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Puerto Rican-made hot sauces poised for growth as cuisines spice up

In 2021, the global hot sauce market reached a value of $2.71 billion, and it is projected to grow by $4.38 billion by 2028, according to a recent report by Fortune Business Insights.

The industry is also experiencing increasing demand with growing popularity in Latin American and Caribbean cuisines.

The factors driving the Latin American hot sauce industry include, among many others, the innovation of different flavors and the growing consumption of spicy food. In Puerto Rico, the hot sauce market is growing quickly also thanks to the cultural exchange through tourism.

Furthermore, the product’s long shelf life and easy availability on e-commerce platforms have helped to increase the demand in this sector. However, it should not be left behind the fact that Puerto Rican hot sauces embrace original flavors that evoke Latin and tropical profiles as well as attract local and international consumers.

Brands such as Mi Madre, El Conde Nao, Caribbean Craves, and Pique Los Monkeys are now leading the hot sauce industry on the island, innovating with products 100% Puerto Rican that are made with natural and high-quality ingredients. One of them is habanero peppers, locally grown in the tropical and mountainous environment of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican hot sauce brands
Mi Madre is a family-owned business founded in 2000. It was born when Mr. Servando and Ms. Delia began making pique at their home as a hobby, using an old family recipe, and, eventually, sharing the product with relatives and friends. The feedback received on the product was positive and led to the kitchen production developing quickly to meet local customer demand.

This traditional and unique pique was the first product in the hot sauce market made with chunks of garlic, vinegar, and homegrown habanero peppers. This is the reason why Mi Madre has become one of the favorite traditional “pique” on the island and conquered hot sauce lovers internationally.

In the beginning, Mr. Servando joined local trade shows, farmer markets, and festivals, which further exposed Pique Mi Madre to a bigger market across the island. This also caused the product to become very popular among locals and tourists visiting the island.

To meet demand, the brand scaled up production and built a manufacturing site with increased manufacturing capabilities located in the central mountains of Puerto Rico. After more than two decades of continuous evolution, Mi Madre Foods has expanded by adding new family recipes to their hot sauce portfolio, which include fruits such as guava and passion fruit. The brand’s targets are the Latin community as well as gourmet, foodies, and hot sauce lovers.

In Puerto Rico, their products are distributed in some supermarkets and at the International Airport Luis Muñoz Marin. Likewise, in the United States, Mi Madre products are also sold in numerous stores. They also sell their products on platforms such as Amazon and have an online shop. Mi Madre expansion plans are to increase points of sale in the states where they already have a presence and to increase the product line with new flavors.

On the other hand, El Conde Nao, led by Rafael Ortiz-Santos, is a local brand that was born in 2014. What sets them apart from the market is that the hot sauce production is carried out with ingredients cultivated on the family farm, Granja Mi Santo, located in Barranquitas.

Everything is produced on the farm. Products are truly direct from the land to the tables of local consumers. They use sustainable practices from the cultivation to the production process. No fertilizers or chemical substances are used on the crops, only 100% organic fertilizers.

Monthly, El Conde Nao produces from 50 to 70 boxes that contain 24 bottles of sauces, and around 60 gallons to be sold to restaurants. Despite being a small-scale production, their products have become popular among locals. Restaurants also enjoy their recipe, which is often used to combine with popular dishes.

El Conde Nao main ingredients are habanero pepper, oregano, and coriander. They do not add any additives or preservatives. The brand offers three piques with different levels of spiciness — hot, medium, and mild — so anyone can pleasantly enjoy the spicy, without affecting their health. Furthermore, they combine the sauce with some condiments to give an extra flavor to the meals.

Ortiz-Santos said he wants to advance in the industry step by step. The main goal is to make the product known gradually for the consumer to adapt to it and explore the options available to taste food.

“In Puerto Rico, there is a place for all farmers and producers. Our objective is not to compete with other brands but to coexist and offer alternative options. We can all keep moving forward and grow along with the economy of the island,” he said.

Likewise, the brand focuses on local distribution, but they have projects to expand the market, create a new catalog, and venture into e-commerce platforms.

Author Emily Cruz-Villegas is a journalist and freelance content writer from Venezuela, with four years of experience as an academic researcher, mainly focused on economic development, public policies, and digital diplomacy. She has postgraduate education in International Relations at the University of Salvador (Argentina), and a master’s degree in Public Management at KDI School (South Korea). She may be reached at [email protected].

At the present, El Conde Nao is working on projects to boost agriculture and help those who want to be part of this market — small investors, farmers, and people in general. With the help of the Servicio de Extensión Agrícola of the Mayagüez Campus of the University of Puerto Rico, the brand aims at developing different crops, educating people interested in agriculture through short courses and visits to the farm as well as supporting local farmers to start up their business.

Caribbean Craves is another Puerto Rican brand that produces delicious foods from different Caribbean islands. Local and imported ingredients are combined to create unique and vibrant profiles. They launched their Hot Sauces expressions for those looking for delicious sauces with a variety of heat levels.

Caribbean Craves hot sauces are distributed by RamSan LLC to local shops in touristic areas, including the International Airport, and sold on Amazon and Walmart. This production line is a collaboration with Yupa Brothers Inc. Currently, the brand aims at creating new sauces with local fruits, expanding the market through other distribution chains in supermarkets and restaurants.

Finally, Pique Los Monkeys is a delicious jalapeño-based hot sauce made in a Mexican style. It is one of the most famous recipes of Los Monkeys that have been produced since 2011 in San Juan. This pique is the perfect balance between salty, chunky, and spicy. It blends jalapeño, habanero pepper, cayenne, carrots, onions, and vinegar.

Established by young entrepreneurs Warren E. Carrasquillo and Manuel González, Los Monkeys is a fast-casual Puerto Rican “Burger Joint” dedicated to making quality, affordable fast-delivery food. They have a restaurant as well, which has gained a notorious and loyal clientele across its multiple locations by distinguishing itself not only for its food but also for its brand.

In general, each brand has its own personality, offering products made with passion and love for the land. The hot sauces industry continues evolving, offering alternate options to local entrepreneurs to reboot the Puerto Rican economy through agriculture. 

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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