Sweet Baby Ray's Creator Reveals The Big Downside To Being In The Sauce Business

Sweet Baby Ray's is a household name when it comes to BBQ sauce. Carried in 98 percent of grocery stores in the U.S., this sweet and tangy barbecue condiment has been called the "Boss of Sauce" by many (via Food Republic). The founder of this successful brand, Dave Raymond, is no longer slinging this sauce in a widespread manner although he still operates his own Baby Ray's themed restaurants. If you're looking for ideas on widespread appeal and commercial success, Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ story is definitely inspiring. Says Raymond of founding the brand, "I know it's too sweet and the texture is too thick, but I turned a $2,000 investment into 21 [percent] total market share. Not bad for a white boy selling barbecue."

That's right – Dave Raymond both bragged about the success and insulted the sauce in the same sentence. That might be because this iconic brand founder feels he lost a little something as his brand began to soar. "If you like making sauce, don't get into the sauce business. You have to wear too many hats to actually cook anymore." Taking his own advice, Raymond has elevated and experimented with his own sauce since the 1982 recipe we know today, adding nuance in flavor and texture that you might not find in the widespread commercial version. He currently sits on the Illinois BBQ Association Board of Directors and has won 40 awards in competition (via IBBQA). Essentially, he's found his way back to food fun.

Behind the scenes can be less fun

Let's be clear: Dave Raymond isn't telling you to ditch either the sauce or the bbq; he's talking about cooking on a small vs a large scale. As we understand it, it's a lot like peeking behind the curtain at a show or even a retail showroom. Those who've seen all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes will have a great appreciation of the work involved in the final product, but it can easily lose a little magic. In mass production, cooks lose the ability to add slight variations to flavors as inspiration strikes or seasonal and local ingredients become available. In short, mass-produced food isn't as fun.

When it comes down to it, we're only talking about the joy of cooking. If we're talking business, sauce is probably a fantastic place to be right now. When it comes to recent market trends, home cooking and all the products and gadgets that go with it are taking off like never before. "Consumers are spending more time at home and trying new recipes, reproducing for themselves the experience they enjoy in restaurants and cafes," said Philipp Navratil, global head of beverage strategic business units at Nestle (via Food Institute). Home bakers increased. Yeast sales alone had increased 600 percent by May 2020 (via CNBC).

The food business can be fantastic – just make sure you understand the work required for large-scale success.