- Category: Business
- Published on Sunday, October 30 2011 01:59
- Written by Rod Hughes
- Hits: 745
The Florida Times-Union (d.b.a. jacksonville.com) caught on to Tom Nuijens"s export philosophy immediately in a recent interview: Man invented food in order to have something to put hot sauce on.
In 1978, after frequent surfing excursions to Costa Rica, he partnered with a local company to manufacture and export Iguana brand sauces made from Costa Rican fruits and peppers.
From the outset it should be noted that he did not get his clues from Costa Rican dishes. Tico traditional food tends to be bland. Even that popular pioneer export, Salsa Lizano, is flavorful rather than mouth-burning.
Nuijens, a former advertising man, says he tests out and rates the taste on his own scale and feels that the hottest sauces on the U.S. market are more gimmicks than serious competitors. His hottest is 100,000 Scoffield units, a measure of such characteristics.
It would seem that his kitchen research has been prolific--he now markets 32 different products with sales of more than half million dollars so far this year, up 28% from last year. Much of those sales are to food services, one gallon or five-gallon containers.
The Iguana sauce success story is the old fashioned American dream--he worked out of a warehouse while still in advertising for years before finally quitting to sell sauce full time. He now employs four persons. Being a distributor for his own brand, he doesn't have to worry about production and spends only a couple of weeks per year in Costa Rica.
But, except for a few peppers from Peru and chipotes from Mexico, all ingredients come from Costa Rica, prepared here and shipped to his warehouse on Mayport Road in Atlantic Beach, Fla.
Surprisingly, Iguana sauces are present only as gift sets in the giants such as Walmart, Target and Kmart only during holidays. "The big stores," he explained to reporter Roger Bull, "want a lot of promotional dollars, marketing, buy-one-get-one-free, advertising coop dollars." Walmart accounted for 80,000 gift set sales last year.
Iguana sauces are present year-around at the southeastern U.S. Winn Dixie supermarket chain, Whole Foods and gourmet shops as well as 600 independent stores. He sells 65% to retailers, specialty distributors and restaurants, 27.5% to food services and 7.5% on line.
He also ships directly from Costa Rica to the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia.