Local woman brings “magic sauce” from recipe book to shelf
By Kelley BellPublished July 1, 2012
It’s fitting that Susan Duve settled on the name Royal Fireworks; the final jolt of inspiration screamed through her brain like a Roman Candle through the night sky.
With a recipe bequeathed to her from a former boss back in the ’80s, Duve set out to make her “magic sauce,” not only marketable – but healthy, too.
“A family member had experienced a health crisis so I started looking at the causes and found ingredients in food to be a likely culprit,” she said. “My conscience required me to create this sauce in a healthier form.”
She was crestfallen when the food scientist she hired had nearly botched the time-honored mix.
“They sent me samples and they were horrible. I literally sat down and cried because they were so bad,” she bemoaned. “That night, I woke up at three o’clock in the morning and it hit me. I knew exactly what to do. It only took me two tries the next day and I had the base recipe perfected.”
Like a final dash of salt, Duve knew she had the right recipe for leap into the world of commercial condiments. Learning all the rules of commercial food production was daunting so Duve went to Denise Hollerick of Venus Designs who has the expertise to guide the budding entrepreneurs through the expensive prototype process.
“It’s not for the feint of heart,” the Ohio University grad counseled. “Once you commit, you are in it for the long haul.”
Duve contacted Ohio Proud and ECDI (The Economic and Community Development Institute), two organizations that assist new companies by hosting workshops for entrepreneurs.
“I had 800 gallons of sauce sitting in a warehouse and was looking for ways to promote it,” said Duve. “Finding those community connections is so important. I can’t emphasize that enough.”
Through ECDI, Duve met with an FDA representative, as all foodstuffs must be vetted by the agency before retail is approved. “We had to pay $100 up front for testing on each of the eight sauces and pay for the production run and labels too,” Duve explained.
Duve had been told by a local food broker, as well as a grocery store, that although they loved the original product, it was too labor intensive to carry just one product. So Duve took that as an opportunity to create seven more variations of sauces, mustards and a jam, all using the original recipe as the base.
“The concept was for the end user to be able to use the product as is, and also to be creative in their use,” she said.
Her eyes gleamed when she thought back to the day she received the first shipment of her product.
“When I opened that box, reached in and pulled out a jar of my sauce with the label on it, it brought me to tears. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life,” she said.
The sauce is available at Easton’s Celebrate Local store, a key ingredient in Duve’s plan to keep her product as homegrown as possible.
Celebrate Local is the first retail store to feature her sauces.
“It was really important to me to maintain a strong connection with Ohio,” she said. “We currently are getting more than 50 percent of our ingredients and services from Ohio-based businesses, which is not easy to do, so I am really proud of that.”
By engaging with retailers, Duve is building rapport while revealing her passion for the product. She says you can’t just drop off samples and hope they call you.
“You have to get to know your business partners. They are not just evaluating the product, but they are looking at you as a business partner as well,” she said. “The process has included a lot of trial and error, but I’m learning to work smarter everyday. It has been a long journey, and it has been hard – but I get up every day excited about what I’m doing.
“It’s not easy, but I am building my dream, and it really does feed my soul.”
Celebrate Local is located at 4030 The Strand at Easton. For more about Duve’s magic concoction, visit www.royalfireworkssauce.com.