A Thunder Bay company continues to turn up the heat on the hot sauce market with a new location, new equipment, and new demand.
Heartbeat Hot Sauce recently moved into a new location on Miles Street, in the city's downtown, which offers more warehouse space and a new clean room for production, allowing the company to ramp up production.
“It will have a dramatic impact. It already is,” said Albert Bourbouhakis, co-founder and owner of Heartbeat Hot Sauce.
“We’ve had the opportunity to expand and increase the volume of our equipment. We have a second kettle we are cooking in, which is larger than what we were using previously. Right there that allow us to more than double our output of what is being cooked.”
Last December, while still operating out of their location on May Street, Heartbeat Hot Sauce was producing approximately 10,000 bottles per week. In the new space, approximately 20,000 bottles are being produced and shipped out every week.
According to Bourbouhakis, the highlight of the new space is the clean room, where the actual hot sauce is produced, which he said gives both consumers and producers peace of mind knowing that their product is being made at the highest standards.
“The real star of the show is the clean room,” he said. “It’s a 2,400-square-foot clean room, so basically it’s a pharmaceutical-grade controlled environment.”
As part of the expansion, the company also brought in more staff and now has 12 employees and new equipment for easier and faster production.
“I think there were a lot of smiles realizing how much easier certain things are and the space to work in,” Bourbouhakis said.
And while many businesses have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bourbouhakis said they have seen a steady demand for their product from around the world.
“We saw a shift in the nature of the demand from our customers,” he said. “Through COVID, we saw a dramatic increase in the e-commerce side of the business. Online sales were very strong.”
“Fortunately, the nature of our business, we are primarily working with food retailers and grocery stores that remained open during COVID. We didn’t see any real negative impact in terms of sales during the pandemic.”
The pandemic also didn’t have much of an impact on transitioning to the new space.
“All things considered, it went really smooth,” Bourbouhakis said. “We managed to maintain operations through the pandemic and keep the build of the new space on track.”
The only negative impact the business experienced was in the supply chain, with several companies seeing a decline in output of things like bottles, which did slow operations for several weeks.
Heartbeat Hot Sauce occupies approximately two thirds of the building on Miles Street and there are plans to eventually utilize all the warehouse space as the company continues to grow.
“We still have a lot of room to grow,” Bourbouhakis said. “We are hoping to top out our capacity, but I hope that’s in a few years.”
While there may be room to expand and add additional production facilities in other markets, there are also no plans for moving the operation to another city, because Bourbouhakis said they owe a lot to the people of Thunder Bay and want to continue to give back.
“The company was born here,” he said. “The local market here has supported us so wholeheartedly from day one, and we felt we owed it to the city and the market here to keep business here, keep reinvesting all the dollars we spend to grow the business as much as we can.”