Five for Friday: Five Things People Have Wrong About Small Sauce/Rub Companies

Today’s Five for Friday post is brought to you by a good friend of mine – Shane Draper of Draper’s BBQ.  Shane will enlighten all of us about some misconceptions people have when it comes to being a small batch BBQ sauce/rub maker.

In the last 5 years or so since resurrecting Draper’s BBQ and releasing a line of sauces and rubs I have come to realize there are a few misconceptions about the sauce and rub business and also those of us who are the proprietors of such businesses. Wayne approached me about writing a few of his Five for Friday selections and was gracious in allowing me to lead off with this topic. So with that, let’s light the fuse on this powder keg of misconception and see where the pieces fall.

Misconception 1 – You have a sauce on the market, you must be rolling in the money


While it is true, that my family once struck oil when my dad shot at a rabbit prompting us to load up the truck and moved to Beverly Hills where we have lived out our days around the cement pond…..or maybe I’m confusing that with something else. It is definitely (and unfortunately) not true that everyone that has a sauce or rub on the market (even those of us that have them in big box stores) are making money hand over fist. The reality is that most of us are lucky to be making pennies per unit sold once you factor in all costs to get it into stores.

That is not said in any way to disparage the fine small mom and pop shops that carry our products, but it is just a matter of fact. There are many hands in the process that moves my product from the packing plant to the store shelves and no one works for free and I am thankful for them all.

What is true is that most of the sauce and rub companies I know are ran by small families who have the 2.5 children, a dog, a cat and driving a car that looks eerily similar to the one you drive. We are just regular people who had a dream of putting a product on the shelf in the store for other people to enjoy and while that doesn’t always mean our grandchildren are going to be rich, it does mean we are doing what we love and doing what we can to love what we do.

Misconception 2 – You overcharge on shipping, and that is where you make money


I wish that were the case to be quite honest. While we love customers who buy direct from us because it does cut down on the middle man, we still have a lot of cost to cover in labor, packing materials and postage costs. Of those proper packing materials can be the most expensive for producers who are using glass bottles.

Thankfully we switched to a plastic bottle, but still we have to pack the product so Mr. Postman (or UPS/FedEx man) can punt the package from their vehicle at 45mph and it still arrive to intact. Think I’m joking about the punting? Boy oh boy I have some pictures that customers have sent over the years. One of them seriously looked like the delivery service ran over it with the truck and then put it on the doorstep. It was a gallon of sauce and well, you can imagine what that looked like. When that happens we as a company get to rush ship another gallon to your doorstep at 3x the cost and then file a mishap report and claim with the delivery company. With 2 of the big 3 we typically get our money back, with the 3rd, it’s a lost cause and just a loss of money on our part.

So in the law of averages in business we have to average all of that out and hope and pray at the end of year to have made a profit. We know shipping stinks and I promise you no one dislikes the rates or the companies any more than us smaller sauce and rub manufacturers, but they are necessary evil if Joe Pitmaster wants our product this weekend. Never mind he waited until Wednesday to place the order, and he needs it for a competition.

Misconception 3 – Process of getting our product finalized and to the market was easy


Again, I wish that were true. In many cases it can take a year or more and literally thousands of dollars to get it right and get it formulated where it’s good and you can turn a profit on the product.

This reason is why so many people who have battled through the process are so protective of how they did it. They know it was hard and they know how many hours of phone calls and research it took and don’t necessarily feel obligated to share every short cut or secret.

This doesn’t mean we don’t want you to be successful. In my personal case I did a weekly radio show basically exposing every trick of the trade I had and STILL was accused of holding out. What it does mean though, is that we get asked this question about 20 times a month and either have grown tired of answering it, but more to the point are tired of giving away the information only to have people dispute everything you have just shared with them.

There are 1000 ways to get your product to market. The path I took, may not be the path you need to take. All I can share is what has worked for me and what I have seen work for others. In the end, that’s all any of us can do.

Misconception 4 – We think our products are the only good ones on the market


This for me is one I giggle at constantly as my refrigerator is LOADED with other brands of sauce. I have a sauce and rub for every mood. Why? Because while I know I could make one that fits every flavor profile and every mood, why do it? What is the win? Why not just buy one that is a good product? There are literally thousands out there, some good, some great, some absolutely crappy, but I still buy and try new sauces and rubs all the time. I know there are some great sauces out there and I have several favorites.

Misconception 5 – We only compete with our sauce and rub


This is almost true actually. I will say there are brands that we emulate with our sauce and rub by mixing various additions to them. We do that to fit the flavor profile of whatever region we are in competing. We also do this to change up what the judges are used to getting. We all know there are brands that get hot on the circuit and as a judge I for one get sick of them. That’s not to say I haven’t mixed those same brands in with ours just to see what happens. This is truer in the sauce department than the rub side of the house.

Again, a huge thanks goes out to Shane Draper of Draper’s BBQ for this week’s Five for Friday blog post!  It’s a very interesting take on what it’s really like to be a small batch rub/sauce maker.  If you have any other ideas that you’d like to see in a Five for Friday post, let me know!

  • Cool, I didn’t have any of these misconceptions 🙂 Anytime anyone says something incredibly naive like “you should sell your sauce” or “you should open a BBQ restaurant” I just laugh hysterically. I’d rather have red hot BBQ skewers stuck through my nether regions than put myself through that! You are a stronger man than me, Shane!