OOft! Sauce’s Scotch Bonnet kick

Gabrielle and Tony Johnston with their Ooft! hot sauce made to her father's special recipe.
Gabrielle and Tony Johnston with their Ooft! hot sauce made to her father's special recipe.

A traditional Trinidadian recipe for hot sauce is putting a Gordon based company at the forefront of the UK’s successful food industry.

Ooft! Sauce is one of the top 50 new food and drink businesses across the UK to be awarded Food Stars - a new Government initiative to inspire entreprenuers.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “The UK has always been a place where sparky entrepreneurs come up with great innovations in food and drink, people with the ambition to grow and take on the world, and Scotland is no exception.

“Now is the time to celebrate that success, which is helping to grow our economy - that is why we’ve created Food Stars to recognise the bright innovators of today and support them to become the major players of tomorrow.”

Now the 50 businesses, eight from Scotland, have the support of leading figures in retail and food - including Justin King, former CEO of Sainsbury’s, and Dame Fiona Kendrick, CEO of Nestle UK - helping them to grow their businesses and get more of their produce on supermarket shelves and dinner tables in the UK and across the world.

Tony Johnson of Ooft! Sauces said: “Ooft! is very proud to be chosen as one of the first Food Stars, a national award recognising innovation and entrepreneurship in food production. Ooft! is unique among hot sauces being made like fine wine and vatted for over a year before bottling.

“We hope the Food Stars award will help propel us further; awards provide outlets with clear evidence of quality and recognition by industry bodies. We look forward to working with Defra and the Food and Drink Federation to increase sales and prepare Ooft! for export.”

“Our Scotch Bonnet peppers come from the Caribbean, and the love of hot sauce is what drives us. We make pepper sauce to my wife’s father’s recipe. He was a Trinidadian master pepper maker.

“He grew peppers and he experimented over many years with pepper sauce. His daughters remember him, every day putting out his huge glass jars of sauce to warm in the tropical sun.

“He tried many recipes and eventually was happy. It’s this recipe, handed down, that is the core of our products.”

Production of Ooft! sauce started at Huntlywood in 2012 and in three years they have triped their production.

But how come such a firey Caribbean sauce came to be made in the Borders?

“In 2006 my wife and I came to the UK and rented a motor home to travel around Britain - and after spending three or four days in Melrose we fell in love with the area and knew we wanted to live here,” explained Tony.

“We were living in Trinidad at the time, went back and sold the house and here we are.

“We had reservations but thought we would see if there was a market for hot sauce. We started out really small because we weren’t sure people in Scotland would like hot pepper sauce. But they love it!”

Locally Ooft! can be bought at Floors Castle Shop, Kelso; Selkirk Deli, Selkirk; Market Shop, Berwick-Upon-Tweed; Teviot Game and Smokery, Jedburgh; Main Street Trading, St Boswells; Country Kitchen, Melrose; Heart of the Borders, Jedburgh; Born in the Borders, Denholm; W J Hutton Howegate, Hawick; Cooks Desire, Dunbar.