Flavor and Heat: An Interview With Olde Virden’s

Flavor and Heat: An Interview With Olde Virden’s

 Interview with Olde Virden's Tennessee Pepper Co.

As the days grow colder and the nights longer, a touch of heat is most welcomed. The easiest answer to add heat to your life is with the tried and true hot sauce. When it comes to hot sauce there are hundreds upon hundreds of options for you to pick from. But, when it comes to pepper flakes, your options are more limited. Go to the store and look for pepper flakes. Chances are you will find generic bottles of crushed red pepper flakes. The same blend of jalapeño, bell, Fresno, and Anaheim peppers have dominated the culinary scene for a fair chunk of time. Even if you were to go to a pizza restaurant with dozens of different styles of pizza, they will typically just have the boring old bottle of red pepper flakes on their shelf. From this monotony arises Olde Virden LLC.


Olde Virden Tennessee Pepper Co.

Interview with Olde Virden's Tennessee Pepper Co. - Founder Chris Virden

Olde Virden is headed by Chris Virden and his wife Allyson. I had the pleasure of communicating with Allyson regarding the origins and growth of their company. Allyson stated that the company started when, "My husband, Chris, and I were managing a hike-in lodge in the Smoky Mountain National Park. I was the cook for the crew and lodge guests. We made homemade pizza one night and the crew brought a bottle of generic pepper flakes to the table. My husband wondered aloud if there was a better more flavorful option. After much research, we discovered there was a hole in the market for this type of product. So, through months of tasting different blends, we came up with our Red Hot Sprinkle. This is our original blend.” Allyson went on to say that she and her husband have always loved spicy food. She stated that ‘We love spicy food. We have spent much time in Central America and Southeast Asia. Our taste buds have become accustomed to spicy food with flavor." Finding a hole in the market and creating something to fill that hole is a sure-fire way of creating a successful product. But, just as Allyson and her husband worked through months of different blends until they found the perfect one, so too must any startup company brave through the traitorous streets of uncertainty when they are creating their product. But developing, innovating, and growing is the only way to improve.

The pairing of spice and flavor is integral here to the magic of their product. Allyson remarked that “Anyone can pump out super-hot chilies that burn your mouth and make you cry, but finding the balance between heat and flavor is the real difficult part. We like to say our blends are made for people who want to taste the flavor of the pepper and enjoy a pleasant amount of heat. We are still very susceptible to the heat of really hot peppers. We usually don’t go for the super-hot peppers.” When it comes to the super-hot peppers, Allyson said, “We usually shy away from those. There are enough products on the market for the hotheads in the world. We want to concentrate on the flavor and offering a product that is more suited for the general population.” Personally, I am one of the hotheads that Allyson is talking about. And to her credit, yes, there is an abundance of different super-hot sauces out there. There are entire communities dedicated to hot sauce, both super-hot and mild varieties. People like me can spend years trying out the thousands of different blends and flavors of hot sauce. But when it comes to chili flakes and spice blends, the choices are far more limited. It’s exciting to see a company innovating an underrepresented side of the spice market.

Interview with Olde Virden's Tennessee Pepper Co. - Product Offerings

Olde Virden is focusing on bringing out the natural flavors of the pepper, rather than just using them to generate heat. When asked if Olde Virden had plans to dabble into the world of hot sauces Allyson said “We enjoy the flavor of the peppers. We feel that hot sauce tends to lend its flavor to more of a vinegar flavor. We love discovering new peppers and learning what peppers are indigenous to certain areas of the world. I won’t say we will never create a sauce under our brand because you never know what the future holds."

Interview with Olde Virden's Tennessee Pepper Co. - Sample Products

By focusing more on the flavor than the heat, Olde Virden is expanding their potential market to an audience that would be otherwise dissuaded due to an aversion towards spicy foods. The focus on flavor also makes their pepper blends more versatile. I asked Allyson about underrated spice pairings and she responded, "We love chili peppers and chocolate. We enjoy watermelon and chili peppers in the summer. We have been on a pineapple Dole Whip kick lately. We love our Spicy Verde blend sprinkled on top.

Advertising this new approach to peppers is a difficult task. Fortunately, Olde Virden has quality branding and package design that can help their products reach more consumers. When asked about their brand image, Allyson said that they “have a very talented graphic designer who captured our thoughts and came up with our logo. He listened and heard us. It is so important to work with someone who “gets” the brand and understands where you want to go with it. “As for actual advertising, the company stresses the power of word of mouth marketing approaches. Allyson says that “Word of mouth has been great for us. We have a very small marketing budget we use in ads for social media.

Right now Olde Virden’s can be found throughout the United States. Try out their store locator to see where you can buy some for yourself. You can also buy their products directly from their online store. While the company currently has a fair bit of locations offering their products, this is by no means the end of their journey. The company has "big dreams of pizza restaurants offering our Red Hot Sprinkle on every table in America. We do plan on expanding.”

QQ Studio provides some custom printing work for Olde Virden’s spice sample packs. They found us online and chose us for the quality of the packaging and the ability to produce small runs. Allyson stated that “We love the small packets we purchased from QQ Studio. It enabled us to produce small runs and fill orders as needed. We always look for quality and availability. Doesn’t help us if we love a bottle or label type but we can't get it." If you would like to have your custom printed bags created, check out our custom printing page! If you would like to hear additional testimonials from companies who are successfully marketing their products, check out our Interview with Nutz4Coffee or Duo Orthodontics!

Leave a comment