Minnesota food startups get fired up

By Kevyn Burger
Friday, September 30, 2016

There was a time when a food startup would have gone bust trying to sell spicy food to Minnesotans, but today there’s cold cash in hot stuff.

The Twin Cities is in the midst of a trending cycle for artisan businesses that create and market fiery foods.

“We have a small but strong community, and we’re steadily growing. We’re a niche within a niche, but there are more of us who are making a living as small businesses,” said Rob Glacier, who cooks up two versions of his Nuclear Nectar hot sauce in a kitchen in Northeast Minneapolis. The 27-year-old sells enough of his handcrafted product at specialty stores, coops and farmers markets that he has made it his full time gig. 

On October 1, some two dozen Minnesota producers of incendiary food stuffs will sample and sell their wares at the 3rd annual Heat Up Your Life event, staged from noon to 5 at the Bent Brewstillery Taproom in Roseville.

Patrons will be able to taste sauces, salsas and fermented foods created by metro area food startups, including those who grow their ingredients — tomatoes, peppers and herbs — in local gardens and farms.

“This year we have a new dumpling maker startup and will also have more beverages, with a pepper-infused kombucha and a spicy switchel,” added Glacier, who is promoting the event.

Zeal for palate-scorching food is growing nationally. Hot sauce is now a billion dollar business, according to market research firm Euromonitor International, with revenues jumping by 150 percent in the past decade and a half.

Glacier believes number of foodies who want to feel the burn will continue to grow.

“People are more interested in trying something new, they’re more adventurous,” Glacier said. “Here in Minnesota, we have the advantage locally of the influence of flavors from southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America. They all like it hot.”