In 1989, Greg and David Figueroa heated up the culinary scene by introducing the habanero pepper to the United States, starting in their hometown of New Orleans. It was the world’s hottest chile at the time.
In short order, the Figueroas got Melinda’s Original Habanero Pepper Sauce on the tables of hundreds of Big Easy eateries right along with the ubiquitous salt, pepper and Tabasco.
Now in their 26th year of business, the brotherly owners of Melinda’s Foods LLC are launching an assault on our tastebuds with an extended lineup of hot sauces and specialty ketchups.
This time, they’re doing it here in North Texas, where they relocated the company after Hurricane Katrina.
Some of the blends make the habanero seem tame.
In the next 18 months, the Figueroas will give away more than $1 million of their products, figuring that if you try Melinda’s, you’ll buy Melinda’s.
“You can drive by a billboard 10 times and never think about buying it,” Greg says. “You can use the same amount of money to give away products and have a much better return on sales.”
The original formula comes in four heat levels — hot to 4X. There are nine additional flavors, from fruity mango to a red savina pepper and a ghost pepper that will push your sweat glands into overdrive. Bored with simple tomato ketchup for your french fries? Melinda’s has five specialty versions that don’t pull punches.
The Figueroas want to reinstate Melinda’s as an innovator in the chile pepper world, having lost their singular focus a decade ago.
“Melinda’s today is about a $5 million brand that we’ve just let truck along,” says CEO Greg, sitting in the company’s conference room. “As David and I get towards 50, we’re thinking, ‘You know, we’ve got the best brand in the hot sauce market. It’s time to finish what we started.’
“Our five-year plan for Melinda’s is a minimum of $30 [million] to $45 million. If international kicks in like we think, it could go as high as $100 million. That’s our stretch goal.”
The company is focusing on 10 cities that account for a massive bite of the nation’s hot-and-spicy sales. The effort is starting in Dallas-Fort Worth, which ranks No. 4 on the national heat scale.
In recent months, Melinda’s sales team has enticed more than 350 area restaurants to put free bottles of Melinda’s on their tables.
Uber Eats delivered 1,000 giveaways along with meals to D-FW homes during Cinco de Mayo week. Melinda’s plans similar Uber Eats promotions in other cities.
Central Market has given coveted shelf space to four of Melinda’s pepper sauces and four specialty ketchups with a BOGO slated for the first week in September.
“Melinda’s has some really good on-trend flavors and great value,” says Rex Howell-Smith, a buyer at Central Market, “especially compared to some of the other hot sauces that are nearly double the price at retail. Shelf space is expensive real estate any way you look at it. We really like to play with the unique and harder-to-find products wherever we can.”
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