Southwest Specialty Food, Inc., producer of the Ass Kickin’ line of hot sauces, is located just west of Phoenix in Goodyear, AZ. They have reduced their food label cost by 30% since installing the Afinia Label L801 printer.
After graduating from college in 1986, Jeff Jacobs, Owner of Southwest Specialty Food, developed his first line of products: Señor Jakes BBQ Sauces. With a little luck and a whole lot of heat, he discovered the specialty foods market and began what has now become a line of more than 200 specialty products that are sold worldwide.
Their product line includes hot sauce, salsa, snacks, sauces, chili mixes, bread, seasonings, beverages, condiments, rib rubs, and gift sets.
John Fandl, their graphic designer, was looking for a label printer that would do justice to his food label designs, which are as bold as the flavors in Southwest Specialty Food’s products.
“We are as well known for our innovative packaging as we are for our hot products. From the unique designs and slogans to our creative use of shapes and packaging, Ass Kickin’ products really jump off the shelf. I needed a label printer that could keep our brand momentum moving forward.”
“We release between 10 – 12 new products each year. Because our brand look is really playful, we can get really creative with our new product branding.”
“Earlier last year, Jeff [Jacobs, the owner] and I were looking to upgrade our existing label printer, which had become a bottleneck in our new product development process. We had used the printer for years for private labeling and kept having problems with it. We went through four of them and they always needed repairs. What we really needed was a workhorse [ass kickin’?] label printer.”
Upgrading Their Label Printer
“We considered buying a faster printer from the company that supplied us with our old one, and decided to buy the Afinia Label L801 instead. That’s because Afinia Label also has label-finishing equipment, which is important because some of our sauces contain lots of capsaicin, which, if it gets on un-laminated labels, can damage them. That will make our product look substandard in the consumer’s home.”
Hot, Hotter, Hottest!
“An interesting thing is happening in our marketplace. As people age, their number of taste buds decrease and the rest begin to shrink. In fact, after age 60, some people begin to lose their ability to distinguish between sweet, salty, sour, and bitter foods. The good news for us is that “hot” isn’t a taste.”
“That’s one of the reasons why our business is doing so well. Once people determine what they can handle, they want hotter sauces. Interestingly enough, hot sauces don’t do any actual damage. According to Russell Keast, who’s at Deaking University, capsaicin only creates a “burn sensation” when it combines with a receptor on our tongues.”
“To show how far the ‘hot thing’ has gone, when we started, Habanero peppers were in most of our products. Habaneros are between 100,000 and 350,000 on the Scoville Scale. Now, our customers are asking us, “How hot can you make it?” Now people want Ghost Peppers, native to India, which are rated at 1,000,000 on the Scoville Scale. In some sauces, we add pure capsaicin.”
Coming Up With New Product and Food Label Ideas
“We already have 200 products, and it can be challenging to come up with a distinctly different label design that still conveys the feel of our brand. Fortunately, we have a really good creative team that comes up with cool ideas that I can play with.”
“Our customers come up with a lot of ideas, too, as does Jeff. He’s always telling us, ‘let’s try this seasoning, let’s try this sauce’. The new product gets made in a small batch, is approved internally, and then I get to create an appropriate label.”
“We have a person testing the recipes and then we walk it around the facility for our employees to try. Then we give it to Jeff. If he likes it, it becomes a product. We’ll make some, print some labels, put a couple cases in the gift shop, and if things go well, we market it to our wholesale customers.”
Trying New Ideas Out On The Public
“We have a gift shop where we try new ideas out on the public. We started seeing YouTube “pepper challenges” around four years ago and saw a bunch of macho guys and gals eating Carolina Reapers. That was the inspiration for our Challenge Book Set, which includes 12 of our hottest sauces in mini size. Folks can try them, see how far they can get, and document the results.”
From In-house To Outhouse And Back Again
“We used to print every food label in-house: boxes labels and other packaging. Things got complicated so we outsourced them.”
“Private labeling is a big deal for us and, with the L801, we are starting to bring our 3,000 – 5,000 food label runs in-house. These runs are perfect for products that are slower movers and newer products such as bloody mary mixes, peanuts, rib rubs, hot salts, jelly beans, marguerita mix.”
“The L801 opened us up to testing small runs because we no longer have to sit on small stocks of labels. We’d print as many as we need, when we need them.”
“We have a very strong wholesale business and creating new private label designs is critical. With our old printer, it used to take me days to print new designs for our wholesales. Now, I can turn around a new product label in a day to show to buyers. We have had an increase in productivity so that we can introduce new products much faster.”
Speed, Speedier, Speediest!
“Printing our labels in-house used to be very time-consuming. Not any more. With the Afinia Label L801, I have more free time. Before, when our operator would print 144 labels, they would have to wait by the printer and babysit it. He became the bottleneck. If he ignored the printer and it ran out of ink, he would waste labels.”
“Now we don’t have to worry about the printer and can print several thousand labels in minutes. In fact, the printer is so fast that in many cases, I’ll start a print job, glance at something on my computer, look back at the printer, and the job is done.”