What I Learned From Making Hot Sauce at Scale

I set out to create the first line of all-natural, deeply flavorful Chinese condiments. Getting there was harder than I anticipated.

Jing Gao
10 min readOct 25, 2018
All photos by author.

Back in July, I launched a pre-order campaign for my Sichuan Chili Crisp, the first 100% all-natural Sichuan chili sauce to hit the market. I wanted to bring the deep and complex flavors of China’s culinary heritage to the world using top quality ingredients, and redefine perceptions of Chinese food in the West. It became one of the highest backed food projects on Kickstarter, with over 1,600 backers helping me exceed my funding goal by 350% in four weeks. I was finally ready to scale up production of the sauces I had been making out of my kitchen.

That might sound triumphant and glamorous. It was anything but. I spent most of my waking hours in August and September at a factory in rural Sichuan coordinating production and resolving the numerous issues that kept arising. No sooner were small wins gained before another obstacle appeared, threatening to teeter me over the edge of sanity.

After a harrowing journey, four tonnes of sauce — 19,000 jars — were packed and palletized and set to embark on a container ship to the U.S. In the short break between when they arrive and when I start fulfillment, I…