KINGSTON, Jamaica – A Jamaican grandfather’s scotch bonnet recipe has moved from a dinner table in Westmoreland to the shelves of hundreds of Target stores across the United States.
Scotch Boyz Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO), Drew Gray told OBSERVER ONLINE that his grandfather, who hailed from Portland and settled in Westmoreland, passed on the treasured recipe along with his knowledge about spices and sauces to the family.
“My family has a history and background in spices and sauces, so we have always been around the kitchen. I always cooked growing up. At all the family events, we always had pork and jerk food because we are a jerk family,” he said. “As I got older, I would kind of add my spin to the various family recipes and continue to hone that craft.”
His finishing touches on his grandad’s recipe paved the way for the creation of what would later be known as the Scotch Boyz hot sauce.
In 2016, while attending the University of the West Indies, Mona, Gray along with friends and Scotch Boyz co-founders Kemar Swaby, Matthew Wallace and Neil Hudson (the CEO of the company) entered a barbeque competition just for fun with their “secret” sauce. The sauce was a hit and its popularity grew so much that they decided to bottle the product.
Four years later, the young entrepreneurs introduced the hot sauce online on Amazon after Caribbean distributors turned it down due to the saturated market for sauces. That same year, it was featured on Amazon’s homepage as a seller for its Black Businesses Initiative and also on QBC’s Big Ticket Winner, selling several thousand bottles in eight minutes.
Their biggest breakthrough came this year when they were able to successfully launch the product in 600 stores of US retail giant Target through the support of the Shae Moisture Next Black Millionaire’s programme.
In Jamaica, the brand is distributed by Medical Disposables and Supplies and can be found in local stores, hotels, airports and gift shops.
Scotch bonnet peppers are primarily found in Africa and the West Indies and are a variety of chili pepper named for its supposed resemblance to a Scottish tam o' shanter bonnet. It is sometimes called Jamaican hot peppers, Bahama mama or Caribbean red peppers.
To keep the brand 100 per cent authentically Jamaican, the young entrepreneurs buy their products locally.
“We want to buy Jamaican as much as possible. We really want to buy Jamaica as much as possible. The raw materials are sourced locally from small farmers across the island. Obviously, the main ingredient is scotch bonnet but we also use pimento in our sauces, scallions, onions and those are big components of jerk. As much as we possibly can, we source locally but other stuff like bottles and cans we have to bring in because those are not made locally,” Gray said.
They also give back to the western Jamaica parish of Westmoreland through a number of charitable initiatives including the donation of tablets to the Savanna-la-Mar Primary School in 2021.
“Three out of the four of us (founders) grew up in Westmoreland and we ensure that we support the community as well. So, it’s not only what’s in the bottle but the revenue from sales is poured back into the community by helping two local schools with projects as well, because the brand represents our heritage, friendship and community,” Hudson told OBSERVER ONLINE.
“Matthew Wallace, he’s in charge of our charitable programmes, so we are supporting St Paul’s Primary. We paid for their walkway…so when it rains the kids can use the bathroom without running outside and getting wet,” he added.
The Scotch Boyz also plan to expand with a vegan line as well as different variations of jerk seasonings and other sauces.