What started out this summer as a wacky TikTok meme—a Miami influencer’s “Pink Sauce” parodied with Pepto-like perfidy by countless jokesters on social media—caught the radar of Dallas-based CPG company Dave’s Gourmet. What happened next is no joke: In one week, Dave’s turned the suspect sauce into an official shelf-stable product. Now it’s launching The Pink Sauce internationally on a commercial scale. Your move, meme-sters.
Meet Chef Pii
Chef Pii calls herself an “expressional artist” who “loves thinking outside of the box.” This summer she did that big time, by mixing up a bright magenta sauce in her Miami kitchen and posting the result on TikTok. On July 1 she officially launched it on Instagram, and posted more videos of her drizzling the hot-pink sauce over chicken wings, to the delight (and sometimes consternation) of commenters everywhere.
Since then, Chef Pii’s TikTok account has racked up over 154 million video views, according to Dave’s Gourmet. Chef Pii began offering bottles of Pink Sauce at $20 a pop, selling out of 100 bottles within three days.
That’s when she racked up some trouble: commenters noted mistakes on her nutrition labeling, misspelled marketing words, and uneven shades of pink from bottle to bottle. There were also questions about too-soft packaging and uncertain preservative properties, as reported by Bon Appetit, which noted that Chef Pii’s website listed ingredients including water, sunflower seed oil, raw honey, distilled vinegar, garlic, dragonfruit, pink Himalayan sea salt, dried spices, lemon juice, milk, and citric acid.
Dave’s Gourmet to the rescue
What many saw as a joke, Dave’s Gourmet saw as an opportunity.
For years, Dave’s Gourmet has brought the heat. Founded in 1993, it pioneered the “super hot” segment of the hot sauce CPG category, torching the tongues of tasters everywhere with its iconic Dave’s Insanity Sauce, created by Founder Dave Hirshkop (AKA the “Brigadier of Burn”). It later launched a line of creamy hot sauces, and splattered spaghetti with an array of premium pasta sauces.
The company’s majority owner is based in Dallas, a spokesperson told Dallas Innovates. Its team of 10 to 15 full-time employees and consultants have worked remotely across the U.S. since 2020, traveling to Dallas for in-person meetings.
Last November, Dave’s Gourmet received a strategic investment from Gourmerica Inc. and got a new president, David Neuman. Now—with the means to make a big move—Dave’s grabbed the viral sensation and ran with it.
‘We nailed it!’
After several meetings with Chef Pii herself, Dave’s Gourmet struck an exclusive partnership deal. Dave’s would produce The Pink Sauce “on a commercial scale under the required food manufacturing guidelines as well as selling the product to the foodservice, retail and e-commerce channels in the US and internationally.”
Meanwhile, Chef Pii agreed to keep meme-ing away on TikTok and Instagram, to keep the the whole big pink pot stirring.
“In less than a week, we nailed it!” Neuman, president of Dave’s Gourmet, said in a statement. “Our R&D team was able to re-formulate the sauce to match Chef Pii’s exact color and flavor profile for the product and at the same time change some of the ingredients to make the sauce less complicated, dairy-free, and clean of any preservatives, artificial colors or flavors.”
Neuman promises the public a “shelf-stable version” of the sauce that Chef Pii first envisioned in her Miami kitchen.
Selling The Pink Sauce
Jade Steger, marketing director for Dave’s Gourmet, has the task of selling America, and maybe the world, on The Pink Sauce. Here’s her take:
“This product is not only a social media phenomenon but actually enhances the food it is used with as a condiment,” Steger said in the statement. “People are intrigued by its bright pink color and unique taste. It can be paired with pretty much any savory food, creating a playful visual appeal and enhancing the flavor of the dish.”
Steger added that The Pink Sauce “resonates” with millennials and Gen Xers whose curiosity was peaked by this summer’s viral happening. Now Dave’s Gourmet has to make that translate into actual sales on store shelves, e-commerce, and beyond.
It doesn’t hurt that media everywhere—from Forbes to Fortune to Fast Company to NBC News and more—have happily jumped on the Pink Sauce bandwagon, bringing light pink reports to an often dreary, hot, bad-news-laden summer.
Production planned for this fall
Dave’s Gourmet aims to wed its credibility as a CPG brand with Chef Pii and her product’s viral potential. So far, it says signs point to yes.
“In the first week of working on this project, Dave’s Gourmet has been contacted by national restaurant chains who want this unique sauce in their stores as soon as possible and is in talks with a few major retail chains about selling The Pink Sauce through the retail channel,” the company said.
Dave’s president says he has The Pink Sauce very much on the front burner, so to speak.
“Production is planned for this fall,” Neuman said. “We’re working 24/7 to make it happen.”
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