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January, 2001:
Jane Harris

"It's nice to be recognized", says Margaret Simmons, savouring her family's latest success. The family business - Simmons Hot Gourmet Products - has just picked up the Best International Hot Sauce award in the 2001 Fiery Food Contest, sponsored by Chile Pepper Magazine in New York City. Consequently, Fire 'n' Brimstone Hot Sauce and other Golden Chile Award winners will be spotlighted in the March/April issue of Chile Pepper Magazine. It will share that spotlight with a host of celebrities including Patti LaBelle, Sammy Kershaw, LeAnn Rimes, and The Dixie Chicks.
Margaret says the Simmons family would love to come home with two additional awards given by the people of New York - the Judges' Choice and Complete Heat Awards. Regardless of the outcome of the street-level contests, their first-place International Hot Award will give
Simmons Hot Gourmet Products with international recognition that could launch the family business to a far bigger scale.
Basil Simmons has long eyed the Big Apple as a brand new potential market for his hot sauce. The results of the Jan. 16 Manhattan Meltdown on the streets of New York will give the Simmonses a better idea of how sales of their products might fare in the big city. NYC chefs, food critics, celebrities and writers will determine the winners of the Judges' Choice Award. People on the streets will select the winner of the Complete Heat Award. The Simmons family has never been afraid to take on challenges or start from scratch. Originally from Guyana, the Simmonses left a prosperous life, including their home, extended family, their jobs and a tropical climate - to breathe fresh air of Canada. In 1976 Hilda, Basil and their ten-year-old daughter Margaret arrived in southern Alberta with less than $200 in their pockets. Basil and Hilda quickly found jobs and began saving for a home. Margaret got down to school. The Simmonses love Canada, but they have always missed the spicy foods of Guyana. Basil decided he could not live without Guyanese hot sauce. so he began making batches of his own spicy concoction in the Simmons' Family kitchen. Co-workers sampled the sauce at lunchtime, urging Basil to market it.
In 1998 the Simmonses shared their sauce with visitors to the Heritage Day Ethnic Food Fair in Lethbridge before taking it to the farmers' markets and specialty shops. Their big break - getting into the Overwaitea chain - came when staff of Lethbridge's Save-On Foods asked Margaret why she was buying such huge quantities of scotch bonnet peppers. Discovering the family was manufacturing hot sauce, they asked to test it. They loved it, and moved quickly to get it on the store's shelves.
The simmons have adapted their traditional sauce for the Canadian market - incorporating mangoes and cucumbers to give it a unique flavour and golden colour suited to the tastes of Albertans. They suggest that hot sauce can be used on almost any type of food: curries, potato salad, salsa, barbecue, chicken wings, and soups - even strawberry dip.
Part of the Simmonses success may be due to Albertans' growing love of ethnic foods, but it is certainly due to the familys' determination to get through the maze of licensing, labeling and testing. They have a passion for showing Albertans how to use the hot sauce. "We demo it", explains Margaret. "That's part of our education process."
As the Simmonses packed suitcases for the flight to New York, they looked forward to sharing their zeal for hot sauce with New Yorkers.
Did they melt New York? Find out in our March issue.

Last Update 08/02/2005
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Simmons Hot Gourmet Products Corp. 1999

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