Commercial Kitchen


Hey, All, like just about everyone here, I got the pepper bug bad. And, like a smaller subset of you, I've gone all in on setting up a company to manufacture pepper-based food products. In 2015 I participated in a months long food manufacturing workshop hosted by the University of Arkansas' Food Science department, funded by a USDA grant.

I maintain a current State of Arkansas food manufacturing permit, FDA facility registration, and a $2 million liability insurance policy. I also maintain a GS1 US UPC (bar code) registration for up to 10 codes (and am currently using only two or three.) My company is also registered as a contractor with the Federal government, opening up the possibility of supplying products to the various Fed organizations.

I have one commercial product in stores, Spectrum Peppers (brand) Pineapple Mango Scorpion sauce (it's more of a pepper condiment than a traditional "hot sauce") and have several more products in development.

I would like to explore opportunities to apply all this effort to the benefit of my fellow THPers and, yes, to monetize the effort, both for myself and others. Some of the possibilities include assisting you with developing and producing your own branded products, providing a market for your excess pepper production for my own production, perhaps even forming a cooperative venture.

I'll return to expand on these ideas and others, and I'm open to your suggestions. But right now I want to post this link to a shared G Drive containing images of the facility I have authorization to use. Maybe it will set your gears to spinning. It's somewhat disorganized at present and I need to add model number identifications, but it's a start.

I'll be back.
Crispee-FL said:
Nice Sawyer all my best!
Thanks, Crispee!
salsalady said:
OK, I'm officially jealous!  Nice Facility!  I'd be happy with just the test kitchen. 
Good Luck on your saucy ventures!
Thanks, SL, it is a nice facility, and is maintained and managed by very qualified and competent people. There are only two downsides, imo.

One is that it can get crowded on occasion (I'm not sure how many active users they have, a dozen or more, I think. Some are very successful and are there processing every day - or at least every day I'm there.)

Another (again, imo) is that most of the heating and cooking processes are accomplished with a steam boiler with steam piped to the various pieces of equipment that use it. Not that there's anything wrong with steam, per se, but having a boiler requires an on-site or on-call certified boiler operator at all times. That's not cheap. Anything using steam costs $70/hr. (On top of the standard $25/hr just to use the facility... which is not bad at all, imo.)

The cost of steam has led me to reevaluate my SoP to minimize steam use. Right now I'm trying to adjust the process to combine and blend all ingredients cold then use steam only for the final HWB processing. Could probably shorten that time even more by using pressure processing, but I'm not sure of the status of that capability. (Beyond using my own 22 qt. stove top canner.)

Lest I sound all negative here, the pluses far outweigh the minuses. I think I put the facility's website link in SL's pinned "starting a business" thread, but I'll put it here, too, for convenience.

Testing products for pH and Brix is routine and I think free for client companies. Anyone can walk in off the street for a measurement for a reasonable fee. Give them your ingredient list and they'll generate an FDA-compliant nutrition panel for $10.  And I, myself, am very conversant with FDA labeling regulations:
CFR 21, Part 101
Use standard-size containers and the facility manager ensures adequate supply is always on hand. (Stored in the big metal building in the image folder linked above.) I use these:

Last time I checked, they were 57¢ each for jar and lid. That same company sells woozies, so I imagine they could be shipped in a combined order to save on shipping costs.

They are very strict about sanitation and processing protocols (and for that we should all be grateful.)
More to follow.
I haven't updated this thread in a bit, so here's a little more.

I spoke with the facility manager last week and the rates for using the facility are much better than I remembered. Five bucks an hour and that includes the steam.

Making my own Pineapple Mango Scorpion sauce is best accomplished with two people and Food Science students are usually available for hire. The going rate is $10/hr, but I think $12.50/hr is a more reasonable wage. It's hot, unpleasant work. But I can make a batch of 144 8 oz. jars in 4 hours with someone helping me.

As soon as I run it past the State Health Department guy, I'll start commercial production of my latest product, hot pepper fudge. Those of you who have bought some of the ghost pepper plants in my forum ad have received a sample. Most seem to like it. I'm up to test batch #11 now and will make test batch #12 this morning.

Anyway, all that aside, here's something that might be more relevant to some of you. Given my situation, it's impractical to make commercial-scale product using only fresh peppers and only when fresh peppers are available. Instead, when the harvest comes in, I make purée. I use a simplified version of the process posted by... well, shoot, I forget the THP members' name, thought his process was pinned, but don't see it now.

Anyway, the only ingredients I use in the purée are peppers, white vinegar, and salt. Can leave out the salt and am considering other acidifiers. The point is to turn a fresh pepper harvest into a shelf-stable form asap for use in other products made at some future time.

Shipping costs would likely be prohibitive for small harvests, but I can do this for other growers. Once processed into shelf-stable purée, you can make your value-added products at your leisure.

Another option is that, as a group, we pool our harvests, purée the lot, then distribute the purée proportionally back to the growers, or a share of proceeds from products made there from.

Just tossing some ideas out there.
That's it, Alabama Jack's, thank you.

Freezing is certainly an option, but freezer space is at a real premium around here*. Plus you still have to process the peppers at time of use. It's a lot more convenient to just "add two 8 oz jars yellow scorpion pepper purée" or "add two tablespoons Moruga scorpion purée."

* Hopefully that will change when I get that hundred grand Kickstarter you've mentioned elsewhere.
The solution I've finally settled on for preserving peppers is to dry them in one of the commercial dehydrators available, then grind them to powder and refrigerate. One of the dehydrators is a walk-in and the other is a floor model that's taller than me.

It's even more convenient to "add x grams pepper powder" than it is to "add y tablespoons pepper purée."
Pepper powder is a great option.

Why are you refrigerating the powder? Ziploc bags work great, or vacpac if you really want it oxygen free.
Just wondering.

Thanks for the update and I hope your business is chugging along profitably.
I've had powder get moldy before, but it's mostly just a precaution. I have two 8 oz jars of about 100 g each of powder. That's enough for several hundred pounds of the candy I make. (The least hot pepper in the powder blends is the ghost.)

There is a vacuum sealer available at the kitchen. A 34 second video of it in operation can be viewed here:

Those are dried apples being sealed. Most of the action takes place in the last few seconds of the video.

Profitable? Not yet, but things are starting to look promising.
I created a new subfolder in the kitchen images folder linked in the first post. This one has images of the two commercial scale dehydrators available:
The smaller floor unit is a Harvest Saver Model# R-4 (discontinued, comparable current model is R-5A) manufactured by Commercial Dehydrator Systems, Inc in Eugene, OR.   It has eleven trays and pretty decent temperature control.  This is the one I used to dry my 2018 harvest.
The other dehydrator is a much larger walk-in unit.  I was thinking it's custom-built, but now I'm not so sure.  I'll check into that next time I'm there.  I look forward to the day I have enough peppers at once to need to use this one.
So, for any of you larger-scale growers having trouble profitably utilizing your harvest, let's talk.  I think we can likely work out an arrangement to ship your harvest here in bulk, have them dried, powdered and/or vacuum sealed, optionally labeled, and shipped in bulk back to you.
I also think a cooperative venture with smaller scale growers could be viable.  Harvest season is a long way away, so there's time to work out the details.
Somewhere I mentioned a vacuum kettle for accelerated reduction of liquids. Here are a couple of pictures of it:

For scale, that's a regular sized door on the left side of the images. I could significantly reduce the processing time for my Lava Bar hot pepper candy if I used this to condense the buttermilk ahead of time. I'm a long ways from being ready to scale up to using 50 gallons of buttermilk at a time, though. One of these days...