A goat that made life difficult for Roberta and Jason Parker became the namesake for their award-winning hot sauces and hot-pepper jams, produced under the name, the Angry Goat Pepper Co.
The inspiration for making hot-pepper jams dates back to the couple’s honeymoon in Bermuda nine years ago, when they discovered street vendors selling hot pepper jellies. Jason Parker was instantly hooked by the new taste discovery and it stuck with him.
Back in Vermont, he was ready to leave the corporate work world. The couple had been raising chickens and selling a few products for side income at a farmers market. They expanded into raising goats for meat, which raised their market profile (and provided them with an ornery goat), but they knew that value-added products would be essential for growth. Jason noticed a dearth of spicy products at farmers markets and thought it was a niche worth exploring. With a bumper crop of peppers from their garden, he made a batch of hot pepper jam. It was a hit with friends.
The Parkers, who live in White River Junction, were about to enter a $1 billion industry. According to Forbes.com, sales of hot sauce in the United States have grown by 150 percent since 2000 — “more than the sum of the growth of all other traditional condiments … combined,” referring to barbecue sauce, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.
If they weren’t aware of it then, they are now.
“It’s one of the top growing industries,” Roberta Parker said.
Their pepper jams were intended to complement their meat and egg products, but when the initial three flavors of pepper jam became six, the Parkers recognized the time was right for a foray into the industry. They significantly reduced the number of goats on their farm, and rented time in a commercial kitchen. They began selling at stores, attending trade shows and events. An expansion into wholesale landed them accounts in 12 states, including California and Texas. Their website accounted for more sales.
From 2015-16, the Angry Goat Pepper Co. garnered 15 awards. With hundreds of hot sauces on the market, that’s quite a distinction.
Take their “Purple Hippo” hot sauce, made from prickly pear fruit and habanero and scorpion peppers. It was awarded first place in the Fruit-based Hot Sauce category by the World Hot Sauce Awards. Chile Pepper Magazine and the Scovie Awards both awarded it second place in the “Unique” category in 2015.
Not all of their sauces are scorching. A heat indicator on the label rates Purple Hippo as 8 on a scale of 10; Yellow Flamingo, made with mangos, a hint of banana, and orange habanero peppers, is a mild 4. The slighty smoky, slightly sweet Red Armadillo (3/10) sauce fuses New Mexican red chiles with Vermont maple syrup, which would be right at home at a “sugar on snow” event or in any New England kitchen.
Recently the family opened a small storefront in White River Junction with a commercial kitchen. All of their products are for sale, as well as other small-batch hot sauces, salsas, wing sauces, mustards and pickles from around the country, like “Lucky Dog” from Texas. They also sell hot pepper seeds for true pepperheads who wants to grow their own. There is even a co-branded sauce made for the band, “Conniption Fits.”
The tiny store has just enough space for a tasting table of two dozen or so sauces. The company plans to do more with area businesses and be part of First Friday events. In the meantime, they’ll be at the Home & Life Show, in Hanover, New Hampshire; Flavors of the Valley in White River Junction; the Made In Vermont Marketplace Expo at the Champlain Valley Exposition Center; and others in Waterbury and Stowe in the summer.
Roberta is enthusiastic about the people they meet from other brands they carry. It’s a big business but a small world. At the Hot Sauce Expo in New York, “we’ll be seeing people from Hula in New Jersey and Big Fats from Chicago.” It’s not just about their own family. It’s also about the community of people around the country who are also big fans of the hot stuff and making their living sharing it with customers.
Jason has left his corporate job and Roberta hopes that continued success will allow her to focus solely on the family business too. Their three kids, Lillian (age 10), Hayden (8) and Chase (6) are often on hand to help out with schlepping boxes, vacuuming and other tasks. “I help with the customers,” Chase said about his assistance at farmers markets. They’ll soon be headed to a number of spring shows, including the Hot Sauce Expo in New York where they took home “Screaming Mi Mi” awards in 2015 and 2016.
“It’s a family affair,” Roberta says with a smile.
Now about that angry goat? He’s probably smiling now too.
The Angry Goat Pepper Co., is located at 240 South Main St. in White River Junction, and can be reached at 249-4725 or www.angrygoatpepperco.com. Their products can be found at Maria’s Bagels and Simply Delicious, in Barre, and at the Truly Unique Gift Shop and Rocking Horse Country Store in Rutland.