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PRODUCT: Oregon Dan’s BBQ Sauce

We probably receive more barbecue sauce than any other food product. Is there that much barbecue/barbeque/BBQ sauce in America, or is it just a favorite product for people who want to be in the specialty food business? (It’s the latter.) Many people think their sauce (jam, fudge, cookie, whatever) is “the best,” and are encouraged by friends to go into the business.

While the world may need a better mousetrap, it isn’t looking for another sauce (…whatever). It’s tough even for spectacular products to survive. Some of our Top Picks Of The Week—the best of their kind we’ve ever had—have been shuttered (and by the same token, some truly mediocre products continue to sell well, year after year—a phenomenon previously noted by H.L. Mencken). In better economic times, we saw someone develop a unique and needed product to make tofu taste great, and the world did not beat a path to her door. Unless a close family member is CEO of a major food chain, getting distribution for a new product is like swimming upstream, without the genetics of a salmon. That doesn’t make us happy, because people who make specialty foods tend to be nice people, and we always want the best for them.

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BBQ sauce with a focus on fruit. Photo by Emily Chang | THE NIBBLE.

Oregon Dan’s BBQ Sauce arrived recently: four attractive bottles in Original (pineapple), Medium Spice (Original/pineapple with a kick), Apricot and Habanero Hot. “Pure Ingredients!” exclaimed the bottle, and it is true that they are all natural, although the first ingredient is sugar. (Pure doesn’t mean healthy.) The recipes are complex. Original also has pineapple juice, tomato paste, onion, pineapple, distilled white vinegar, butter, cider vinegar, blackstrap molasses, sherry cooking wine, cornstarch, red pepper flakes, vanilla, spices and salt. That’s as classy a set of ingredients as we’ve seen on many a barbeque sauce bottle. Habanero Hot adds habanero purée (a quality ingredient—many sauces use the cheaper habanero extract), Apricot adds apricot purée. Oregon Dan calls the whole line “Hawaiian style,” although apricot and habanero are not part of traditional Hawaiian cuisine, as far as we’ve seen.

The puzzler is, why is Oregon Dan selling Hawaiian recipes. Given that the snowy mountain peaks on the bottle labels are not Mauna Loa and the website survey suggests the next flavor will be coming from Oregon (bing cherry, boysenberry, marionberry, peach, pear and raspberry are the options—cast your vote), Dan might want to forget the “taste of Hawaii inside each bottle” and sell “BBQ Sauce With Fightin’ Fruit.” A 12-Ounce jar $5.50 at OregonDans.com. The line is gluten free.




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