn't get this in my stocking, but last year one of the guys I work with gave me a tuxedo mankini. I haven't worn it yet but I still have it, just in case I ever get drunk enough...

What were we talking about??

Magz92021 karma

Any words of wisdom for those starting a business in Austin?

runquik59 karma

Yes! There are SO MANY SMART PEOPLE HERE! I've said this a bunch of times but, especially in Austin, you should be investing in buying coffees every week for people who are smarter than you. It's way cheaper than an MBA and you will learn a lot. Also, make use of the SBDC!

Sharkazach16 karma

Holy crap Yellowbird is amazing! The Ghost Pepper condiment is my favorite, but I'd be happy with any of them on my breakfast burrito. Thank you so much and great job!

What is you and/or your girlfriend's favorite use for your sauce?

runquik16 karma


But seriously we put them on everything. It's like that Hair Club For Men commercial. "I'm not only the president..."

Here is a photo of our kitchen table. WE HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM

lowteq15 karma

I am currently sitting with a bottle of the Jalapeno in one hand and a bag of Flamas Turbos in the other. Love all if your sauces.

When will I be able to buy the Serano in a jar? That there is for dipping chips into.

runquik35 karma

Here, this is for you:

canugator15 karma

Would you be interested in seeing a custom logo Hot Sauce Holster made for your 2 oz. bottles?

runquik10 karma

That sounds pretty cool! Are you going to show them to me at high noon?

tomscurioussauces15 karma

Cheers for the AMA! I've been making sauces for a few years. Any mistakes you made along the way that you'd avoid with hindsight? Or anything you'd have done sooner?

runquik35 karma

Growing the business we made use of a handful of copackers. We had some bad experiences, but I know there are good copackers out there as well. Most of the bigger mistakes we've made were business mistakes. So, if you want to do this as a business, do everything you can to get business smart ASAP or find a partner who is business smart. Having a great product is not nearly enough. You have to know how to manage COGS and cashflow, etc. And it is super important to start figuring out funding early! There are a lot of options out there for early stage businesses that are not Shark Tank. Realize that, unless you are the exception, you will need some financial help to get past the local farmer's market.

As far as things I wish I'd done sooner, exactly what I've just said. We started in 2013 but I didn't go take the SBDC business and finance classes until 2015 which was the first year I ACTUALLY figured out how to manage our costs and finances.

Good luck!

otc10814 karma

I'm a big fan of your products! I love the blue agave sriracha, with the habanero coming in at a close second. It's very inspiring to hear these kinds of stories for me. Congratulations to 8 years!

My wife and I are in the process of starting our own hot sauce business out in Portland, Oregon. Any advice for a beginner? Also, what did you use for bottling when you first started making small batches? Did you buy a filling machine? Many thanks in advance, and thank you for making such great products!

runquik67 karma

Thanks so much for the love!

It was literally years before we got a filling machine. For a long time we just used a pitcher and a funnel and did the bottles one at a time. We have had a small filling machine for the last few years and are about to put in an order for an AUTOMATED line like you see on the How It's Made segments on the TV!

If you guys are making hot sauce in Oregon, you've gotta meet Rob at Secret Aardvark. He's a cool guy and I love their stuff. He's at like all the hot sauce shows and stuff. Here's something I posted under a different question about starting up:

So it's a pretty low barrier to entry business. With making and bottling sauces, some education around things like the hot fill process for high acid and acidified foods will be really helpful. Here's a quick article:

Note that pH is pretty important in this equation from a food safety standpoint. If the pH is too high, you will need to use a different method.

You'll of course want a label design which is its own thing altogether. I got lucky to have a partner who is an amazing designer but you can also hire this out in your community or online. If you want to be retail-ready, you'll need to either hire a consultant or just get really familiar with the FDA's food labeling guidelines. That document can be found here:

When it comes to nutritional information for your recipes, bigger companies will have this all tested in a lab. If you're just starting out, you can use a service like Recipal to get some FDA compliant nutrition facts based on your recipes:

Best of luck!

lionhart4414 karma

Now that your brand is growing, is production on a large scale difficult ?

runquik38 karma

I'd say that it has kind of gone in stages, if that makes sense. So nailing the recipe at 1 gallon was difficult but once I got it I could do it over and over again. Then nailing the recipe, cook times, etc at 5 gallons and 40 gallons and now 750 gallons. One of the biggest changes has been moving kitchen spaces over the years. We started in a small commissary space then moved to our own space then used a few copackers as we were figuring out how to grow (EWW) and then built our own facility towards the end of 2016. The set up and equipment at each place was different so we've had to figure out how to get the same finished product at each spot.

Also, sourcing at a large scale becomes difficult, especially when you are using fresh, organic ingredients. We've spent a lot of time over the years developing solid working relationships with farmers and ingredient brokers so we have our most important ingredients contracted every year to a certain extent.

pink_sock11 karma

Would love to order some of your stuff - do you have any combo packs, or deals on one or two of each?

runquik20 karma

I will TOTALLY sell you some hot sauce!! You can find everything we sell here:

Or you can find us on Amazon


stopmakinsense10 karma

What was the process like getting your product to market? I have also been making hot sauce in my kitchen for the past 3 years with peppers organically grown in my garden. I sell it to friends and friends of friends and everyone raves about the sauce and how I should get it in local supermarkets, I just don't know how to go about it? Currently have 5 different flavors ranging in varying heats.

runquik23 karma

So it's a pretty low barrier to entry business. With making and bottling sauces, some education around things like the hot fill process for high acid and acidified foods will be really helpful. Here's a quick article:

Note that pH is pretty important in this equation from a food safety standpoint. If the pH is too high, you will need to use a different method.

You'll of course want a label design which is its own thing altogether. I got lucky to have a partner who is an amazing designer but you can also hire this out in your community or online. If you want to be retail-ready, you'll need to either hire a consultant or just get really familiar with the FDA's food labeling guidelines. That document can be found here:

When it comes to nutritional information for your recipes, bigger companies will have this all tested in a lab. If you're just starting out, you can use a service like Recipal to get some FDA compliant nutrition facts based on your recipes:

Best of luck!

Copying here a response to another question! As far as actually getting it to market, start small! If you have a local farmer's market or co-op grocer that you could show it too that's a really great way to get some feedback and start building clout! The bigger the grocery chain, the more proof they will want that your product will sell so find places who will give you a try! And don't forget you'll need to make your sauce in a certified kitchen in order to be able to legally sell it. Some states have a "cottage food law" where you can sell certain things made from your home in a very limited capacity.

SinofThrash10 karma

I absolutely love the ghost condiment! Very tasty sauce. Will be trying out more in future.

I'm looking to start up my own sauce business in the future, just for fun at first and then see how it goes. My question is, what did you do to start up your own business? Did you have a plan and recipes in mind before you began? What problems did you face?

Thank you!

runquik30 karma

Thanks for the love!

So it's a pretty low barrier to entry business. With making and bottling sauces, some education around things like the hot fill process for high acid and acidified foods will be really helpful. Here's a quick article:

Note that pH is pretty important in this equation from a food safety standpoint. If the pH is too high, you will need to use a different method.

You'll of course want a label design which is its own thing altogether. I got lucky to have a partner who is an amazing designer but you can also hire this out in your community or online. If you want to be retail-ready, you'll need to either hire a consultant or just get really familiar with the FDA's food labeling guidelines. That document can be found here:

When it comes to nutritional information for your recipes, bigger companies will have this all tested in a lab. If you're just starting out, you can use a service like Recipal to get some FDA compliant nutrition facts based on your recipes:

Best of luck!

doctorbooshka9 karma

What’s the greatest food you’ve tasted using your sauces?

runquik28 karma

Our sauces go excellent with the most dangerous game: MAN.

runquik27 karma

(But actually probably just a really great taco)

available_username27 karma

How long have you had that mustache? What your plans for the future?

runquik30 karma

I've had this mustache for maybe 3 or 4 years. Usually I'll grow a beard in the winter and then, when I shave it, I would leave a mustache for a few days. You know, ironically, at first. Then Erin was like "hey I like your mustache". When I determined after several weeks that she was NOT joking, I immediately shaved it off because I was "not a mustache guy".

Anyway, it called to me. You know? Like in my sleep. And then I noticed that, when I grew another beard, the mustache part grew faster like " and me, bud". I finally stopped fighting it and have really enjoyed all of the coffee and beer I've stored in it over the years.

My plans for the future? Well right now i'm in the "bushing" phase, which I like to do in winter. I'll keep it shaped until March and I might even let the handlebards come in. Yes, handlebards. They give the stache shape AND they compose lyrical ballads, what of it?

Then in March I'll give it a proper trim and start making my Spring Stache 2020 plans. WERE asking about my future mustache plans, right??

License2grill7 karma

How did you decide to enter an industry that truthfully seems to already be somewhat saturated, and how did you go about growing your brand?

runquik31 karma

First, you should understand that the reason I initially moved to Austin was TO WORK AS A MUSICIAN. So, I LOVE entering super-saturated markets ;)

I guess when we started this brand we looked around at the hot sauce offerings in most grocery stores and restaurants and thought that there actually WASN'T anyone manufacturing or positioning a hot sauce brand the way we were doing it. If we were putting it in a 5 oz woozy with fire and skulls then yes, super saturated market.

As far as growing the brand, we just tried to keep our identity and mission first and not do things that violate that. Brand-building is a whoooole other can of worms, but we are working on that and thinking about it every day. Seth Godin has a bunch of good work about brand and marketing and his blog is also super helpful:


oddharmonix6 karma

I found your sauces in REI in Sacramento on my way to Yosemite. I loved them! My only question is where can I find your sauces in Canada, specifically Toronto?


runquik7 karma

Nice! Did y'all backpack/hike with them?

We don't really have any distribution to speak of in Canada :(

We have a distributor who *sometimes* has our stuff listed on but that's about it right now.

jadbronson6 karma

Do you use lacto-fermented ingredients in your sauces? Does a pretty good job of getting that ph down.

runquik7 karma

It does, but we don't use any. I just really love the flavor of fresh :)

Jabullz6 karma

Never heard of it. Why?

runquik10 karma

I mean, you can't have possibly heard of EVERYTHING. You're only one person.


The_Changingman6 karma

As someone who is currently thinking of starting a small hot sauce business with a friend this AMA couldn't have come at a better time for me!

What I'm most interested in is hearing about any hurdles that you had to cross to get to where you are. What were the biggest pain points that you had to overcome?

Also, what was your main goal when you set out to create the brand? Were you always planning to sell your sauces? Or did that just come naturally once people had tried your product?

runquik11 karma

Additionally, when I started making hot sauce (originally just the Habanero) it was just for Erin and me to use at home. It took a lot of people saying "man, this stuff is GREAT" for us to decide to do something about it.

There are almost too many pain points to list :-P. Some of the ones that stick out in my memory are that you should learn business basics ASAP. You should have a good brand image and design aesthetic ASAP. You should have an idea of what the brand is and what you want it to mean to customers ASAP (even if these things change). Because the barrier to entry is pretty low, there are a LOT of people making AMAZING hot sauce. You have to know how to answer the question "why THIS hot sauce?"


runquik6 karma

Here's what I posted to an earlier question:

So it's a pretty low barrier to entry business. With making and bottling sauces, some education around things like the hot fill process for high acid and acidified foods will be really helpful. Here's a quick article:

Note that pH is pretty important in this equation from a food safety standpoint. If the pH is too high, you will need to use a different method.

You'll of course want a label design which is its own thing altogether. I got lucky to have a partner who is an amazing designer but you can also hire this out in your community or online. If you want to be retail-ready, you'll need to either hire a consultant or just get really familiar with the FDA's food labeling guidelines. That document can be found here:

When it comes to nutritional information for your recipes, bigger companies will have this all tested in a lab. If you're just starting out, you can use a service like Recipal to get some FDA compliant nutrition facts based on your recipes:

Best of luck!

sglville6 karma

What Yellowbird sauce is your personal favorite? Also what is your favorite other brand sauce?

runquik27 karma

The Habanero will always be my favorite. Aside from the fact that the habanero pepper is basically the perfect food, this was our first sauce. It's all I made for like 2 1/2 years and I was pretty stubborn for a while that it would be all we ever made. One flavor in one size bottle. LIKE IT OR LEAVE IT.

Anyway, obviously I'm obsessed with making sauces so we eventually started making more stuff.

Other brands....I really like the sauces and the people at Secret Aardvark. And Marie Sharp's will ALWAYS be a favorite. That's the brand that introduced most of the world to the carrot + habanero combo that is so heavenly.

Dudebythepool5 karma

Love the habanero sauce, any new sauces coming out?

Do you have a favorite hot sauce brand besides your own?

runquik10 karma

Thank you so much! And yes we have a few new things. We've got some refrigerated spicy dips coming to Whole Foods in June!! And we are kicking off a small batch program this year where we'll have some exclusive stuff which is only available on our website.

I have so many sauce experiments going right now it's CRAZY!

Ghost-Of-Nappa5 karma

okay. your opinion on TRUFF? I find it beyond delicious but I don't dabble too much in hot sauces (currently TRUFF, Cholula and Sriracha in my fridge).

and for a beginner like myself which of your sauces would you recommend I try out??

runquik16 karma

So, I don't like the flavor of truffles, or truffle oil, so TRUFF is not for me. I've used their template to make some sauces at home without the truffle component and the combination of olive oil and agave nectar is actually really nice.

If you like Sriracha, I'd recommend that you try our Blue Agave Sriracha! It is not super spicy and has an amazing flavor. I mix some with a little coconut oil to make stir fry with at least 2 or 3 times a week.


Bran_Solo5 karma

Have you experimented with any of the pepper varieties that taste like hot peppers, but minus the heat?

My wife has grown a bunch of these types of peppers successfully, but I am mediocre (to put it mildly) at making hot sauces. I like me some hot sauce, but the idea of something with habanero flavor without the heat sounds really useful in the kitchen as well.

Also, any pointers for beginners who want to learn to make better hot sauces? I've tried a variety of recipes online and been pretty underwhelmed by the results.

runquik7 karma

I mean, I may be the wrong guy to answer part of this question. Habaneros without the heat? But.....WHY???

As far as hot sauce recipes, you can come at it from two angles. One is to do what you're doing and go through recipes on the internet. The sad truth is that there are a lot of underwhelming hot sauce recipes out there. You can also play at deconstructing some of your favorite sauces, hot or not. There are a couple of subreddits out here somewhere specifically about deconstructing Yellowbird. And, you know, be my guest! We're all required by the FDA to put our full ingredient list, in descending order, on the package anyway. That's kind of where I started with hot sauce and then you start to get an innate understanding of what's the right amount of salt or vinegar or whatever for YOU. Then once you have a bit of a framework, you can start trying all kinds of crazy stuff!

Good luck!

tamakun8085 karma

Hey thanks for making such amazing hot sauces. The blue agave sriracha is KILLER with Kewpie Mayo and making spicy tuna poke. I'll never go do a different sriracha. Also I'm on probably my 5th or 6th bottle of the Serrano AND the Habanero. Found out about you guys from a friend 2 years ago, then basically shilled the shit out of your products at the Portland Hot Sauce Expo for the past two events.

Anyway here's my question. Do you have any fun stories of someone who hated spicy until Yellowbird?

Thanks again, I hope your sales are going well!

runquik8 karma

Hey, you're welcome, and thanks for the love! And, I want to be honest here, I just had to look up "shill" and...thanks? I think?

And yes...we've actually started calling our Serrano sauce the "hot sauce for people who don't like hot sauce" because we've had a lot of people fall in love with that one and become regular customers who claimed that they couldn't handle hot sauce. And that's always so funny to me because that is NOT a mild sauce! My hypothesis is that some people just don't like the sharpness and extreme acidity of the old school pepper sauces (Tabasco, etc) and they equate that acidity with the spicy peppers. I think once they get something a little more mellow (our Serrano has lots of cucumbers, so a pretty bright but not overly acidic profile), they realize they like it.


DickyBrucks4 karma

I really badly want to start a hot sauce company and have some amazing recipes already developed with a small cult following. When you made the leap from kitchen to production, how much money did it take to get your first 'legal' batch and did you make it yourself in a rented kitchen space or copack? What would you estimate is the amount of 'startup' money I should save to get this party started? (Love your sauce by the way, it's easily my favorite next to my own hab sauce). Thanks!

runquik7 karma

Thanks for the love! So here are some of the main things you will need (as far as I know):

-Shelf life study/lab work (you should be able to get these done at the same lab with maybe 20 samples) -Licenses (manufacturing, food manager, food permit) -Sales tax permit (depending on the state and local laws) -Business registered at a commercial kitchen

These things might take you a couple of months and maybe $300-$500. Then it's just ingredients, packaging, and hourly rent at the kitchen. So you can start a hot sauce company for like <$1000.

Best of luck!

byerss4 karma

Is there really enough of a market to maintain both the Organic and Original versions? I haven't had the Organic Habenero yet -- is there much of a taste difference?

Also just like to say that I LOVE your sauces.

runquik5 karma

I guess we'll see! There is a bit of a taste difference. First of all, the peppers come from different farms and I like the fullness of the flavor of our organically-farmed peppers a little better. Also, we use dates and raisins for sweetness in the Organic line instead of cane sugar and agave nectar. I actually prefer this as it imparts a darker, more caramel flavor.

And thank you for the LERV!

JSPark132584 karma

Damn, can I just say that I love that you have carrots in your sauces?

How did you decide on the more uncommon ingredients like carrots?

runquik6 karma

Thank you! I love the carrots! I actually was experimenting with hot sauces for YEARS before I thought to use carrot. And I didn't even really think of it. I was making a batch of hot sauce and meant to add some yellow bellpepper but forgot that I didn't have any. So I threw in some carrot just for funsies. And it was the best hot sauce I had ever made. It actually turned into the recipe for our Habanero, with a few tweaks. You can literally make hot sauce out of ANYTHING and there are a lot of really cool companies being super experimental right now. And we are about to start doing some small batch sauces which will only be available on our website with some really niche and interesting ingredients.


BigTex334 karma

Where are you from originally? Liking Austin? I’m a displaced native, but will be back in the area soon. I’ll have to check you guys out!

runquik6 karma

I'm originally from Birmingham, Alabama! (insert line from Forrest Gump here)

I showed up in Texas originally "just passing through" in 2008 and ended up with several jobs and in a band in Dallas then moved to Houston for a bit then Austin in 2012. I really love it in Austin! We got in just before it got totally unaffordable to live here. There are so many great places to eat and drink coffee or beer and lots of good outside spots! And of course live music. Goes without saying, although I'm saying it anyway.

So come back ASAP!

Beestung4 karma

Which buying option gets you the most profit (e.g. web site, Amazon, grocery store, etc.)? I want to buy some, but also want to support you as best I can.

runquik9 karma

What a thoughtful question! We usually get the most out of website sales although we can't compete with Amazon's shipping rates. So we are generally putting some of our website margin towards shipping to have it be less than atrocious.

dedinthewater4 karma

My kids don't usually like hot sauces, however they absolutely love your blue agave sriracha. We always have a bottle on the table at dinner time.

What made you decide to use blue agave versus another sweetener, and do you try to minimize the sugar in all of your recipes?

runquik5 karma

Sounds like your kids have great taste!

So yes, we do try to minimize sugar. I do have to admit that I'm an absolute sucker for hot sauce with a little sweet to it. The idea with the Blue Agave was that I wanted to make kind of a Tex-Mex take on Sriracha which is a Vietnamese sauce. The agave, which is a major ingredient in both tequila and margaritas, and citrus kind of give it a unique twist while still keeping it in familiar Sriracha territory.


knottynichole4 karma

I'm a fellow Texan who discovered your hot sauce about a month or two ago and I love it so much! Do you have a specific sauce that goes best with Tex-Mex?

runquik6 karma

Nice! The Serrano goes really great with Tex-Mex. It's very much our unique take on a salsa verde (with cucumber instead of tomatillo).


unodostrace4 karma

I’m such a huge chili head and I’m absolutely in love with your sauces! Are you hiring any positions in your logistics department? I would definitely move to Austin to get in with a company I love and with a product I’m passionate about!

runquik5 karma

Thanks so much for the love!

We're not currently hiring on the ops side, but we keep all our job openings on this page:

Doll_Parts_54463 karma

Holy hell! I am a huge fan of your hot sauce! I am a bit of a hot sauce addict/ snob. I tried making some habanero sauce this month even with roasting carrots to add a bit of sweetness all I got was straight fire. Any tips? Also how do you get the texture just so smooth? Blender or food processor? Thanks for this AMA!

runquik9 karma

What all did you put in your habanero sauce? You can always add more carrot or onion or other non-habanero ingredient to get to the desired heat level. Carrots and onions are both go-to's for me because they both add some sweetness and body and do a good job acting as "carriers" for the heat and flavor of the pepper without overpowering you with their own flavor. And, for the home version, you'll want to use a high-speed blender like the Vitamix to get a nice smooth consistency. Your liquid:solid ratio will need to be tinkered with so the consistency is thick but it doesn't break your blender. You can always add vinegar or water as you're blending it but it will separate if you don't cook it together. Science, bro.

wellanticipated3 karma

First of all, congrats and good on you for successful realization of this vision.

Coincidentally, I just learned of your sauce yesterday on a shelf a WF here in SF. The moment I saw carrot, I put it back. Not for any good reason, I looked at the next and saw cucumber and did the same thing. I was super curious about it, but those two ingredients threw me off, for nothing other than gut reaction -- admittedly not a fair or reasonable reaction.

Considering I have the opportunity to ask now, can you convince me to buy it?

runquik8 karma

Hey, thanks for the question! I'm not at all surprised to hear this. I think everyone has these kinds of reactions to certain ingredients or combinations of ingredients. Like, I pretty much automatically don't want to try any hot sauce that has blueberries in it. doesn't sound like a combo I want, though there are a handful of pretty good blueberry hot sauces.

I'm not a great salesperson so my only argument to try it would be that lots of people seem to like it so maybe it will surprise you. Also, I gotta pay my 'lectric bill, so go buy some hot sauce!


thesweetestberry3 karma

Your sauces are amazing! Can you ship me a crate? I live in Wisconsin.

Just kidding. Nothing to ask. Just wanted to give you a shout out. Your sauce is amazing. I eat A LOT of hot sauce and Yellowbird is one of my faves. A friend of mine who lives in TX shipped me some and now I have to get my fix through Amazon. :)

runquik6 karma

Thanks for the love!

I just packed up a crate of hot sauce and, in the absence of more specific directions, shipped it to "Wisconsin, USA". So be on the lookout, it should be there Wednesday.

wrayvin3 karma

How would you rank your sauces in terms of spice? I've only had the pleasure of trying two so far (habanero and sriracha), which I love! Where would those two be in terms of the other flavors?

runquik7 karma

So, from mildest to hottest, here's my list:

Jalapeno, Sriracha, Serrano, Habanero, Ghost Pepper

Some people think the Habanero is hotter than the Ghost and I think that's a matter of how the spice hits. The fresh habaneros tend to be a little brighter and hit you in the tongue first while the smoked ghost peppers take a minute to heat up and get you in the throat and just generally make your head hot.

champagneandtacos3 karma


runquik3 karma

Thanks for the love! Unfortunately we don't really have any EU distribution. The closest think is we have one distributor in the UK who carries it on his website:

International is tough because we have to have a distributor who will order enough sauce for it to be worth it to put on a container and ship across the ocean. We'll keep working on it though! If you know any food distributors, intro me! ;)


shitweazel3 karma

I have some random process questions if you're willing to indulge:

  • Are your sauces strained?
  • Are your peppers aged/fermented?
  • Edit: how do you deal with seeds? Remove them, grind them up?

Thanks for taking the time!

runquik8 karma

Of course! -Sauces are NOT strained. We like it thick so we put everything in there. It takes longer to cook down and process but it's totally worth it ;) -Not aged or fermented. We prefer to use super fresh peppers. The fresher, the better -We leave the seeds in! A lot of the heat comes from the seeds and we wouldn't want to deprive you of that ;) This is part of the cooking and processing part that takes significantly longer because we usually end up with very few intact seeds in the final product


anonmarmot3 karma

What are your "not my brand, top five hot sauces" you usually re-buy? Or has being a producer made that less appealing?

runquik3 karma

So to be totally clear I make a LOT of hot sauce at home, not just the ones we sell, so I hardly ever buy hot sauce. BUT, there are lots of great brands out there that are doing things the right way! Here are a few I will always love: 1. Secret Aardvark 2. Marie Sharpe's 3. Kitchen Garden 4. Mikey V's (love that dude) 5. Huy Fong (I know, I know, but I want to be David Tran when I grow up)

sccerfrk263 karma

Will you be venturing to the reaper category? The Habanero and ghost are among the favorites in our house, would love to see a sauce at the next level of heat. Klowns on Fire out of the DFW area does a good job of tempering the reaper heat with fruits and seasonings.

edit: fixed ghost

runquik2 karma

We are working on it! We like using fresh peppers so our main barrier here is that there hasn't been much availability on fresh super-hots.

Latyon3 karma

How do you prepare your wings for your Yellowbird Sauce?

runquik4 karma

I don't make a lot of wings, but I'll do a pan fry on the wings with just a little salt on them. Then once they are good and crip-spy, I toss in an aluminum bowl with equal parts olive oil and Habanero.

Boom! Wings!

AnotherDrunkCanadian3 karma

Tahiti is dreadfully lacking in hot sauce. It's what I miss most from Canada.

I don't know much about shipping, but do you think you could find a way to get some over here??

runquik6 karma

Oh man, it would be pretty expensive to ship to Tahiti. Unless you wanted to order a container full. I mean...that would be REALLY expensive but you know, cost-per-bottle.

I'm not sure if reddit does PM's, but if you can PM me your address, I'll run a shipping quote for you for like a case.

Worried-Newspaper3 karma

How did you get people to taste your sauces? Did you hold a tasting session with family and friends first?

runquik25 karma

Lots of funny stories here. Initially I was just making it for me and Erin at the house and then I started taking it to the piano bar I would regularly play at and letting coworkers there try it. And I think the very first sales were to people working in the downtown bars. Then a friend of mine opened a corndog stand on 6th St (Austin) and I'd bring him bottles every week to use on corndogs. Before we even had a brand name, I've got a picture of Adam Duritz eating a corndog with Yellowbird on it.

Then were the customers at the bars. I would be trying to sell albums and people would be all "hey...aren't you that hot sauce guy?" and they would end up buying 5 bottles of hot sauce from me in the parking lot. NOT SHADY AT ALL.

When we thought we'd try to sell it for real, I spent about 8 months just going door-to-door at restaurants in Austin trying to get chefs to try it and see if anyone wanted to buy some local hot sauce. We finally got our first customer after many disappointing months of people being like "nah we're fine with Tabasco". Ok, Susan.

It was actually a Friday and I had been out cold-calling restaurants and getting rejection after rejection so I decided to call it early. So I met a buddy at Gourmand's (E 7th St) for a shot and a beer around noon (ok 2 shots and 2 beers) and I was like "man, I thought SOMEONE would care about a local hot sauce". And the owner was sitting right next to us and was like "a...local hot sauce, you say?" And they were our very first customer. And I'm getting a little emotional just thinking about it.

scottishlion1233 karma

Hey I’m actually starting to make my own sauce business myself and I was wondering what you guys did to grow your business. Also could I ask about what you guys did for you labels because that’s a big thing I’m struggling on right now?

runquik5 karma

Growing business and brand is really tough so you have some work ahead of you. And we talk about this and think about this every day, still!

I think most importantly is to clearly define your mission and your customer. Who is going to buy your stuff and why?

As far as labels, do you mean how we got them designed or printed or what?

scottishlion1233 karma

Sorry should have specified I was wondering how you got your design. Also thanks for the help

runquik4 karma

No prob! I actually got REALLY lucky because Erin (girlfriend and business partner) is a really accomplished graphic designer. She does all of our product design, label design, t-shirt design, website design, you name it.

So, if you don't just get supremely lucky like I might try a freelance designer or a small, local firm. I don't have any great resources for that, and I apologize.

4_bit_forever2 karma

Is your facility FSMA compliant?

runquik3 karma

Yes it is!

mst3k_422 karma

Any advice for a brand new hot sauce manufacturer? I started selling my sauces this summer after finally getting my ducks in a row. I’m still making very small batch stuff. How did you grow your brand?

runquik2 karma

So it's a pretty low barrier to entry business. With making and bottling sauces, some education around things like the hot fill process for high acid and acidified foods will be really helpful. Here's a quick article:

Note that pH is pretty important in this equation from a food safety standpoint. If the pH is too high, you will need to use a different method.

You'll of course want a label design which is its own thing altogether. I got lucky to have a partner who is an amazing designer but you can also hire this out in your community or online. If you want to be retail-ready, you'll need to either hire a consultant or just get really familiar with the FDA's food labeling guidelines. That document can be found here:

When it comes to nutritional information for your recipes, bigger companies will have this all tested in a lab. If you're just starting out, you can use a service like Recipal to get some FDA compliant nutrition facts based on your recipes:

Best of luck!

Copying here my reply from a similar question!

mst3k_423 karma

Oh I’m already fully legal and do all those things. I was asking for general advice.

runquik3 karma

Word! Then sorry about that, not trying to condescend. Growing a brand is really freaking hard. We still talk about it every single day and we don't always agree on the best ways to do it. One of the things that's been important to us is to have a concise identity. We've had people ask us to make all kinds of different products and we stick with the stuff we make because building a brand is a long, long game. Erin is obsessed with Seth Godin's work and the way he talks about brand and about marketing. We've, as a group, read a number of his books and keep up with his blog which is here:

And I think, in this day and age, it's super important to talk to and listen to customers. Everyone expects it now. That's usually through social media more than like on the phone. In a super crowded market like hot sauce (low barrier to entry and tons of people with FANTASTIC recipes) it is SO IMPORTANT to give people an experience and not just a product.

Hope this is somewhat helpful. I'm still very much a student of brand-building and there are a lot of really good books and blogs out there about that subject.


Ranch5052 karma

My boys and I are huge fans! Do you have t-shirts? My son's birthday is coming up...

runquik2 karma

Thanks so much! We do have shirts, and they are super awesome! Everything we make is in our shop:

CoffeeNeededNow2 karma

I moved from Austin to the Pacific Northwest. I haven't been able to find the sauces out here. Any plans to expand availability?

runquik3 karma

Yah! I think others have sufficiently answered that we're available up there. Also always on Amazon and Also Safeway in that area now too. Weee!

aarona922 karma

Have you ever considered co-packing for other companies to help them get started?

runquik3 karma

Honestly we've gone back and forth on that and have opted so far not to so we can keep 100% focused on our brand. Unfortunately I've seen a lot of folks start doing copacking and then lose sight of their own brand.

pkpku332 karma

Any new products on the horizon? I love how you guys are constantly upping the hot sauce game. The Ghost Pepper sauce is 🔥🔥🔥

runquik9 karma

Thank you! There will actually be a decent amount of new stuff coming out this year! We have a couple of things that will be hitting the fresh dips section at Whole Foods in June (yes it's spicy, no it's not cashew-based vegan cheese :-P)

ALSO, we are finally getting our small batch program off the ground and we have LOTS of cool stuff coming in the next few months including some more savory sauces (yes, still spicy) and some more crazy and weird flavors. Here's a couple I've been tinkering with this week

420andcars2 karma

whats your favorite car and whats your current car?

runquik2 karma

Solid question. More of this.

I'm not much of a "car guy" so I will answer this question as best as I can. I saved up enough working jobs in high school in Alabama to buy a used '94 Jeep Wrangler and that thing was awesome. I fully waterproofed it inside so you could ride around in the rain with the top down. It was 4WD and had a 3 inch lift kit and some beefy off-road tires.

I ended up selling that car in college because I could NOT seem to stop offroading in it. I had it in the shop every other week.

Now I have a 2009 Nissan Xterra which I bought new. It's had the rear dif replaced twice because of how much hot sauce I've hauled in that car, but it's awesome. And paid off. Actually, here she is:

I'm planning on driving this til the wheels fall off. I'd really like to repaint it in a year or two, some ridiculous color. If I had to get another car right now, I'd probably get an F-150, I kind of love those too.

dmcd04152 karma

Did you just trial and error ingredients and recipes? How many attempts did it take to get a sauce you felt good enough to sell?

runquik7 karma

Oh my god...SO MANY ATTEMPTS. For like 2 years our pantry was full of hot sauce experiments. Some fermenting, some aging, etc etc. And, mind you, this was not with the purpose of starting a business! I was just doing this to find a good hot sauce for us to use at the house. So yes, anything we've ever released for sale has been the product of a ton of iterations.

My favorite experimentation story is that, when I was messing around with fermentation, I was playing around with some different yeasts. I actually did a couple of batches where I fermented the peppers with a champagne yeast. Champagne yeast, I now know, is pretty much impossible to kill. That's why champagne bottles are so poppy, that yeast just keeps going. Anyway, imagine a champagne pop but it's habanero sauce. And imagine that you have just decided to sell this hot sauce to local restaurants and the very first chef who has agreed to try your stuff opens said champagne yeast habanero bottle.....

So, I'm glad that I wasn't murdered in cold blood that day. Also, if you're wondering, champagne yeast does not create a great result. Kind of makes the peppers taste like vodka.

chmod-771 karma

Can you talk to me a bit about ingredients and your process to make the sauce? Is yours fermented? Any interesting ingredients you can share? Any fun tricks?


I have been making my own fermented sauces for a year or so. Right now I'm homing in on habenero, mango/pineapple, fermented honey garlic, etc.

P.S. Boomer Sooner from Norman! <horns down> ;)

runquik2 karma

Well I can't get behind this whole "horns down" thing ;) but...

The most important thing with our ingredients is that we use a lot of fresh ingredients. Not exclusively, because there are a lot of great non-fresh flavor components. But I do like the large majority being fresh. Our sauces are not fermented. I do make fermented sauces at home from time to time and when I was initially experimenting with sauces I did a number of fermented batches. I actually do not prefer the taste of fermented sauces, although I do appreciate their place in the spectrum of sauces.

I also have realized in the years of doing this that there are a lot of makers that don't fully understand the difference between aged peppers and fermented peppers. They are absolutely not the same thing and a lot of folks are mislabeling hot sauces. And, again, even the ones that ARE fermented are cooked before bottling so the cultures are killed and, taste-wise, it is very similar to just aging the peppers. I feel like, if you go fermented, go all the way! Depending on what store you shop at, there are actually some pretty good fermented hot sauces in the refrigerated section, like next to refrigerated salad dressing and hummus and whatnot.