Are there too many hot sauce shows?


We are at the brink of another huge event within the chilehead community we all love. This event is the 2nd of 4 new events for the 2013 calendar. The 1st event, the NYC Hot Sauce Expo set the bar, and it is really high because it did very well for most that were involved. The surprising part is that show did all the preshow prep work in just 3 1/2 months time. Ask a chilehead or a vendor who attended the show if they thought the show hit a homerun or not. Now in less than a week, Zestfest Midwest will launch in what many hope to be an equal or greater event as the original flagship Zestfest event of the Dallas-Forth Worth area. While Spicy Foods Productions has many years of experience behind them with organizing the original Zestfest, they are also doing this event in just a few months short time. 6 months to be exact. Probably not the best way to organize a hot show, but the results will speak volumes.

The 3rd event is Chile Pepper Extravaganza, a 1st by the new owners of Chile Pepper Magazine and it is a take over of the NOLA Hot Sauce & Gourmet Foods Show from 2010-11. Chile Pepper Magazine is taking it’s time to put their show together in more than a year and a 1/2 time. They moved the venue to the downtown New Orleans Convention Center and moved the show from hot and muggy July to a more comfortable September to piggyback the popular Houston Hot Sauce Festival just a mere 6 hours away. With a Rolodex full of advertisers, (well it used to be a Rolodex), Chile Pepper Magazine has a lot of contacts to make this show huge in what is an all ready made US hot sauce market.

The last of the 4 new shows is the smallest, but as seen at the Bowers Chile Festival, small can turn out to be big. The Hudson Valley’s 1st Annual Smoke ‘n Fire Food Fest is slated to be a 1 day show on October 12th, but they expect to take advantage of Columbus Day Weekend in the 2nd year by going 2 days to entice a larger vendor turnout. The Hudson Valley in NY is far from a small region, but it can attract a lot of attention because it can still network the greater NY region as well as NYC and New Jersey. For the few companies that decide to roll the dice, this might be a diamond in the rough. Also the cheapest of all the shows in this grouping. Only $150 before July 1st.

The above question I headlined this article with goes through the minds of some hot sauce makers and chileheads from time to time. The answer is pretty easy – Hell No! There should be one of it’s kind in every region. Everyone should be able to afford to attend one show and all makers should be able to afford to be a vendor. Key word of course is afford. These shows can be quite expensive, and some of these shows do better than others. So everyone who takes the plunge in a particular event has to do so within their budgetary means. There has been quite a few companies hurt or even driven out of business because the profit did not equate to the expense of attending these events. From the cost of the booth, travel, hotel, rentals, shipping, food and drink it adds up fast. Sure the after show gatherings are fun, but these companies need the money to survive and drinking with your booth buddy is not akin to success.

So let us draw a proverbial line in the sand. Who should attend these shows and which ones should you risk? This is the hard question. The promoter has to excel in creating a buyer’s market even if the economy isn’t the best. They have to charge just enough that they make profit and cover all the expenses to make it worth while, and at the same time make the vendors happy by enticing a market to come buy their goods. That market can’t be overcharged at the door nor should the vendors for being a part of it. If you have a buyer spending their hard earned dollars just to get in through the gate, then that is less money for the vendors to charm away from them. For example, the National Fiery Foods & BBQ Show in AlBuddahquerque, New Mexico charges $15/person with no age discounts. A family of 4 spends $60 to get into the event, and that is $60 less the vendors will make. The booths are presently at $909.50 for the 3 day event. Despite the drawbacks in the above costs for both the consumer and the vendor, the show still was a money maker for many of the vendors the last 2 years. Although, not so much the 3 years before that I attended.

So the promoters have their work cut out for them. They have to convince product makers that their show will make them money. Whether it is at the show or after the show. They have to drive the public to their show like hungry cattle and then hope they will spend their hard earned dollars with these vendors. If they attend and do not spend, the show might make money for the promoters, but the vendors will not return and deem the show a failure. It isn’t easy.

So back to the subject at hand. Are there too many hot sauce shows? No. The real question should really be, what are the best shows to attend? After this year, there might be some good answers forthcoming. After Zestfest Midwest we might have another worthy contender of shows that are a must attend. In a few days, I will give you plenty of reasons why you should be there as I highlight the 3-day event in all it’s glory. I will share the updated list of vendors with you and all the special guests and activities they have lined up on the main stage. I can’t wait to be there.

Hopefully when this year is all over, the horizon will be even brighter for the chilehead community as other US regions are conquered by spicy food lovers everywhere. Every show, event and festival deserves to succeed, and that success can be measured better in a year when the vendors return and through word of mouth, new companies attend. I can’t say it enough, we need more hot sauce shows because everybody deserves to experience all that goes on. I personally want to have a show in Northern Virginia one day. Maybe next year. I know Chicago will be in the works as well in 2014, and Zestfest will be looking elsewhere to launch more of their brand of zesty food shows. I love this community very much and the people in it and I will provide support anyway I can. It is up to all of us to pass the word along, so all the makers that attend these events will prosper and our community will grow tenfold. Success to all!

6 thoughts on “Are there too many hot sauce shows?

  • June 22, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    It all relative. I think adding shows in different regions is great for the chileheads and the vendors, as options are always good! Personally, I want to attend all the shows at least once, to get the feel of it. The big shows, ABQ, ZestFest, are impressive for sure, but its the smaller shows that appeal to me. We can spend more quality time with the people around the show in North Market, Peppers at The Beach, etc. Of course, I am spending money, and not worried about making money, and that’s a big deal. I am really looking forward to Houston and the NOLA Chile Pepper Extravaganza because they are going to be new for me, and of course, NOLA will be new for all of us. Bowers is on my list for the future, it occurs around my birthday, so its hard to fit in our schedule. I would like all chileheads around the country to be able to drive to at least one event each year where they can hob-nob with the sauce makers, bloggers and other like-minded folk. The vendors, well, those are the people that need to make the hard choices, which events make it worth their while, it’s a dollars and cents question for them, not necessarily a “which one is the most fun” question.

  • June 22, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    There are only so many we can do. We have other events and shows on our calendar that will preclude us from doing many more fiery food type shows. I think the proliferation will dilute the quality of those that are working now. We have 9 on our schedule this year, I don’t see that we could do many more. ZestFest Irving, North Market, Albuquerque, New York Hot Sauce Festival, ZestFest Midwest, Bowers, Houston Hot Sauce, Chile Pepper Extravaganza, Jungle Jim’s. plus we host two ICS chili cook-offs. We do a few Holiday Shows, and gourmet food shows so something would have to fall off the schedule. I agree there are parts of the country who are definitely left out, but I don’t think adding more is a good idea.

  • June 22, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Definitely feel you, Cajohn. You can’t be everywhere, none of us can. So as with every expansion, the more shows you add, the more watered down they are in the end. Its a give and take.

  • June 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    You forgot the Bowers Chili Pepper Festival.

  • June 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I was talking new shows.

  • June 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Want to get directly in on the fiery foods action? Customers can take a shot at fame and fortune (OK, infamy and North Market gift certificates) in a number of contests. There’s the tried and true Amateur Salsa Contest. If you’ve got a good mix of chunky or pureed fruit or vegetable salsa, put it to the test against other homemade salsa makers. Or maybe you like to play with fire? For you we have the Amateur Hot Sauce Contest. He/she with the supreme salsa or hot sauce concocting skills will take home $100 in North Market and CaJohn’s Flavor & Fire gift certificates. Or one can prove their chili preparing proficiency in our ever-popular Customer Chili Cook-off. The competition will garner the first place winner $100 and the runner up $50 in North Market gift certificates. Finally, those with iron gullets can register on the day of the event for the Hot Pepper Eating or the Wings of Fire wing eating contest. Familiarity with the term “capsaicin” should suggest that neither of these contests is for the faint of taste bud, but victors will take home a plethora of CaJohns’ products as prizes.

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