Bottle That Word "Dream"
McIlhenny’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Tabasco set the standard way before the market became saturated. Today, there is no lack of finishing and hot sauces, marinades, jams and jellies vying for your attention at your local farmer’s market. This doesn’t include the oodles of commercial sauces that line grocery store aisles. In the face of such plenty, the process of selecting the right sauce can be debilitating: Gonna go for sweet? Gonna go for hot? How sweet? How hot? How much kick? Bite? Umph? Just imagine the frenzy of questions entrepreneurs like Vivian and Ben must ask themselves if they dare enter the crowded sauce market.
For her Blueberry BBQ sauce (aka “Blue Q”), Chef Vivian combined the quintessential vinegar base of a downeast NC barbecue sauce with her own instincts and expertise. I asked Vivian what makes a sauce “authentic.”
“Hmmmm. That’s kind of hard to answer,” she asserts, “because when we think of an authentic person, we think of someone who is really true to themselves and kind of original, but when you’re talking about things, it’s different. An authentic Picasso is a painting undoubtedly made by Picasso.”
Vivian’s take is that “an authentic Eastern North Carolina-style [barbecue] sauce, is a sauce made of mostly vinegar, a few spices, and maybe a little indecipherable tomato product. My ‘Blue Q’ sauce is based on the authentic, but relies on invention. I think a sauce is ‘authentic’ when it follows specific elements of tradition and shies away from invention.”
Part II: Dressing the Dream
When outfitting the bottle, Harris and his team chose dapper, vintage attire. “We all knew from the start that the most important thing about the design was going to be the bottle’s shape and look. We really wanted it to be unique and iconic and not something you saw a lot on shelves. We settled on a bottle with nostalgic lines and a bold shape. From the start, it looked like and reminded me of an “old-timey” apothecary bottle, which I loved immediately.”
Additionally inspired by the “snake oil” salespeople of the Wild West and “their tinctures and bottles of nonsense,” Harris and his team of illustrators “wanted to make it apparent that this came from a real place with real history and roots.”
The initial label designs were text-laden and lacked an associable image. “We love our little mascot who emerged,” Harris recalls. “We call him ‘The Gentleman Cock.’ He is a regal bird and certainly goes well with the sauce.”
Harris continues: “A great brand and product needs to be authentic through and through. With this product, the sauce is THE TRUTH. It’s amazing. The challenge was designing the form to put it in. I think we let the sauce and Ben and Viv be our muses and tried to design a package befitting their honesty, quality, charm, sweetness and spice.”