It goes without saying that the traditional condiment of choice in most Caribbean households is (hot) pepper sauce.
Fiery, tangy, savoury, sweet; whichever way it comes, pepper sauce is beloved by almost everyone in the region and is put it on everything from salads and sandwiches to rice and meat, and even mixed in curries, soups, and stews.
Some people might rely on store bought bottles of pepper sauce, but a lot of households have their own ‘secret’ recipes which have been passed down through generations.
Barbadian entrepreneur Nick Bynoe started making his own version of pepper sauce when he returned to the island in 2015 after living for some time in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Canada.
Nick loves food and cooking but had no formal experience in the food industry after spending most of his career in warehousing, logistics, and operations.
However, when he realised his home island was importing lots of the same types of pepper sauce and did not even have a brand to call its own, he saw a gap in the market and an opportunity that could not be missed.
“The lightbulb moment came when I saw so many flavours and variations of pepper sauce in the international, mainly US market,” Nick recalls.
“I started watching YouTube videos and reading articles about the global trend in demand for speciality, small batch pepper sauce but I didn’t see a lot of genuine Caribbean representation. The idea grew from there.”
Despite his lack of professional culinary skills and his personal intolerance to hot, spicy food, Nick’s first batches of artisanal pepper sauce, made with smoked peppers, charred pineapple, local herbs, and spices were an instant hit with his friends and family.
Nick states: “Once I realised the business was going somewhere, I just tweaked the sauce a bit to make it more efficient for production because it wasn’t realistic to char the number of pineapples that I would need. I also chose peppers that were more readily available.
“After one or two adjustments we got it just right and we really let the ingredients speak for themselves because there are no fillers or preservatives. Once the real, natural ingredients are good, the sauce is good”.
Two more pepper sauce flavour profiles were soon added, the sweet and spicy ‘Pepper Punch’, and the milder ‘Zesty Jalapeno’.
All that remained was to officially name the business, but when Nick tried to register his local brand in 2018, the name he had in mind was already taken.
Slightly disheartened, he joined some friends on the beach for a bonfire and one of them suggested the name “Duppy” which in the English-speaking Caribbean means ghost or spirit. Nick liked the connotation and felt it even fitted in well with the sauce’s smoky origins.
Five years later and the ‘Old Duppy’ product line has gradually expanded to include five different kinds of pepper sauce along with tamarind sauce, BBQ sauce, Vex vinegar, Bajan Ganoush dip, and chili oil.
Nick has now turned his attention to exporting and took a major step towards achieving his goal of selling in the UK and Europe when he was accepted onto a 10-month ‘Launch to Market’ programme facilitated by the Caribbean Export Development Agency in September 2021.
Nick says: “‘Launch to Market’ really made us step back and focus on what larger markets would expect from our product. That programme was extremely helpful because as a small producer we would never have been able to afford that kind of assistance.
“Working with experts really gives you some unique insight into what you need to do for export and opens your eyes. The help was amazing and immeasurable.”
Last year, Nick had ‘Old Duppy Foods’ incorporated and took on a new business partner. The brand also took part in the Speciality & Fine Food Fair in London in September 2022 under the Caribbean Export umbrella.
“Taking ‘Old Duppy’ to England was always aspirational,” Nick states. “So, to see people there tasting and enjoying the product was very rewarding. We learned what the British market likes and doesn’t like, and it led to so many connections with buyers and distributors.
“We knew what we had to focus on and within a month we were working with an importer and distributor that matches the size of our brand, so we’ll grow together. Our first shipment to the UK went out in November and our second shipment is being prepared now.”
Nick believes the UK distribution deal will lead to more orders and to fulfil demand he has partnered with Export Barbados’s newly opened International Food Science Center in Bridgetown to assist with bottling and labelling.
In the short term, he is concentrating on developing a footing in the UK and plans to target two other major overseas markets. The long-term goal, he jokes, is “global domination”.
Nick adds: “When we decided to really have a go at this, we knew that Barbados was the foundation and an important part of the story. But we are very niche, so if we want to grow, we can’t stay in Barbados or even the Caribbean.
“One of my main goals is for tourists to come here and ask for ‘Old Duppy’ to take back with them. Not just a pepper sauce, any pepper sauce, but a Barbadian brand.”