Husband and wife Marc and Emily Slater have grown their love of hot sauce from a hobby to a full-time business in just a few short years
Marc Slater is no stranger to making hot sauces. He’s been making it at home for more than a decade, but in the last two years has turned it into a full-fledged Newmarket-based business.
His love of spicy food dates back to his youth.
“I’ve always liked hot things. I’m quarter Guyanese, so maybe that’s part of it,” he said. “You know growing up as a teenager, young adult, all these hot wing challenges.”
About 15 years ago, he said, he first decided to try his hand at making his own hot sauce.
“I’ve always loved to cook, so I decided to make my own sauces,” he said.
For a time, Slater made them just for fun and shared them with friends and family, but people encouraged him to turn it into a business.
“People used to bother me like, ‘hey, you should sell it,'” he said. “The more people tried it, the more they liked it, so we thought we’d give it a try and started in December 2020.”
Slater and his wife, Emily, formed Need the Heat and began selling by word of mouth. He said they spent the first year selling on a smaller scale and “developing our recipes and getting the processes ready.”
They expanded for sale in local markets, more regularly on The 400 Market in Innisfil and online. Building an e-commerce site was one of the easier parts for Slater, who is a web developer by trade.
While that side of the business was easy to master, starting a food business meant a lot for the couple to learn.
“There was a big learning curve getting into the grocery store. I’ve had some pretty good mentors and I was able to reach and sort of overcome those hurdles. But it went from a service-based industry, which I still participate in, to physical products — and not just physical products, but food products. It was really a big challenge for us,” he said.
Despite the challenges, the couple have found themselves in a business where there is high demand. Slater said hot sauce appeals to people, whether it’s adding heat or enhancing flavor.
“For me, I need warmth in everything, hence the name Need the Heat. When I have breakfast and I don’t have hot sauce on it, I feel like I’ve missed something, and there’s a lot of people like that,” he said.
He said he and Emily pair hot sauces with every meal of the day, and have an entire door of their fridge dedicated specifically to spicy condiments. But their business isn’t just about the seasoning, it’s also about the taste of the sauces.
“Now, especially with our sauces, we’re focusing on taste first,” he said.
The majority of Need the Heat products are fruit based. The first flagship sauce, as Slater called it, is Pine In My Ass, which is pineapple-based.
“I wanted something that really starts out like a little bit of salsa and then gets that heat,” he said.
He started with a plant-based base but needed to add some sweetness to the recipe. Not wanting to add sugar, he turned it into a Caribbean vibe and brought pineapple. When they started selling the sauce and he saw how popular it was, he decided to try other fruits as well.
Now Need the Heat sells one called That’ll Peach Ya and another called Mango Unchained. Slater, who is also a dad, said the fun names were inspired by dad jokes and the fact that it’s a fun product to begin with.
“Hot sauces are such a fun product and [people] have fun with it. I get turned down so many times when I offer people samples and you know what, it rolls off your back because it’s a fun product and even if people say no they laugh, “Oh, no, no, no, I can not do that .’ So why not have fun with everything? That’s why I started with those names,” he said.
One of their other products called Candied Menace is one of their top sellers. It’s candied jalapenos, so their only non-fruit based item, but it’s one of their top sellers.
“It’s our mildest product, but it’s by far our most popular product, and it might come with that because people want that flavor, but they want a little bit of spiciness,” he said.
Slater said her jalapenos pair well with sausage platters, which are now very popular. Because the peach sauce, which he said was more like a chutney, goes well with samosas, and they were actually sold at The Samosa Master in Newmarket. For the mango sauce, he said, it goes really well with grilled fish like salmon or trout. When it comes to the original pineapple hot sauce, it is particularly versatile.
“I can put the pineapple on anything,” he said.
They have a blog section on their website where they share more ideas on how to use hot sauce and different peppers and more information about them. The website has really become Slater’s main focus, as well as some of the other administrative tasks, while Emily has become the main person for the product.
“She’s pretty much the main cook now because I focus on my strengths. They know the marketing…the website and all that stuff where they can just work on the production and get that all going,” he said.
Need the Heat recently moved into a commercial kitchen and the business has grown to the point where Emily was able to quit her job as a personal trainer a few months ago and focus on it full time.
Slater said he was surprised by how much it had grown in just two years.
“Maybe it’s a testament to the sauces themselves and the community here in particular…some of the people I sell to are like, ‘I don’t even like hot sauces, but I like supporting the region, so just give me your best-selling one.’ “, he said. “We have a lot of regular customers. Our customers are fantastic. And again, everyone enjoys it, so it’s not hard to get behind this product.”
With fall and the holidays approaching, Need the Heat has released Cranky Cranny, a seasonal cranberry and habanero sauce designed to enhance a festive feast.
You can buy the products directly online or visit Need the Heat’s website to find out where to shop in person.