Today the Chamber of Industry and Commerce is pleased to profile the runner-up in the Small to Medium Entrepreneur category (sponsored by EY) of the 2018 Champions of Business.
In 2004, Allana and her husband Bertie Steuart wanted to raise funds to purchase a refrigerator for a community member in need. Instead of doing the usual barbecue fund raiser, Bertie and Allana decided to make pepper sauce using Bertie’s unique recipe. They made 400 bottles of pepper sauce which sold out in record time. After the fundraiser, they started receiving calls for pepper sauce orders and Allana convinced Bertie to make another batch. This second batch sold just as quickly. The demand was continuous so the Steuarts continued production at their home. Eventually, Allana started distributing on a small scale to local restaurants and mini marts. In 2008, a breakthrough came when Tony Roma’s approached her to supply its restaurant on an exclusive basis.
In August 2012, the company landed its first major supermarket – Massy Stores (then Hi-Lo). This was the impetus to increasing the brand’s presence in the retail market. Then, in November 2014, PriceSmart approached the company to be its sole pepper sauce brand. This forced the company to scale up their operations. They subsequently moved to Woodbrook. With new staff added and a larger facility, the company was able to increase production significantly.
When Allana’s son Logan joined the business in 2015, sales increased significantly, and the company needed to find additional sources of pepper. Logan was instrumental in negotiating supplies from a local farmer with large acreage, who was able to meet the increased demand and with whom Bertie’s has forged a strong working relationship. Logan has also been instrumental in formalizing the company’s operations, its processes and increasing distribution and brand awareness. In 2016, the company moved to its current location in Aranguez.
To date, Bertie’s sauces are sold at most major supermarkets like Xtra Foods, JTA and Penny Savers in Tobago and other retailers nationwide. The product is also served at an increasing number of restaurants and restaurant chains locally. Bertie’s pepper sauce has become a household name in Trinidad and Tobago and is one of the most popular commercial pepper sauces on the market. In spite of the company’s success, it has remained true to the original Bertie’s recipe and maintained its commitment to using only fresh local peppers. The Bertie’s product line has expanded and now includes their original Bertie’s Pepper Sauce, a Pimento Sauce and a Scorpion Pepper sauce.
Bertie’s continues to be a major buyer of hot peppers and is proud to be a supporter of local farmers. They are “proudly TT” and this is reflected on all product packaging. Allana and Logan are currently exploring possibilities for the export market, starting with the Caribbean.