THURSDAY JULY 2, 2015 05:06 PM
Saint Lucifer racks up spicy sales
WRITTEN BY BY COURTNEY H. DIENER-STOKES — READING EAGLE CORRESPONDENT
Ted Ebert, who grew up in Fleetwood, was living with an old friend, Tom Hewell, in Philadelphia after college, when they got to combining a love of food and a background in marketing and communications, in the kitchen.
"We both grew up cooking, whether it be in restaurants or cooking at home and we were fanatics about hot sauce and hot spices," Ebert, 36, said.
When they would go to bars and restaurants, they realized none of the spicy products they were using were made in Philadelphia.
"At that moment, we were playing with our own concoctions ourselves," he said. "A friend of ours from western Pennsylvania grew a surplus of habanero peppers and he said, 'I'll let you guys do whatever you want to do with them.' We made spices all day until we found one that was really good."
Ebert, who now lives in Collegeville, was 27 at the time they created what is known today as Saint Lucifer Spice, a fine, crushed habanero pepper powder.
"We didn't officially start retailing it until two-and-a-half to three years ago," Ebert said. "Until then it was kind of a hobby. Friends and family started requesting and asking for more of it. It was in demand and people wanted it."
So, they started cold-calling food manufacturers.
"To see if they would take a meeting with us and to see if what we had was good and how to get it out to the masses," Ebert said, adding they were confident they had a solid product.
Castella Imports Inc., a large food manufacturer based in New York, called them in.
"They sat us in a board room to figure out how we could get it to mass market, refine the process of it, how to bring our product to life," he said. "Everything we have today in the spice, is what they helped do for us."
In time, everything began falling into place, thanks to everyone using their strengths to pitch in.
"My brother is a writer and does all of the copy," for marketing, he said. "My business partners did the labels. We had all of the concept in place."
Now they source their habanero peppers out of Mexico and they are shipped directly to the manufacturer.
"Castella does the blending and bottling," he said.
Now you can find Saint Lucifer Foods Co. LLC's spice available for sale throughout the country well as out of it.
"We are in Wegman's, Di Bruno Bros., Say Cheese! (in West Reading)," he said. "We get a lot of orders from Canada, Germany, Australia and England. We have a distributor that we send our product to in Sweden, so when orders come in, we can control the shipping rates. It has been an extremely fun ride."
When it came to naming their product, they wanted to convey their spice blend, made of garlic, salt, vinegar and fiery habaneros, was hot, but not overbearing.
"We put Saint Lucifer on it to convey it is a welcoming heat, not an overbearing one," he said. "In a playful way it embodies aspects of our personality we enjoy."
Ebert, who also works in pharmaceutical sales in addition to operating his business, said the spice can be used anywhere you might be inclined to use hot sauce.
"It is a table seasoning," he said. "I like it on my pizzas, pasta, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, eggs, French fries, Bloody Marys. The list goes on and on."
Their spice is also making their way into pre-packaged products and bar snacks.
"We collaborated with beef jerky through a company in West Chester named Righteous Felon (Jerky Cartel)," he said. "There is also a spicy popcorn we are working on - candied nuts - infused olive oil."
Featured in Esquire magazine more than once, Ebert said they would like to see their spice on every restaurant table next to the salt and pepper shakers.
"We are a Philly born brand," he said. "We'd like to be on restaurant tables in Philly and beyond."