Judging by the number of celebrity guests and views for the YouTube show Hot Ones, it might seem that hot sauce has reached peak popularity. Yet even with an abundance of these peppery products on the market, InChrees the Heat is finding its own niche.
“I find myself in this sweet spot between people on one side of the spectrum who don’t particularly like hot sauces but enjoy our products and the major chili heads who look for that endorphin rush,” InChrees the Heat owner Chris Hinson told Beyondish. “My concept is I start with flavor first and the heat comes second.”
The Nashville-based hot sauce company was born during the early days of the pandemic. Hinson, a full time therapist and former retail worker, made his first batch while in lockdown.
“I was working as a cashier at Whole Foods at the time,” Hinson said. “I was incredibly stressed because of all the uncertainty around the pandemic and the misinformation going around. I needed an outlet. My partner at the time made a YouTube video about making hot sauce, which is something I’ve always loved. I tried it out and made my first sauce, River of Blood, in April 2020.”
Hinson is the first to admit that he didn’t know much about running a business then, but there’s no doubt that he had the drive. He bottled up his test batch of sauce in mason jars and brought them to work. It was an instant hit with his coworkers, so Hinson decided to go all in with his new business venture.
“I took the entire month of May off, didn’t leave the house and learned how to scale up and perfect what I already made,” he said. “My former business partner Jordan and I worked together cooking sauces at home and coming up with ideas. He eventually left to finish grad school, but Jordan is pivotal to the success and the development of what it is now.”
Hinson also pulled from personal experience while coming up with a name for his business. He earned the nickname “Chrees” from a fellow University of Tennessee student, which he later incorporated into the brand after another acquaintance suggested that he “increase the heat” with his sauce. And so, “InChrees the Heat” was born.
The company currently has three flagship sauces. The sweet and savory “Ban Helsing” features banana as a focal ingredient, blended with Carolina Reaper and jalapeno peppers. The creamy “Guero Guapo” is Hinson’s ode to the Alabama White BBQ Sauce, made with Mexican mayonnaise incorporated with Guero Chilis and Carolina Reapers. And then there’s “River of Blood,” a blend of pickled Thai chilis, ghost pepper, blood orange, and garlic two-ways (pickled and roasted), among others.
“River of Blood is a different recipe now from when I originally made it two years ago,” Hinson said. “It’s much more fine tuned and a testament of our growth.” Future hot sauce concepts include an homage to Hinson’s Venezuelan roots and a taco sauce inspired by the bold and bright flavors of the Caribbean.
Growing his business is a labor of love and a way to be a part of his community, according to Hinson. He sources his hot sauce ingredients from local farmers and international markets, commissions talented artists to design the labels and merch and collaborates with local businesses to feature his sauces on their dishes. Yet Hinson hasn’t strayed far from the guy who started his business at the start of the pandemic.
Said Hinson: “I run operations from home, package all the orders and ship them out from my tiny little office.”
NEXT ON THE DISH