The tale of Hank Sauce dates back to 2006 when 3 friends became roommates at Flagler College in the quaint and sunny beach town of St Augustine, Fl. All hailing from the Southern portion of the great state of New Jersey; Hank, Josh, and Matt became, by definition "bros," but never really discussed starting a business together. Josh and Matt also shared something in common especially ironic at the time - they absolutely hated hot sauce. Now keep in mind that when your roommate is a chef, you're probably going to accept nearly anything coming across the table. When something requiring a noticeable amount of hot sauce was on the menu, the duo was hesitant, but Hank would usually reply with the ever so confident "I got you, you'll like it" which brought the hesitation down a notch or two. Hank had been making "the sauce” (now better known as Herb Infused) for personal use for quite some time, but never really thought it was anything to brag about. It became popular at cookouts and gatherings, but the idea of pursuing a hot sauce career was even more left field than we were at the time.
(Hank, Matt, and Josh on a surf trip to Puerto Rico in 2008)
Fast forward a few years to the Fall of 2010; Josh and Hank score jobs right out of school while Matt samples every major offered at Flagler college, eventually settling on graphic design and fine art. Matt is given a class assignment to create "a product" for a series of magazine print ads (so 2010 right? lol) and decides that the sauce would be a perfect fit for the campaign. Hank loved the idea, and headed out to gather ingredients. By the weekend they had a whopping 20 bottles staring them in the face, but it didn't have a name. The clock was ticking, the project due date fast approaching, and they still had no official name. Then it happened.
"How about Hank Sauce?" questioned Hank.
"Like without the apostrophe s?" Matt asked.
"Yup" Hank Replied.
"Sold!" Matt exclaimed.
Matt brought the bottles to class and passed them out during the presentation. By the next class meeting he was met with requests to purchase the unique concoction; it was a pleasant surprise, and the first “we may have something here” moment. They brought a few cases home for the Holidays to pass out amongst family and friends and the feedback was nearly the same across the board. “The flavor is amazing and I love the mild heat!” They realized the reactions were nearly the same amongst different crowds wherever they sampled the sauce.
(In its earliest days, Hank Sauce is featured in a North FL magazine review)
Over the next 2 months no BBQ cookout or fish feast would be complete without a bottle, and it wasn’t rare to burn through 2 or more bottles within a small group. They came up with the theory that Hank Sauce would be “the-hot-sauce-for-people-who-don’t-really-like-hot-sauce,” and embraced the mild nature of the sauce. It was also around this time that we were getting word about bottles being stolen from the only place to buy it, a local taco shop. While that’s certainly no good for the shop owner, all signs were pointing to giving this thing a try and making a business out of it.
On a sunny February day the crew was enjoying one of America’s greatest Past times, (The Daytona 500) while passing out sauce to strangers and getting the same reactions of praise for the sauce. It was here under the turn two bleachers that they discussed the possibility of “making it” in the competitive food business. Josh proclaimed he was quitting his job to help launch the new venture, and the trio was set on building the brand. Matt just had to graduate, then they would be off to pursue the sauce.
Matt realized the sauce was being used more like a condiment than a hot sauce, and felt that it warranted a larger bottle because they were being emptied so fast. During his final semester at Flagler college he was required to take some of his best design work from the last year and make it better and stronger. This was a perfect opportunity to find a larger bottle and improve the early design, and the current logo/packaging used today was born.
(a shot from Matt's 2011 portfolio showing a potential line of sauces)
In May of 2011 they decided to leave the warm winters behind and move back to their native NJ to launch the brand. The three friends had all grown up working in the service industry, so they felt it was best to move home and embrace the strong tourism industry of the Southern shores of NJ. The plan was to work previous summer jobs while making Hank Sauce a known name around town. This included but was not limited to sneaking sample bottles into the bags of customers while delivering pizza, and other guerrilla marketing tactics.
The Sea Isle City farmers market was their first crack at selling the sauce to a large crowd. It was such a success that after one summer they knew they had to find a kitchen and push the sauce full time; after all, they really had nothing to lose at that point. They found an available building on the South end of town and moved in October 2011. It was more space than needed, and Hank had more than enough experience in the kitchen, so they decided to open a restaurant as well, allowing guests the opportunity to try Hank Sauce on a wide variety of foods. The restaurant has become an absolute hit, and continues to be a staple in town today.
(Josh holding it down at Hop Sauce Fest in LBI)
Fast forward a few years (2015) and nearly 700 accounts later and the sauce is still being made (by hand) by our small crew which has grown to include a few clutch friends and family members. It was obvious that something had to be done about the supply and demand. While striking out with co-packers for a number of reasons, they were making about as much sauce as possible out of the small restaurant. It was time for a bigger boat.
(Summer 2011- Every good business needs a garage to start in)
(Bottling sauce in the restaurant. 100's of thousands of bottles were poured by hand over the course of 7 years. We still haven't regained sanity)
With the help of Matt’s dad Pietro and a local bank they secured a piece of land 30 miles away in the fabled town of Millville, NJ. They set their sights on a production facility that would improve capacity while allowing the brand to grow and experiment with other products, and in 2018 Myrtle Packaging was complete. (A fisherman by trade, The Myrtle Virginia was the name of Pete’s first commercial boat which he bought in his 20’s)
(Hank, Josh, and Matt on the ground that would become Myrtle Packing)
(Myrtle Packaging, Millville, NJ)
To this day Hank Sauce is family owned and operated. We don’t offer tours of our facility, but if we did you’d see Hank’s right hand man Max, and Matt’s brother Pete making sure the sauce is spot on. Looking to start a wholesale account, or have a question for the sauce line? (609.602.4663) You’ll be talking to Hank’s wife Kaitlin on that one, she’ll make sure you’re taken care of. Found us at a farmers market or event? You’ll be sure to find one of our friendly reps who will be sure to send you off with a smile to go along with your sauce.