Bend, Ore., December 13, 2020 – Family owned and operated, Bend Sauce is a small batch chipotle sauce and seasonings company based in Bend. Handcrafted with organic Chipotle peppers from a family farm in New Mexico and Jacobsen Salt from the Oregon coast, this chipotle sauce delivers a unique balance of flavor and heat for the discerning chili-head.
Hear more about this startup’s journey into the chipotle sauce industry as Craig Rheinhart, Bend Sauce co-owner, shares their store, their community involvement and their connection to EDCO.
EDCO: Tell us your story and how you got your start.
Craig: Our story is simple. Bend Sauce was founded the summer of 2019 in Bend by Nikki, Craig, Talia, and Royce Reinhart out of a family passion and need for quality hot sauce. After years of eating around Bend on our weekend retreats, we grew tired of having to settle for typical watered-down hot sauce. With Chipotle flavor being our family favorite, on Saturday August 10, 2019, we endeavored to make our own. Pulling 20+ hot sauces out of the fridge, we stared at the ingredients in each bottle and immediately decided we would only use all-natural and organic ingredients. Starting with only the finest ingredients from Newport Avenue Market in Bend, Oregon (our first retailer as well) we set out to craft a super-premium organic Chipotle sauce with a thick, smooth seedless constancy that dazzles with every bite of any meal. Think about it. We should chew our food and not our sauce, right?
In the following weeks, our sauce received universal acclaim from our friends, family and colleagues throughout the state, so we decided to take the next step and test our initial recipe at the Oregon State Food Innovation Center and found we were immediately shelf-stable. Launching our product during Winterfest in Bend in February 2020 we were delighted to deliver on our simple promise to bring only the best products to market. Bend Sauce does just that.
This summer we brought on a full-time high school student (and nationally recognized piano virtuoso) Maxwell Friedman as our first entrepreneurial intern to round out the Bend Sauce team as we know it today.
What started as a simple hot sauce has now been adopted by the chef and grill communities all over the world. We get notes all the time from chefs about how Bend Sauce has become a “secret ingredient” and posts from grill masters and pit bosses around the world with creative recipes using our products on social media almost daily.
EDCO: Where can we find your product today?
Craig: Locally you can buy our products at Newport Avenue Market, Market of Choice, CE Lovejoys, West Coast Provisions, Primal Cuts Market, Savory Spice, Prineville Produce, Oliver Lemons, Black Butte Ranch Store, and Central Oregon Locavore. We are online and in stores in California and throughout the Portland area.
EDCO: Why operate your business in Central Oregon?
Craig: Central Oregon is a unique place with friendly people and an abundance of expertise, including makers in the food-related business. The comradery here and throughout Oregon is exceptional and we couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
EDCO: What makes Bend Sauce unique?
Craig: Bend Sauce is unique in its quality of ingredients, it is smooth and rich versus runny, and our flavor, smoke and heat give us a unique position as both an everyday hot sauce and that secret ingredient for what you choose to create at the grill or in the kitchen. We only make one sauce and plan to keep it that way.
EDCO: How has the pandemic affected your business?
Craig: Covid-19 hasn’t changed much for us except that we can’t offer tastings and demos of our sauce which has likely impacted our in-store sales. That pales in comparison to the hardship of others in our ecosystem. The biggest impact has been on our wholesale customers – grocery, specialty retailers, restaurants, and food carts. We measure our success by the success of our customers, and we are doing all we can to support them and enhance the hard work these key stakeholders are doing.
With all the change and variable pain, there has been so much good that has come out of the circumstances surrounding the pandemic. For us, a sense of community and shared experience in Central Oregon has been a blessing as we all navigate these unique times together. New and old friends in Oregon, nationally and globally are now closer to us through this event. The love of family, friends and business relationships is palpable.
EDCO: Have you worked on any COVID-19 related initiatives to support neighbors and the community?
Craig: Yes, when COVID 19 hit we immediately pivoted from selling to restaurants to giving them Bend Sauce at no cost and doing all we can to support the community in other ways, including through SOS Bend. Our tagline is BEND SAUCE LOVE HERE. We want to demonstrate that through our actions as well as our sauce.
EDCO: How do you support EDCO and why?
Craig: First, we are a member because of the great work EDCO does in helping support, expand and recruit business opportunities for Central Oregon.
Second, EDCO has always been a part of our world. From PubTalks, to the initial call Craig made to EDCO regarding Bend Sauce and our hope to be introduced to Food Cluster members here in Central Oregon, to Craig and Royce attending the Bend Venture Conference, and coordination with EDCO regarding business recruitment and technology industry activities. Craig and Royce’s day jobs in commercial real estate first brought the family to Central Oregon in 1995 on business matters when Craig helped Tektronix kick off the Old Mill District with Bill Smith.
If you would like to surprise your customers and/or your employees with a special Bend Sauce gift view their corporate gift program.