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Ottawa entrepreneur creates online shop for Canadian hot sauces

Haicos Krijgsman says there are many similarities between the hot sauce and craft beer industries.
Haico Krijgsman and Angela Thomson of The Online Canadian Hot Sauce Store. Photo/ Haico Krijgsman

As the hot sauce market heats up, Ottawa sauce maker Haicos Krijgsman is launching a new website and store to help consumers find their way through the maze of hundreds of Canadian-made hot sauces.

Once dominated by two giants, Franks and Tobasco, hot chili-based sauces have become one of the fastest selling condiments on Canadian tables.

Driven by a more adventurous Canadian palette and a little outside-the-box creativity, Krijgsman says hot sauces today come in scores of flavours including siracha, carbonara, pineapple, truffle, apple, chipotle, papaya, ginger, mango and lime, as well as garlic, and picking the right one can be daunting.

The Online Canadian Hot Saunce Store boasts sauces produced by 30 Canadian makers including Krijgsens' own line 'Haicos' Hot Sauce.' 

“Hot sauce is changing the way people think about food,” he explains. “People are looking to try something new. The market's growing at least five per cent every year.”

“The market for hot sauces in Ottawa is strong among men, mostly, but it's becoming more popular with women and vegetarians,” adds Krijgsman.

Pre-pandemic, Krijgsman was selling as many as 20,000 bottles of his own Haicos Hot Sauce brand on another local website and to a network of 150 shops spread throughout the National Capital Region, annually. But when the pandemic shuttered many of his outlets, the local sauce maker had to take matters into his own hands.

“I wanted the website to be more than a place where people bought their hot sauce,” Krijgsman says. “I saw it as a place where people into hot sauces could meet, exchange recipes, share experiences and build community.”

Unable to find the hot sauces he was accustomed to back home in the Netherlands and Indonesia, Krijgsman started making his own hot sauce here in Ottawa in 2016. What started as a hobby has turned into a full-time occupation.

In the five years since, his line of sauces has grown to 13 flavours, ranging from Canadian Jerk on the sweet and mild end of the spectrum, to Devil's Brew for those who like high-octane heat. He grows his own peppers on a farm in Kemptville, including Hungarian Wax Peppers and Carolina Reapers.

“I recommend you start with mild and work your way up until you find the flavour and level of heat you like best,” he says sagely. “Hot sauce doesn't just add heat. Capsaicin, the active ingredient that gives peppers their hot sensation, doesn't actually burn your mouth. It affects the pain receptors in your mouth, releasing endorphins to give the taster a lift, a bit of a high boost. It's opening the palette, so you taste more flavour.”

'Bajan Tyga' from Kitchener and 'Sorry Sauce,' which is made in Listowel, are among the Ottawan's favourite sauces.

And, like craft beer, hot sauce's potential as an volatile flavour enhancer has spawned a community of independent makers and fans, with social media sites, fanzines, conventions and even a popular streaming show called “Hot Ones” which features celebrities being interviewed while sampling progressively hotter sauces.

Krijgmans is planning his own hot sauce event, “Heating up the Capital” on September 4 in the Horticulture building at Lansdowne.

“There's a big similarity between hot sauce and craft beer,” he says. “Small-batch makers using local ingredients are reinventing the way we think of hot sauce. It's developing it's own culture.” 

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