Hab Sauce founder David van Overeem knows hot sauce. He knows the best habaneros tend to grow in warmer climates and the growing season in the Northwest is very short. He knows how to achieve a perfect balance between vinegary acidity and heat. He knows how to look at a sauce and imagine its flavor. “At this point, I can just look at the consistency of it and know it’s going to taste good. I still taste every batch, but I can also just tell,” David said.
David’s journey as hot sauce connoisseur started three years ago when he and his wife, Elizabeth, found out they had a daughter on the way. David, ready for a career change, decided to become a stay-at-home dad while he figured out his next move. For the next few months, David and Elizabeth spent time at home with their new baby, cooking and creating hot sauces together as a family. “After doing that for a while, I decided I wanted to open my own hot sauce company,” David recalls. “It was something that I was passionate about and loved to do, but it was still a crazy move to open my own business.”
David’s passion for food and flavor radiates when he speaks, a passion he largely attributes to his diverse background. His mom is Mexican while his dad is Dutch-Indonesian. He grew up mostly with his dad after his mom passed away when he was twelve. Nevertheless, he spent enough time at both his parents’ homes to get familiar with the authentic flavors of Mexican and Indonesian cuisine. “They both have passed already, but the one thing I remember on both sides was that the flavors were completely different,” David recalled.
At his dad’s, David remembers eating Indonesian dishes like nasi goreng and feeling the heat of Thai chilis. “My Thai Peach Sauce is really dedicated to my dad because the Thai chili has a really predominant fill in Indonesian culture,” David explained. “My dad always had chilis around, and we grew chilis in the backyard.” He also recalls the rich, aromatic flavors of his mother’s Mexican cuisine and the unforgettable heat of the habanero, which is a key ingredient in three of his six signature hot sauces. When he cooks, he tries to solidify those memories of spending time with his mother and grandmother. For David, food is a way to preserve and engage with memories of family, which is why he incorporates Mexican and Indonesian flavors into his sauces.
When David decided to take the plunge into the food product world, he enrolled in the Portland Mercado Business Foundations Boot Camp, a program that supports entrepreneurs starting small businesses. It was here that he met a buyer from New Seasons who eventually helped him get Hab Sauce on their shelves, one of his earliest wholesale partners. To this day, the Portland Mercado remains an instrumental resource for Hab Sauce. David regularly rents out their commissary kitchen when he needs to restock his inventory and spends time there with his family and friends.
Today, Hab Sauce has six signature hot sauce flavors with occasional limited edition flavor releases, like their Smoked Cherrywood Hot Habanero sauce. You can find Hab Sauce in dozens of grocery stores, food trucks, restaurants, and bars, too.
According to David, it’s not just the pepper that makes the sauce. For him, a killer hot sauce starts with an abundance of fresh, high quality ingredients. David has built strong relationships with farmers throughout Oregon, enabling him to access some of the highest-quality ingredients for his recipes. “I’m just looking to make sure my ingredients are clean and that they’re not sitting around for a long time,” David explained. “I get my peaches from a farmer in Dayton, Oregon, and it’s great because they just call me when they have a fresh batch in. I can meet them at a market, walk away with a trunk full of peaches, and know there was so much love put into growing them. That farm started giving me cherrywood too after they learned about my Smoked Cherrywood Habanero hot sauce.” David’s passion for ingredients is evident when you try his sauces. They have a body and depth unlike most commercial hot sauces. Together the onions, garlic, tomatillos, and chilis create an aromatic flavor that completely invigorates your palate.
In addition to the unique flavor profiles at Hab Sauce, consumers will notice vibrant, beautiful artwork on each bottle they purchase. This is something that David is particularly proud of. “The labels are completely inspired by my friends and my brother, who is a graphic artist,” David explained. “I have friends from old graffiti crews I was in and they’re designing with me and it’s great. Their art inspires me so much and I want to put it out there in the world. Who would have thought that when you go to the grocery store you also see our art on the shelves?”
As David sees it, Hab Sauce is more than simply a hot sauce company. It’s a business focused on celebrating creating community and fortifying memory through food. “I didn’t realize that the sauce was going to be so relatable, and it’s this experience that people are enjoying with their friends and their family,” David said. David is excited to continue experimenting with new flavors and developing new hot sauce lines. He hopes that those who purchase his products enjoy his recipes, especially when surrounded by or are reminded of family and friends.
To purchase your own bottle of Hab Sauce, you can visit their site http://habsauces.com/. You can also find them at most grocery stores in the Portland, Oregon area.