Business Is Heating Up for St. Louis’ Anderson & Son Pepper Co.

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  • JOEL ANDERSON

  • Joel Anderson has turned his passion for pepper into a new hot sauce business.

Joel Anderson can pinpoint the exact moment when he developed his passion for spicy food. The incident happened when he was about nine years old and came with his grandmother’s kind permission – although she had no intention of piquing his interest in such an intense way.

“My grandma put a habanero in a pot of chili or soup to add a little spice to the whole pot,” recalls Anderson. “I took out a bowl and it contained the pepper. I didn’t know I shouldn’t eat it, but I ate the whole thing from the spoon. I pushed ice cream on my face and stuck my head in. Up until that point, I never really had.” something spicy in the freezer, and I think the experience was terrible but really interesting. I still haven’t figured out why people who like spicy food like to feel uncomfortable, but as a kid it was some kind of risk – dangerous, but it hurt in a way that left no trace. ”

As the founder of the Anderson & Son Pepper Co. (www.andersonpepperco.com) hot sauce brand, Anderson is now responsible for indulging people’s taste buds, albeit in a more deliberate way. He’s been selling his signature hot sauce “Don’t Touch the Baby” and the “Reaper Ranch” spice blend in his online shop since September, still a little disbelieving that people are giving him money to do something he loves .

This love for spicy food has been with him since the first shock in his grandmother’s kitchen. For as long as he can remember, family and friends had given him various spicy sauces as gifts, and he was always looking for different brands to try.

It was only a few years ago that he got into sauce production himself. After moving to a new home, Anderson planted a garden filled with everything from lettuce to tomatoes to eggplant. Bell peppers were a small part of the effort, but over the years they became a bigger and bigger ingredient until he turned his entire garden into a pepper growing area. Overrun by peppers, he decided to seriously learn how to make hot sauce.

It only took Anderson one batch to realize he had a knack for making hot sauce. Based on his background in advertising, he made a label for fun and named his sauce after a phrase his wife would yell at him when he worked with peppers.

“She always said, ‘Don’t touch the baby!’ because my hands were covered in hot peppers, “says Anderson. “He was six months old when I started making hot sauce and I definitely didn’t want to apply that to him. I just put a label on for fun and the name stuck.”

Anderson opened an Instagram account for the brand in 2019 and got so excited about it that he decided to make the operation official. He teamed up with the culinary incubator STL Foodworks, where he used the commissioner’s kitchen and expertise in the company’s logistics (licenses and certifications) to establish Anderson & Son Pepper Co. as a real label for hot sauces. That it has taken off as good as it has is proof for Anderson that people can taste the passion he puts into everything he does.

“I think a lot of what hot sauce is to me is being able to think creatively,” says Anderson. “I’ve worked on a lot of other people’s brands in my day job over the years, so figuring out my own is really cool. But the biggest part is knowing that I’m doing something that is my son, I’m not saying he’s will be in the hot sauce business – we gave him a Flamin ‘Hot Cheeto once and he wasn’t so sure – but the idea that maybe something will be there for him later and that he is somehow involved is mine really important. ”

Anderson, who is currently working on a collaborative venture with Strange Donuts soon to be released, paused in the kitchen to reflect on his thoughts on the St. Louis food scene, his love of skydiving, and why it’s more important than ever to support them regional companies.

What do many people not know about you?
Until recently, I wasn’t sure if people knew how much I care about spicy foods and hot sauce. My day job is in advertising so it wasn’t as much part of the daily conversation as it is now that we started the business. I’ve skydived three times too, so that’s a flex, right?

Which daily ritual is non-negotiable for you?
Spending time with my wife and son. That being said, I’m pretty adamant about being kind of creative every day – taking a picture, designing something, or just doing something.

Who’s Your St. Louis Food Crush?
It’s so hard to limit yourself to just one point or one person. The St. Louis food scene is amazing, with so many great restaurants and chefs out here doing their thing. I love what Mike Johnson and Chef Adam Pritchett do at Hi-Pointe, Jason Bockman at Strange Donuts, and Christian Ethridge at Taco Circus. These guys are my ghost animals in terms of creative presentation and using their social media to connect with people here in St. Louis, but I could get on with the people out here for a variety of reasons. Not that you asked, but if I had to pick a favorite dish, it would be Guerrilla Street Food’s Flying Pig. Immediately behind it are the truffled grilled cheese from Dressel’s Pub and the pork steak from BEAST Craft BBQ. TLDR; Basically every restaurant in the South Grand.

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality?
I would like to say paprika, but to be honest, I’m not sure I have a “flavorful” personality. If I had to choose an ingredient in the hot sauce, I would say the agave nectar – because … I’m sweet? Throw up. I also like long walks on the beach and rainbows.

If you didn’t work in the grocery store, what would you do?
Now that the hot sauce is definitely secondary to my daily work in advertising, I’m pretty happy to say that when it’s all gone, I’m actually doing the other thing I love, which is being creative.

As a food professional, what do people need to know about what you are going through?
People out there with restaurants and grocery stores who rely on butts in seats are having the toughest time right now. While technically making groceries, I’m fortunate to have most of this business online so I wouldn’t even fit myself into the same category as someone trying to get their brick and mortar restaurant business up and running during all of this. I have great respect for these people.

What do you miss most about the way you did your job before COVID-19?
We sold our first bottle of hot sauce in September 2020. So for us there was no “pre-covid”. In general, however, I miss being with people.

What do you miss the least?
When we talk about day jobs, I don’t miss driving to work every day. That’s more than an hour a day that I can spend with my family or do other things (skydiving).

What have you been eating / drinking under stress lately?
Carbohydrates. All carbohydrates.

What do you think will be the biggest change in the food and beverage industry when people can return to normal levels of activity?
I think energy has to be re-focused in order to really bring food experiences back into resonance with people. You don’t really pay for the food when you eat out. You pay for the getaway from home and for interacting with the people you love in places where you feel like you are doing something new and special. Whether in a restaurant or a grocery store, you want people to experience your product – something so many of us have been missing for so long.

What gives you hope in this crisis?
It was inspiring to see such a shift to make sure those local places that we all take for granted don’t go away. The support from our local businesses throughout all of this has been great and hopefully the appreciation extends well beyond the pandemic.

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